The hardest part of writing a column is coming up with ideas on what to write about.
My creative writing teachers in college told students to, “write what you know.” Although a column isn’t necessarily creative writing or a short story, it does resemble that type of writing more closely than a hard news story.
On a side note, I was taught to never conclude a writing with a paragraph that begins with “in closing.” It is pretty obvious that a story is ending when there are no longer words to read.
But how often can I write a column about what I know? How many columns about beer, baseball or my girlfriend can there be? And to be honest, I won’t pretend that I totally figured one of those things out.
When I do have an epiphany for a great story idea, I’m often away from the office and forget the topic by the time I am able to write it down. And there are times that I realize the subject matter may not be as appropriate to print as I had first thought.
When nothing funny happens to me, or I don’t remember some ridiculous story from my past, I will spend some time scouring the Internet looking for ideas.
There is one site that I go to often called, “Google.” It is a great site that researchers can type in anything they could imagine and there is some type of website that addresses the query.
A caution to Internet users: Most of the sites are not safe for children. About 99 percent of the Internet is porn.
However there are some helpful sites.
This week, as I wracked my brain for a column idea, I typed “funny story ideas” into the search engine. A page called “Story Starters” popped up.
“This could be great,” thought the slightly younger but just as handsome Gregg of earlier this week.
When I clicked on the page, there were options for age groups ranging from kindergarten age up to sixth grade.
That was quite the blow to my ego. I guess that anyone over the age of 12-13 has no problem coming up with interesting story ideas.
What I found on the site was a topic generator that oddly resembles a slot machine. Is the Casino Queen behind this site?
For a topic, story writers pick an age, push a button and let the magic happen.
My first suggestion, “Write a horror story about a balding weasel who gets lost in the Amazon.” Does that relate to any of my readers?
Possibly just as much as any other columns I write, but most of my writings are true. I doubt I could pass off a story as true that includes the above-mentioned subject matter.
Topic No. 2: “Write a letter to a million-year-old gorilla who explores newly discovered planets.” That one is a bit more believable. I am keeping it under my hat.
And the third topic. . . “Describe a day in the life of a nerdy snow leopard who is a tour guide in your neighborhood.”
Not bad, but hasn’t that been overdone?
So I tried another search, this time changed the perimeters to “funny column ideas.” The first site was a Yahoo answer site where people pose questions to other Yahoo users.
The target audience aged a bit for this site. The writer was asking for columns for a high school newspaper. I guess that’s close enough.
One of the replies was, “You could do an article on fart jokes. High school kids love that sort of stuff.” Yes they do. As sad as it sounds, so do 34-year-olds. That probably crosses the line of an appropriate column though... unless I am in a bind, then that topic would be a gas.
In closing (you knew that was coming), don’t be surprised to see next week’s column begin with, “Dear Koko, Do they know sign language on MJ-6748?”