How to find story ideas anywhere: Savannah edition

Read time: 4 min.

Get inspired to write with writing prompts from the dreamy city of Savannah, Georgia.

When I get stumped on what to write about, there is no better way to get the wheels of my imagination turning than to visit a new place.

Wandering around new sights, smells, and sounds whisks me away to distant lands where anything is possible. People watching triggers ideas for new characters I want to meet. Interactions I watch inspire new plots. Observations I make fill me with insatiable curiosity about the world around me.

This summer, I found myself at an internship located about 50 minutes from Savannah, Georgia. Thankfully, one of the closest airports was in Savannah so I was able to make several visits. This dreamy city enamored me with its old European feel, whispering story ideas at every corner.

But how do I know if there is a story idea in something I notice? It’s simple. I pay attention to the things that make me ask questions. Where there is a question, there is a story idea.

I’ll show you what I mean.

Scroll through some of the things I noticed to get your imagination running:

The Paris Market

This place alone is enchanting enough to inspire a thousand stories. It’s a wonder room of captivating products, with a little café to boot. Perfume, jewelry, magazines, journals, home décor, and so many other goods that feel as if they’re from the other side of the world dance around the store in ever-changing creative displays.   

Prompt: Who wrote these magazines? Write about a new editor, running to these shelves to pick up her very first issue with a beaming look on her face. What will she do next?

Prompt: Who made this display? Who designs all the displays in the store? I want to meet them. Talk to them and write an article for me.

Prompt: Tell me about a dinner around this table. Who was there? What was served? Did a tall guest bump his head on the chandelier? Did a fight leave those beautiful dishes in shambles?

Prompt: Who do these photos belong to? Why did they take them out again? Are they trying to solve the mystery of their mother who they never met? Is it an old man, reminiscing on the golden days of the past? While you’re at it, give me all the juicy details on that letter in the pile.

Prompt: How is perfume even made? Who chooses the bottles and names? Sounds like a dream job. Research this and fill me in.

Prompt: Where are these shells from? I’m not sure if they stole them from a mermaid or what, but I’d like to read the story of how they got here.

River Street

This cobblestone street lining the Savannah River is where all the action happens. You can weave in and out of shops filled with exciting goods and tasty snacks, between street performers and endless photo ops.

Prompt: What if something happened under this charming, yellow umbrella? I’d like to read about someone storming up those steps under the string lights, too.

Prompt: A short story about shoes, from the perspective of this street. Does it have a favorite brand?

Prompt: Technically not right on River Street, but close enough. I absolutely have to know about this moped. Who owns it and where do they like to ride it? Find them and interview them, or write a fiction story about who you imagine they are. I don’t care which option you go with, but I have to know.

Prompt: Write about the two kids I can imagine living in apartments right next to each other at the very top of this building. Do they communicate with tin can phones? I’d say so.

Prompt: This is Savannah’s Candy Kitchen and it’s probably best to write about it with a praline in hand. I’m curious about what goes into making a praline. Now that I think about it, what are pralines? Or, take a story about this candy store more in the imaginative direction of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Prompt: Is this place even real? It’s like what the Mad Hatter went on to do after all the stories from Alice in Wonderland. There are too many directions you could take this idea, so I won’t limit your imagination by giving you a specific prompt.

Prompt: This view from River Street. Describe it to a blind person. How does it make you feel? What might you hear or smell when looking at it?

The Coffee Fox

The quirky décor at this coffee shop was as wonderful as the food and drinks it served. It’s the perfect setting for every kind of character you can imagine, all with only one thing in common: the place they go to get their morning coffee. As a side note, if you ever visit, it’s an absolute must to try the cranberry orange muffin.

Prompt: You know that rhyme from when you were a kid, The Muffin Man? What is that all about? Where is Drury Lane?

Toasted Barrel

This restaurant was seriously beautiful. The tasteful décor is the backdrop of a simple menu of — get this — grilled cheeses. They have every kind you could imagine. I love the dynamic between the sophisticated décor and the playful menu.

Prompt: This grilled cheese was so good, it doesn’t need to be written about. Go reward yourself with a snack break.

Wormsloe Historic Site

This avenue lined in oaks dripping with Spanish moss is mesmerizing, to say the least. I could spend all day walking up and down it. They filmed a scene of the Nicholas Sparks’ movie, The Last Song, here. Centuries of history live on this avenue. There are few places so perfect to daydream about story ideas.

Prompt: Tell me about the person who lives at the end of this driveway. Is it an old lady who never makes it out of the house, which is rumored to be haunted? Or, is it a giant family with four kids who won’t stop climbing on the trees?

Whether you choose to use one or all of these prompts, I hope I sparked your imagination with this dreamy city. Savannah is filled with ideas, but so is the city you live in. There are endless story ideas all around us.

You just have to know how to look.

The ideas are in the questions.

Know anyone else who could use some inspiration to kickstart their writing? Share these!

Life on Island Time: Learning How to Rest in a Busy World

img_4398
Wearing my favorite red rain coat and taking in the scenery you would definitely see in a Nicholas Sparks movie.

“You slept in ’til two,” he said, “and you’re at the BEACH?”

This was the reprimand I received from my friend when I finally arose from my slumber and made my way to the shore. He had a point, but I was not about to spend my trip totally wiped out after the long drive there.

About 100 of us from a college ministry I was involved in had loaded up on charter buses, pulling all-nighters in our seats which grew more uncomfortable by the hour. We didn’t care. We were on our way to a carefree week of equal parts sleeping and shenanigans. A 14 hour drive was worth every agonizing minute for that first view of the ocean, wild and free.

But first, I had to get some rest.

In our go-go-go lifestyles, slowing down seems counterproductive. Sleeping in way too late while at the beach? Sounds ridiculous.

This is the attitude that carries from spring break into our everyday lives. We want to accomplish so much with our lives that we fill our Google calendars with endless tasks to accomplish each day. We keep going and going until we burn out. We have good intentions, but we miss out on the strength a simple day of rest here and there can bring to all our pursuits.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, was one place I learned to rest.

img_3703Days pass by more slowly on the island. Softened sunlight on the white sand shores melts into a sunset each evening. Mild air whips around you as you race to your next destination on the bike paths that run all over the island. There are no calendars or alarms to govern the days which pass by at a rate even the gators lazing by the pond could keep up with, and everyone likes it like that.

Little shops and restaurants around the island have a tropical Southern charm. My favorite restaurant was Giuseppi’s, a local pizza place with lots of soup and salad options, too. For nights out, Poseidon is a great restaurant. There’s even a rooftop bar with live music. Kilwin’s is a chain, but it’s one of the best chocolate stores around and a great place to get your ice cream fix.

img_4495Visiting the beach is the main attraction on the island, of course. The water is a deep blue. The shore is perfect for building sandcastles and playing catch. The sand closest to the water is packed down enough to ride your bike across the shore.

img_4536It only takes a few steps away from the beach to immerse yourself in the flora and fauna similar to a tropical forest. Am I in South Carolina or somewhere near the Amazon River? Tough to say. The greenery makes a great backdrop for photos.

For the full experience of a local, renting a beach house is ideal. The quaint beach house neighborhood we stayed in probably wasn’t too thrilled to see buses full of college students in every shade of Comfort Colors shirts roll up. Hopefully, we restored their hope in the upcoming generation (other than a few pranks we pulled on each other that may or may not have happened, but you didn’t hear it from me).

I got to stay in one of the fanciest houses and I couldn’t complain. All the houses were nice, but this one was a cut above.

img_3730I spotted this house on a bike ride and fell in love with the charming shaker shingles and teal accents. It was my favorite one in the whole neighborhood. I had to take some pictures in front of it.

3d6886b6-7c1c-4c3b-b24b-1c4763641d64
Here I am, trying to be trendy in my overalls and Chacos.

Biking is the preferred method of transportation on the island. Whatever you do, do not rent a car.

A bike is cheaper and way more fun, whether gliding through the neighborhood streets or trekking into town. Bonus points if you put a speaker in the basket to play The Beach Boys. We rented our bikes from Hilton Head Bicycle Co.

Traveling by bike sets a slow pace. This is just what you want for a week of rest.

Whenever our whole group gathered at one house for a game night or worship night, the driveway would overflow with around 100 bikes. I loved the feeling of community this brought. 100 different people with 100 different backgrounds and perspectives, but some bikes and a beach house were all it took to unite us.

We’d get competitive together over card games, sing together to worship, and laugh together over a houseful of chatter. The nights when we filled every last space in one glowing house were my favorites.

img_4384Community is something that helps me find rest. Knowing I have a home team to go to when everything is falling apart or when everything is coming together sets me at ease. God calls us to live in community and it’s so easy to see why.

I’ve gone through long stretches without a tangible community. Getting involved in one can sometimes take a lot of work and even feel impossible.

When you’re crammed in a house with 100 bikes outside and dying laughing with your best friends, you know the work is worth it.

img_4410The whole trip may sound a little boring to the more adventurous of us, but boring is something I can’t get enough of.

Boring days can be the best days. Boring days allow me to move at my own pace. There is time to think and dream, time to really sit down and listen to family and friends, and time to talk to God.

We often trade these things for fast-paced activities that don’t require patience. Patience is something there doesn’t seem to be a lot of in our society. We want to communicate with two sentence text messages and get our news in 30 second video clips. We like our food fast. We want what we want and we want it now.

We also want constant stimulation. If there should, heaven forbid, ever be an unscheduled moment to sit and wait, we pull out our phones for instant entertainment. We fill our schedules from morning to night. We rush from one activity to the next.

It’s no wonder we put rest on the back-burner.

img_4619
Looking back, this pose was a little much.

Sarah Young said, “Hurry keeps the heart earthbound.”

It’s only when we slow down and breathe that we have a chance to lift our eyes to God and think about how He sees it all. He is outside of time, in control of it. Time is not a worry for Him. He knows the perfect time for everything and He is not in a hurry.

Staying focused on eternity with Him helps us stop worrying about the time and, as a result, we are able to make the time we do have count. It keeps us thinking about the big picture and all the things that truly matter at the end of the day.

So, go ahead and let yourself slow down on your days off. Try to experience the world by bike. Schedule some time to do nothing.

Visit an island like Hilton Head if you need to, and don’t be afraid to sleep until two.

How to Host a Bachelorette Party on a Budget

20191021_051739000_ios

Sometimes I wonder how Gatsby did it.

I do love hosting parties. I get to gather up new and old friends, fix food for them, and set the tone for a night of laughter and making memories. Whether it’s a party to celebrate something big like a graduation or simply a game night to gather all my people under one roof, I love inviting people into my home.

I have to be real, though.

Sometimes it stresses me out. Coordinating a night that works for everyone and gathering up all the food and decor on a budget while juggling work and school is a balancing act, to say the least.

By the end of the night, though, people are trickling home with new stories to tell and new connections to hang out with.

That’s when I remember the work is always worth it.

Last October, I had the opportunity to host one of my best friend’s bachelorette parties before her wedding. It was a final hurrah with the girls before she tied the knot.

I had never hosted one before, so Pinterest was my go-to as I searched the internet high and low for ideas. I was on a budget, so that was a big factor in my planning.

In case you’re hosting a bachelorette party on a budget soon, here are some ideas to get you started.

Decor

20191022_022855000_ios-1

We began the night at my place, so I wanted to make sure it was decorated to impress. I chose a simple pink, gold, and rose gold color scheme.

I found all the decor at affordable stores. Here’s a break down of where I stocked up.

Dollar Tree:

  • Artificial flowers (a steal)
  • Mini candles (they had many other color options, too)
  • Square plates
  • Plasticware
  • Table cloth
  • Vase for straws (they have a great collection of cheap glassware)

Walmart:

  • Gold-coated vases (in the wedding section, they had these and other cute decorations)
  • Metallic tassels (in the party section, and I simply taped them to the table cloth)

Hobby Lobby:

  • Napkins (they had every color imaginable)
  • Cups (ditto)
  • Striped paper straws

Amazon:

  • Metallic letter balloons
  • Pink and confetti-filled balloons (scattered these on the floor)

For the photo backdrop, I put the “Bride” balloons on a string and taped each side to the vertical blinds. I already had the garland (originally from Hobby Lobby) and taped it to the blinds as well. This was all a little tricky and took some trial and error (read: it was actually very hard and I almost gave up, but I persevered).

You can see the tape in the picture of the backdrop above if you’re looking for it (sigh), but it didn’t end up showing up in the pictures we took, like the one below.

20191022_103459000_ios

Drinks + Appetizers

In all the commotion, I forgot to take pictures of the appetizers. The original plan was to snack on chips and salsa, as well as my friend’s famous cheesecake-filled strawberries, while everyone took pictures and got ready to head out.

I also set out champagne glasses and, since most of us don’t drink, we opted for sparkling grape juice. We ended up leaving for dinner before we got around to this.

Activities

20191022_022826000_ios

Keeping the activities a secret from the bride-to-be was all part of the fun.

She received an invitation in the mail a week ahead of the big night, complete with a wax seal. Super fancy, I know. Sending a wax seal in the mail sounded complicated when I looked it up, so I decided to sneak over to her mailbox in the dark like a ninja.

The invitation included the first clue, which was a riddle that let her know she’d be stopping at my place first. I told her to dress fancy and had a friend that lived close to her pick her up to bring her to the first stop of the night. Hiring a chauffeur would have been cool, but this was the next best thing that fit the budget.

The rest of the clues were numbered and she got them with her “Bride to Be” sash, which was from Hobby Lobby. The clues about each of the stops were a fun way to tie all the activities together.

The next clue was for the restaurant we would be eating at — her favorite.

After that, we played mini golf and made an impromptu ice cream stop at Andy’s. We drove a mini van to all of this so we could ride together, and placing seven different Andy’s orders at the drive-thru was quite the escapade.

I had been asking her questions about her favorite things to do in the months leading up to the party in hopes she wouldn’t remember I had asked. Pretty sure she remembered all of those conversations, but I tried. Nevertheless, the night was a success.

I wanted the bride-to-be to have some keepsakes from the night.

I set out a mini canister jar, some slips of paper, and a few pens. We wrote memories from the night and funny memories from over the years to put in the jar.

20191021_045457000_ios

The “Kiss the Miss Goodbye” picture idea was taken from Pinterest, and it was a hit. I wrote the words with a gel pen on scrapbook paper from Hobby Lobby. Then, we took Polaroid pictures with props in front of the photo backdrop, taped them down with double-sided tape, and used lipstick from Walmart to make the kiss prints. I popped it into a frame.

This bachelorette party was relatively simple and inexpensive, but still a night we will never forget.

To me, party hosting is simply creating an environment for people to gather and make memories. Connecting people, conversations, decor, and activities is an art I’m still learning.

I’m no Gatsby yet, but maybe someday (minus all the drama). Wax-sealed invitations and sparkling grape juice will have to do for now.