How to Use Google News to Break Writer's Block by Brian Scott

How to Use Google News to Break Writer's Block by Brian Scott

Google News is just packed with story ideas that are waiting for writers to write them. The trick is finding themand then, once you do, knowing how to use them. If you're ever at a loss for ideas, plot elements, characters, settings, or just inspiration, pair up with Google News and try one or more of the following techniques to break your writer’s block:

Main screen of Google News
Main screen of Google News

1. Headlines

On the Google News home page, scroll down and read the headlines. Choose three interesting ones that have nothing to do with each other. Take each word in each of the headlinesyou should have about thirty wordsand use them to write a poem or paragraph. Make sure you use all of the words, even the difficult ones; that's part of the challenge.

Google News picks the most recent news automatically
Google News picks the most recent news automatically and lists the items on the right side of the screen.

2. Collision of Worlds

On the right hand side of the home page, you will see a list of recent news stories. Pick a couple of headlines that interest you and read the whole story. Choose one character from each. For instance, you might pick a disgraced former congressman from one story and a baker with a successful new restaurant from another, or the photographer of a giant squid and Jennifer Aniston. Spend a few minutes thinking of a situation in which these two characters might come together. Elevator? OKCupid? Funeral? Write the poem or scene that emerges.

3. Obituary

In the search bar at the top of the page, type the words “obituary died suddenly.” Read a few of the resulting obituaries. Some of the search results will not be obituaries; you can skip those. Find someone whose life story intrigues you. Use this doomed character in a scene or poem that takes place three days before their death. They don't know what's to come, but you do. Are there any signs? Have the wheels of fate begun moving?

Google News lists the TOP stories
Google News lists the TOP stories on the left side of the screen in categories.

4. First Line

On the left-hand side of the home page, you'll see a list of top topics. Scroll down and click on “Science.” Read a few of the science-related stories that result. You'll notice that the science stories that make the news are often remarkable or amazing in some way. Take the first line of one of these remarkable stories and use it as the first line of a poem or paragraph.

5. Verbs

Type a collection of disparate, past-tense verbs into the search bar. For example, you might type “hit washed shoveled.” Use the very first search result to inspire a poem or story.

Check out Google News' "Archives" section!
Check out Google News' "Archives" section!

6. In Other News...

Think of a big news event that happened sometime in the last century. Go to a newspaper story from that day using a little-known part of Google News: the “Archives.” If you wanted to write about the day Kennedy was shot, you'd put “Kennedy killed” into the search bar. Click on the box called “search tools,” then click “any time,” and then, “custom range.” Enter the date your big event occurred. In this case, you'd enter November 21, 1963 to November 22, 1963. Among the results, you should find one that directs you to a scanned image of the original newspaper. Ignore the main story. Instead, page through the newspaper until you find a totally unrelated story, one that was ignored by history. For our Kennedy assassination example, you might find that Miss World was photographed that day wearing a seal-skin bathing suit. Write a poem or scene about that ignored story, using the major news story as a back drop.

7. Last Lines

Click on “Top Stories” from the left-hand column. Choose one of the topics that interests you, and read the first article that comes up. Copy the last line of the story, rearranging the words so it means something very different. Use the altered line to inspire a poem or story.

8. Impostor

Type the word “impostor” into the search box. If you wish, use the Archives section again and pick a year-range from the past. Search through these stories until you find one that triggers your imagination. Write a poem or story about someone who is beginning to realize who this impostor really is.

Read news from a different country!
Read news from a different country!

9. Translation

You'll notice that you can choose other versions of Google News. Click the box beneath the search box. Choose the version for a country whose language you do not speak. Scroll through the unintelligible news stories until you find one with an interesting image attached. Do your best at translating the story, using the image and the foreign words as guidance. Use a line or two from this “translated” story in a poem or paragraph.

10. Distant City

Pick a distant city you have never visited and type it into the search bar along with another word. For instance, “Canberra lunch.” Find a small story in the search results and choose a line or two from it to inspire a poem or scene.

— Brian Scott