We all have hundreds of thousands of ideas for imaginative stories, but the moment we sit down to write, they somehow disappear. Or sometimes you across a great book or a movie and you think to yourself, “why didn’t I think of that?” Writing a good story is one thing, but coming up that story idea, you’re entering a whole different world. So the question is: how do I come up with a great story idea, or just an idea to write about?
- Use Your Senses: Write about what you see, hear, taste, smell, feel. Your senses are more than just being aware of your surroundings, but they allow you to explore the world in a different way. A way in which you can incorporate them into a simple short story or writing piece. I once had to write a flash fiction piece while using a sense as the main focus of the piece. Writing it was tough, but I learned that your senses can take you on multiple and sometimes even wonderful journeys.
- Recreate a Scene: Whether that scene is from a book or movie, recreate it. For example, maybe rather than one person getting magical powers, maybe two characters do. Do these two characters then clash against each other? Does one turn evil and the other becomes a hero? Recreating, or reinventing a scene, is always a great place to start for story ideas.
- Conversations: This will require a bit of eavesdropping and is similar in nature to using your senses. Just because you may not know what to write about or what stories to come up with, other people may have interesting things to say. Turn conversations around you into a story, with maybe an added twist (maybe it’s just a simple coffee conversation, but an alien invasion happens).
- Use Artwork: Artwork is a great place to start writing a story, because the artist(s) generally has a story that they imagined (or hoped others would imagine) when they created their artwork. Find a random painting on Google Images, write a story about that painting. Describe what’s happening, the characters (if there are characters), or use that painting to start a new story.
- Find Writing Prompts Online: The World Wide Web (the Internet) has expanded so much in the last decade. Try a simple google search on writing prompts and you’ll probably get thousands of hits. Use those as a starting guide to coming up with an idea. Reddit is also another source to look at as they not only have writing prompts, but other writers as well.
- Use Real-Life Examples: Sometimes it’s difficult coming up with a creative fiction writing idea, but sometimes your own real-life experiences and stories can be turned into a fictional story as well (if you don’t want to run with the non-fiction route). Take sometime you’ve experienced before, maybe a bad break-up, and use that as a story idea and develop your characters through the experience you had. It may be difficult at first because it will seem incredibly real, but sometimes the best stories are our own stories that haven’t been told yet.
- Overcome Writer’s Block: Check out my previous piece on Overcoming Writer’s Block. Sometimes it starts with overcoming this minor, yet big piece of obstacle in finding an idea to write about. Start freewriting or brainstorming different ideas for a story. Writer’s Block is no laughing matter when you really want to write, but have no idea what to write about. And the best way to come up with ideas to write about is to start writing.
- Use a Location: Write about a certain place you want to go to or have been to. Maybe for example, write about Disneyland (even if you’ve never been there before). Write about how the character explores the happiest place on Earth, and take the reader through a journey. Sometimes a setting itself can lead to the beginnings of a great story.
- Read: Great ideas come from writing, but they also come from reading too. Similar to recreating a scene, maybe a scene somewhere in a book inspires you to write something. Perhaps you wanted to expand on that particular scene, or a character catches your attention and so you want to write a story based on a character with those characteristics. Reading can lead to many things, one of those is coming up with an idea.
- Write What You Want: I’ve come across many writers who love writing dark stories, but at the same time, they want to venture out and write about other things (for example, happier stories). Sometimes it doesn’t work out too well for them and they struggle either during the writing process, or even before the process begins (the generation of the idea). So here I am to say this, don’t force your writing. Brainstorming is one thing, but using an idea from that brainstorming session simply because you have no other leads, may not be the best option. But if you want to challenge yourself, then by all means, you should do it.
- No Idea is a Bad Idea: I mean, we’ve all seen a bad movie, right? Yet, somehow, somewhere someone said, “yes, this movie is great,” or “yes, this movie needs to be made.” So if an idea seems incredibly bad, it may not be. I’m sure a movie about mutated turtles learning martial arts seemed unreal at the time of its release, but it worked. If you think you have an idea, run with it. It’s not whether the idea is good or bad, but how you use that idea to write. A story consists of more than just the idea, it has many elements to it.
- A Problem = A Solution: Maybe there’s a problem in the world that needs to have a solution (there’s a lot of those). Maybe a character finds a cure to cancer, write about it. Maybe the story resolves an issue of crime rate, overpopulation, and homelessness, write about it (The Purge anyone?). Problems exist in the world, and story ideas can come from these problems and solutions.
In the end, sometimes story ideas (great or bad ones) come when you least expect it. You just have to be patient and continue writing as much as you can. For me, I like to imagine stories in forms of movies/television shows. Acting out the dialogue, imagining the plot, and seeing how characters interact with everything around them. Generally, if I can see the story as a television show or movie, then I can probably write about it.
Again, these ideas may not work for everyone. Use your own unique methods and ways to find story ideas. In the end, just believe in yourself and your ideas that you come up with. What are some ways you generate your story ideas?