Writing Advice

10 Ways to Get Story Ideas

Do you want to write a story? Don’t know what to write about? Don’t worry, here are a few ways that can help you get started.

1. Keep a record of all story ideas that pop into your head, even the ones the sound crazy. You can do this by carrying a small notebook around with you, everywhere you go. When you get an idea, jot it down so you won’t forget it. Nadia says, “I have a pocket sized one that I used to carry with me everywhere and it’s filled with one sentence ideas.”

Alternatively, keep use an online document e.g. Google Docs; or a Microsoft Document to keep track of all your ideas. I find this approach works for me best, but I also have a notebook where I scribble down ideas; and if I ever forget it, I also makes notes on my phone. (You could even try using the Novel Ideas app.)

2. Read the newspaper or watch the news. It’s a great source of inspiration. This can really help you think about the motivations behind a character’s actions e.g. why did they set fire to that house? Did they know there were people inside? Did they know children were inside? What happened between the two families to cause so much conflict? Was it a revenge attack? Was it due to racial prejudice? Was it a dare that got out of hand?

3.  Try the ‘what if’ method e.g. what if a boy was a wizard? What if teens had to fight to the death? What if Cinderella was sent to the ball to kill the prince?

4. Try combining two different ideas: e.g. Harry Potter meets the Hunger Games – what do you get? A wizard battle to the death.

5. Be observant. Look around you, observe the objects and people around you. For example, you see a tired man waiting at the bus stop. Let your mind ponder and come up with a backstory for him. You see a dent in the rails of the pavement, what could have happened that led to that accident?

6. Record your dreams, write them down when you first wake up. That’s how Twilight started for Stephanie Meyer.

7. Read lots of books. Read books in the genre you want to write. Read books that aren’t in that genre. Get a feel for what you would like to read, and write it.

8. Brainstorm – start with a name or a genre or an object and mindmap. You see an apple on the table, write out what immediately comes to mind, e.g. poisoned apple? genetically modified apple? the forbidden apple?

9. Free write: open up a Microsoft Word document and write whatever comes to mind. It could be complete gibberish at first, but let your mind make those random connections. You never know, you could come up with a story idea that way.

10. If you get really stuck, you can use a random story idea generator that you can find online – just google it. Or use a writing prompt to kick start your creative thinking. You could even use Google images to generate random images that could spark your imagination.

A bonus method for when you’re really stuck (well it’s not really a method): sometimes I find that I can sit there and think about a story idea for a very long time and nothing will come to me. Nothing at all. If this is happening to you, here’s what you should do. Stand up. Drink some water. Go take a shower/go for a walk/do some housework.

When you are really focused on something, it can prevent your brain from making novel connections that can help you get new ideas. By choosing a different activity, and letting your mind relax and wander around, it’s easier in this ‘diffuse’ thinking mode, for new connections to be made in the brain. I find many ideas start to come to me when I start hoovering the house, or do some exercise. That’s why it’s always handy to have a notebook or some paper nearby to jot down your ideas before you forget them.

Well, we’ve reached the end of today’s tips. Hope you find them helpful!

-Elizabeth

Do you have other methods to come up with story ideas? Share them with us in the comments section below.

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