One of the major issues that new writers face is coming up with interesting story ideas. For years, I wanted to write, but I kept getting stuck.
Sometimes I would get stuck at the beginning, other times I would be halfway through an outline and my mind would completely blank. I became increasingly more frustrated until I gave up writing for a year.
After deciding to give fiction another try, I tested out new ways to make sure I would never run out of ideas again.
These are the methods that I used.
TV, Movies, and Books
One of the best ways to get a story idea is to watch a TV show, a movie, or read a book. And I’m not talking about plagiarizing someone else’s work, I’m talking about being inspired by it.
For example, a few months ago I watched Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why. The story follows a teenage girl’s downward spiral into suicide. With the show’s plot in mind, I asked myself “What if” questions.
- What if the girl wasn’t bullied, what if she was popular and happy, but she killed herself anyway?
- What if she killed her parents instead of herself?
- What if her parents aren’t her real parents?
See how you can be inspired by someone else’s story.
After, thinking of “What If” scenarios, I came up with the writing prompt: A popular girl with a bright future is accused of murdering her adoptive parents. This prompt then became the basis of a short story.
Another great way, to come up with a story idea is to fictionalize real-life events. For example, I read an article recently about a man’s fight to get squatters out of his home. So, I turned his story into, Squatters are murdered after a long battle with the homeowners.
This method leaves a lot of room for you to develop a compelling story that can end any number of ways.
This suggestion may seem a little strange, but it is very effective and you don’t have to go out of your way to do it. Simply, listen in on other people’s conversations when you’re at a coffee shop or restaurant. You’ll be amazed at some of the things that people say in public.
And, If the thought of this makes you uncomfortable, you can search “overheard this week” on twitter to get a similar experience from home.
Taken from @TimeOutLondon on Twitter:
- “They were both so ugly that they’d probably have to throw away their firstborn.”
- “Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good friend, but a shit human being.”
If you’re a vivid dreamer like myself, you can take advantage of your sleeping hours by documenting your adventures. Here are snippets from my own journal.
- A faceless man is holding a woman hostage in her home.
- All children are kept in very strict boarding school until they turn 16.
- A world where it is always night.
All of your dreams won’t be interesting, but if you keep writing them down, you’ll have a stockpile of ideas that you can refer to whenever you’re stuck.
Don’t worry, your life doesn’t have to be extremely interesting for this to work. You can get loads of interesting ideas from everyday events. For example, I came up with “A child finds sex slaves in her family’s bunker.” while cleaning out my basement.
Basically, think about what you’re doing and come up with a conflict.
Last, but not least. If you’re still having trouble or if you want to save time, you can get access to my free writing prompt ebook here.
After using one of these methods to come up with a starting idea, you can then flesh out that idea by asking yourself “What If”. And don’t worry if a lot of your ideas are not great. They don’t have to be. Once you develop a stockpile of ideas, you can sort through them and chose the best ones for your stories.
Which of these methods is your favorite? Have you used any of them? Let me know in the comment section!
- Get Inspiration from one of your favorite tv shows, movies, or books. ex: x happened in x movie, but what it x happened instead.
- News headlines ex: Man kills 17 people to cover up a murder
- People watching ex: Create stories from interesting things you’ve heard people say.
- Writing Prompts – Link to Writing Prompts
- Use Life Experiences ex: Job Loss, Pregnancy
- Quotes and Song Lyrics
- Unique Pictures
- Retelling History Events and Mythology