Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The 10 Best Ways to Generate New Story Ideas

Image courtesy of nuttakit /
The blank page can be a scary sight, especially when you are having trouble coming up with a new story idea. So, to help you out here is a list of the 10 best ways to find new story ideas.

  1. Writer's Notebook. As mentioned in last Wednesday's post (here), one of the best resources for finding fresh inspiration and story ideas is your writer's notebook. Flick through an old notebook and pick a page at random until you stumble across an idea that speaks to you and get's you excited. If you haven't been keeping a notebook, start today.
  2. Story Prompts. There are a wealth of websites out there that offer story prompts or starters, here are just a few, pick one and have a go.
  3. Newspaper's or Magazines. Look through your local paper and pick a headline that interests you. Without reading the actual article start writing and see what ideas come to you.
  4. Free-write. Set a timer for ten or fifteen minutes and just start writing, don't worry about what comes out, just keep the pen moving until the time is up, even if you just write 'I can't think of anything' over and over. Trust me, it won't be long before your brain gets bored of that and comes up with something more interesting. Alternatively you could pick three words at random, either using a dictionary or any book you have to hand for that matter, and write them at the top of your page, then follow the same process as above. You don't even have to include those words, sometimes your brain will make other associations and that's good. Put the writing aside for a while and take a break or work on something else. When you come back to read it, highlight anything that sparks an idea or that you think you could use.
  5. Brainstorm. You can brainstorm on almost any topic but I find it really useful to write 'what if?' in the centre and start from there. Write down anything and everything that pops to mind, no matter how crazy it may sound. More often than not, it's the crazy ideas that turn out to be the best.
  6. Read. Reading can provide you with an endless supply of story ideas. I don't mean copy what another writer has done, but the way they describe something, or something a character says can often spark other ideas that you can work from. Don't just read in your favourite genre though, read widely, especially non-fiction, and you will have even more ideas.
  7. Eavesdrop. Listen to what people are saying, whether you are at the checkout, in a coffee shop, on public transport, at work, even the playground waiting to pick up your child. Sometimes just hearing the tail end of a conversation and a snippet of dialogue can spark an idea, especially if it is out of context because then your brain will start asking all sorts of questions, trying to figure out what they were referring to.
  8. People Watch. This is similar to the point above but this time you are looking out for mannerisms and quirks, the way people look at each other, the way they gesture, the way they walk and dress. Ask yourself questions; who are they? why are they here? who are they meeting? what secret could they be hiding?
  9. Listen to Music. Set your music to random and pick a line from the next song that comes on. Write it down and see what ideas it sparks. You could even pick a random line from two or three songs and then try to find a connection between them.
  10. Re-use a Character. Take a minor character from one of your previous works and write their story.
Try one of these methods out for yourself and let us know how you get on, or if you have another method that you find better share it with us in the comments section below.