One of the most important parts of being a novelist or short story writer is finding story ideas to write about. Some people are overwhelmed by ideas, while others are not. Personally, I fall into the second category because I only get ideas for novels every couple of years. This works for me because it takes years for me to complete a book, but maybe you’re a faster writer than I am and you need to find an idea more often than you can come up with them. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to write a book but you’re struggling to find an idea that you’re positive will work. Whatever the reason, these six tips will help you find an idea that you can use to write your next novel or short story.
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6 Tips for Finding Story Ideas
Read a lot – This is a standard piece of advice for learning to be a good writer, but I think it also works for finding story ideas. Reading can help you figure out what you like and don’t like, what stands out to you in texts by other authors, and more. You never know if something is going to give you an idea!
Read a variety of genres – Obviously you shouldn’t read anything that you wouldn’t like, but it’s worth it to go out of your comfort zone. You never know what will inspire you! Maybe fantasy isn’t your favorite genre, but you’ll find a character that you’ll really like and that will inspire you to create your own. Maybe you never read nonfiction, but you read a biography that makes you want to write a historical fiction book about someone in it. You get the idea.
Look at the world around you – Think about all of the things that you encounter on a daily basis. Each of those things could inspire a story within you! Look at the other people in a coffee shop (without being creepy, obviously) and imagine what one of them is thinking. When you see something strange happen, imagine how it came to be. Basically, if something in the world around you stands out to you, let your imagination run wild.
Figure out what you bring to the table that no one else does – No matter how similar you might be to a friend or family member, you are unique. You are different than all of the billions of people in the world, and this means that you can bring your own unique take to the table. Figure out what sort of story you could tell differently from everyone else. For example, my first novel (Aureole) is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. I am definitely not the first person to do this, but my version is different from everyone else’s because I wrote it and I have a different take on it than everyone else. So if you’re worried that someone else has written the same thing that you have, you can always think about what specifically you bring to the table that’s different from other people.
Figure out what you wish you could read – What sort of book would you love to read but you can’t find? Even if there is already one or two versions of that, like I said above, you bring your own unique version of it to the table. Write the book that you wish you could read. Odds are you’re not the only one who wants to read it.
Keep a running list of ideas – You might have an idea for a book out of nowhere one day. Write it down so you can later turn that idea into a full-fledged book or so you can be inspired by that idea to go in a different but slightly-related direction. I have a running list of story ideas on my phone and some of them are not enough to write a full book about, but some have led me to come up with other ideas that are more likely to work.6 Tips for Finding Story Ideas Click To Tweet
Looking to get out of a writing-ideas block? Try one of these exercises:
Find a picture and write a story based on it and only it – This is an exercise I did at a writing program in high school. Everyone was given a picture and we all had to write a story based around what was happening. It was a great exercise because it helped me think in a different way than I normally did when I wrote.
Free write – Don’t think. Just write! This can help get your creative juices flowing.
Pick a historical event and write a story based around it – Don’t think about this like you would if you were writing a historical fiction book, aka don’t worry about getting historical details right or doing research. Just let your imagination run wild around a historical event.
Pick any inanimate object and write a story featuring it somehow – Again, this is something to help you think differently than you normally would and get your creative juices flowing. Write a sentence, a paragraph, a page, ten pages, whatever. Just write!
How do you find story ideas?
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