5 Ways to Come Up with Great Story Ideas
By Brian A. Klems
We all have a million excellent ideas for stories, but, without fail, they magically disappear the minute we sit down to write. It seems impossible, but it happens constantly. Hours are wasted staring at a blank page. And, no matter how many cups of coffee are in our systems, we still can’t find the energy to kick our muses into gear and develop story ideas.
Have no fear: I have five ways that will help pump up your creativity muscle and build story ideas that will keep you writing for hours on end. Here they are.
- Reinvent a scene from a book.
Take a very small, seemingly non-important scene from one of your favourite books and consider what it’d be like if that were the opening scene to your novel. Change the characters of course, and add one or more unique elements to that scene. The key is to give you a starting point and then let your imagination run wild. While there are many ways to stay inspired, this challenge really takes something that you love (an old book) and gives it new life.
- Use junk mail as inspiration.
Take the next two pieces of spam mail you receive (either snail mail or e-mail) and use it to determine the profession on your protagonist and your protagonist’s love interest. I get this type of mail all of the time, particularly from politicians, credit card companies and auto dealerships—and that’s just what’s delivered by the United States Postal Service! When I add in the junk sent to my e-mail inbox, I get “foreign ambassadors from Nigeria” looking for million dollar loans and women begging me to click through to get “erotic” pictures of them. Any one of these jobs will lead to many fun and unusual situations—and will give you plenty of fodder to write about.
- Invent a history for someone with whom you’ve lost touch.
We have all had friends in our lives from grade school, high school or college that we knew quite well back then, but haven’t seen much (if at all) since. In fact, most of their lives are a mystery to us. Pick one of those old friends and write about the life they’ve been leading ever since you lost touch. What happened in his or her family life? What career path did he or she choose? Was he or she involved in something that led them to a life of crime? The possibilities are endless, which should drive you to be as creative as possible.
- Eavesdrop on a conversation.
Just because you’re stuck in a bit of a funk when it comes to ideas doesn’t mean that other people are. Take your notepad or laptop out of the house, sit down somewhere and observe the scenery around you—and listen to any and every conversation within earshot. You can do this at a park, restaurant, coffee shop or, my personal favourite, a bar (people who have a few drinks in them tend to share the best stories). Remember, jot down all the stories you hear but be sure to give them a twist to make them your own.
- Find a writing prompt and run with it.
Sometimes the best cure for writer’s block is to let someone else start your story for you. You can search the web and find a number of sites that offer them, and who knows: The idea you get from a writing prompt may be just the inspiration you need to spark your creativity and write a short story or novel that sells.
Have your own suggestions on how to beat writer’s block and get your creative juices flowing? Leave it in the comments section here. The more suggestions we have, the better the chances none of us will ever have to sit there staring blankly at a page again.
Credit: Writers Digest