Story Ideas: Where to Find Them - article

Authors need viable story ideas. But where to find them? In truth, story ideas are everywhere, but successful authors are like gem hunters: they keep the diamonds and toss the quartz. A good story idea has to be weighty enough to support a novel, and it has to be something that the author connects with on a deep level. These two conditions must be met to achieve success. Read on for several tips to find those diamond story ideas.

What You Know

Viable ideas often spring out of what an author knows. This is the number one way to find a story idea. You may have areas of expertise that your next story idea may be intimately connected to. Keep lists of everything: favorite books, movies, and activities. Your interests can guide you to your best story ideas. Stay connected with your dream life. Keep a notebook by your bed if you’re prone to vivid dreams that you always forget in the morning. Another great exercise, especially if you have a character in mind, is writing a series of escalating “what ifs” about that character.

Ripped from the Headlines

Some feel their experience is too mundane to warrant the energy it takes to create a book. They wish to tell stories that are larger than life. Who hasn’t heard of stories inspired by real-life headlines? Start collecting interesting headlines. Directions will emerge from this exercise. If the headlines list is weighted heavily with unsolved murders, then an author should explore that direction. If it’s weighted heavily with unexplained phenomena, try that direction. The key to this approach is vast and meticulous research. Learn as much as you can about your chosen headline. Story idea clarity will rise from thorough knowledge.

Mining Old Stories

Some authors find ideas in stories that are as old as the hills. You can reinvent old stories by looking at them in a new light. Fill an idea notebook with character sketches (short one- or two-page first-person narratives) telling an old story from a new point of view. For example, Cinderella told by the ugly stepsister, prince, or perhaps the author, can transform an old fairy tale into a modern day or a futuristic one. Mining old stories is a great way to create new story ideas.

The Story Notebook

Many authors choose to keep a professional notebook to develop ideas. A working notebook is not a journal or memoir, but a serious playground for the story creator. Keep clippings, snippets of dialogue, photos of settings, or whatever stirs your curiosity and senses. For practicality, consider keeping a low-tech paper notebook on hand. If you love technology, many cell phones and tablet computers offer notepad features as well as video and voice recording. Use these features to also gather your best story ideas.

Share this story
Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn