Thursday, April 7, 2016

4 Ways to Find Story Ideas and Inspiration

Ways to find story ideas
So I used to think that writers without story ideas didn't exist. If you don't know what you want to write about, you can't possibly be a writer, right? I remember watching the Deep Space 9 episode "The Visitor" where Jake is a successful writer in the future and some aspiring writer comes asking for advice and says "I'm doing a lot of reading trying to figure out what I want to write about," or something like that. And I remember thinking, well then you just failed as a writer right there cause that't not how it works.

But that was a long time ago. And I was just a kid.

Now I get it that you can't always know what you want to write about. Sometimes you just run out of ideas. And not having an idea does not take away the desire to write. While I do think that you should at least have a general idea about what you want to write, if it's novels then a genre, and that some of the best ideas come without trying, I don't think you should let anything stop you from writing.

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So here's where some of my ideas have come from:


Since characters are the main focus of most stories, having an idea for a character is a great place to start. Thinking about character motivations, who they are and what they want can sometimes lead to a story without even realizing that it happened. My post about protagonists has some character worksheets and links to find more if you need a place to get started building interesting characters.

The best stories have compelling believable characters so building a story around a character is usually the first place that I start. An interesting character can create his own story that just demands to be written.


Sometimes I see a scene in a movie or a book and I think, that is not the way that scene should have played out. Or I loved it so much that I wanted to find a way to make it happen in a story, and suddenly characters are created and a plot is needed.

Other times a scene will evoke an emotion that I want to find a way to recreate. And then that leads to characters and a story begins.

Or to start with, try thinking of one scene as a single short story. Maybe later you'll end up going back and deciding that there's more of that story to tell than just the one scene.


Similar to a great scene, an image can tell a story all on it's own. I never thought about images as being a source of inspiration until I began working on creating a cover for The Shrine of Arthis. Through a combination of searching through images and experimenting with creating some of my own, I came across an image and I thought, Wow this would make a great story. And slowly, the ideas formed, the characters took shape and a plot began to come together.

If you find a compelling image think about the story behind the image. What is going on? What events lead up to this? What happens next?

I have to go back to characters again because all good stories have a major focus on characterization. So images of people can also lead to an idea for a story. Who is the person in the picture? If there's more than one person, what is their relationship?

If you find an image that makes you pause, either an image of a scene or a character, what does this image make you think about? Ask yourself, how can I use this image to tell a story?


Another great place for inspiration, though not always a reliable one, is from dreams. I had one dream, a long time ago, that was so unique and compelling that I decided I would have to write it down one day. This was when I was in high school, and I did write it down then, but it was absolutely terrible. I came back to it in college and used it as a short story for a creative writing class. It's still an idea I have to develop into a full novel one day.

What do you think? Where do you get your inspiration for your stories?

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