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How to come up with ideas for creative writing

Creative writing ideas come from everywhere.

“I have nothing to write about.” How many times have you heard that come out of your mouth? I’ve said it myself, many times. That is simply not true. If anything has made you stop and say, “Oh, that’s kind of cool,” you have something to write about. If you’ve ever watched the world around you and wondered why people do the things they do, or events happened the way they did, then you have something to write about. If you’ve ever had a birthday party, been to a school dance, had your first crush, or even just gotten up this morning, you have something to write about.

The best way for a writer to get creative writing ideas is to say “What if…” Let’s try it. What if someone found an old map in his attic that led to a treasure? Of course, he would have to go find the treasure, right? Well, if he didn’t, it wouldn’t be much fun. So, he packs up his suitcase, tells his friends and family good-bye, and heads out to find this treasure. What if he has to travel through some dangerous territory, like, an enchanted forest, or a mountain filled with trolls? What if he keeps getting sidetracked on his quest? Maybe he meets people who need his help.

Starting to get the idea? Apply this to anything, from your imagination, to your everyday life. What if you woke up one morning and your parents were different people? What if you got an A on that math test you’ve been sweating over? Try it. Look around you and ask “What if…”

Okay, so you might have a few creative writing ideas floating around. “What next?” you ask. Now the fun starts. Now you write. Sounds easy enough. This is the time where you want to get as many of your creative writing ideas on paper as you can. Let yourself go, and have fun with it. Writing should feel like you’re slipping into a special place, a place you’ve created. In your real life, you cannot eat candy for dinner, you have a bedtime, you have homework, and yes, you might have to make your bed, even if you are just going to mess it up when you sleep in it again. Life is full of things that don’t seem all that fun (even for adults). In creative writing, you are the boss. If your main character wants to have cake for dinner, then let her eat cake.

Here is a quick list of a few creative writing prompts just to get your imagination going. These could be used to help develop your characters, or start a completely new story, or used in any darn way you like. You don’t have to do all of these; you don’t have to do any of these, but the more you practice at writing the better you get. Pick one that appeals to you and see where it takes you.

  • Someone finds a jewel-encrusted box.
  • Your main character wakes up to find himself in a completely different place from where he fell asleep.
  • Your character is afraid of something. What is it? How does he confront it?
  • Your character is being chased and steps in a mysterious puddle of goop, or makes a wrong turn and ends up in a dead end, or is rescued by someone she does not like.
  • Your character is fishing and catches something interesting.
  • Your character sees a shimmering light through the trees.
  • The sky changes color.
  • A secret room is found.
  • A path branches off in three different directions and your character has no idea where to go.
  • A laughing spell goes terribly wrong.

Now that we’ve covered some ways to get creative writing ideas, it’s time we get into the nitty-gritty of writing. I’m going to explain a few of the basic concepts of creative writing and give you some examples of how each one works.

Now, enough chitchat. Let’s get down to the fun stuff… Writing!

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Idea creation may seem a random and even mystical process, but there are simple and practical ways to increase your chances of how to come up with great ideas for writing.

All writers know it’s impossible to have great ideas all time. Sometimes you feel stuck, and it frustrates you, doesn’t it?

What is an idea?

Everyone wants to come up with a brilliant idea every time it is needed, but have you ever thought about what an idea actually is?

An idea is a connection. Any idea, even the simplest one, is an association with your previous and already known ideas. Our minds constantly form such connections, often spontaneously and unconsciously.

Another interesting feature of these connections is that they cannot be predicted. Often, an idea will be formed when two very different notions merge in an unexpected or unusual way.

Here are six tips that can help you develop an excess of ideas:

1. Expect the appearance of ideas

The first step is to get rid of limiting beliefs such as “I am not a creative person.” Put away the prejudice that only a few chosen ones can create good ideas. You are a writer, you have some readers (whether you write a novel or short stories), and your ideas have worth.

2. Greet all ideas, even those that seem stupid

Never focus only on creating great ideas. Strive for quantity instead of quality at first. Most people fail to come up with ideas because they fear their ideas will be “stupid.” Never mind: ideas that are considered stupid today may become the basis for the revolutionary ideas of tomorrow. And when you finally have such an idea, no one will remember the less fortunate ones.

3. Be open to new experiences

The more you deal with different situations, people, and places, the more fuel you give your mind to form connections. Learn to celebrate diversity of life: travel, try new food, read magazines you do not usually look at. Do not be afraid to do the usual things in a different way.

And read! Yes, the more you read, the more experience and ideas you get. As well-known master of horrors Stephen King said:

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time to write. Simple as that.

4. Save your ideas immediately

Develop the habit of recording all your ideas. Use your notebook, tablet, or voice recorder. The manner of saving ideas does not really matter; just make sure you always carry the means to record them. If you fail to write down ideas, you will end up forgetting most of them. Even worse: you will forget you even had an idea. Each time your mind recognizes your attention to its ideas, it rewards you with more ideas.

Don’t be so sure that you will remember all the ideas that come to you. As we all know, the brightest ideas have a habit of arriving in a bed while you are trying to fall asleep: “Hello there! I am your brain and I see you are trying to fall asleep. Let me generate a lot of brilliant ideas you’ll definitely forget in the morning!” Your best companion is a notebook, in which you can write down all your thoughts.

5. Be grateful for ideas

Whenever you come up with great ideas for writing, be thankful for them. By developing this habit, you create an additional positive reinforcement, a stimulus for your mind, which encourages the creation of more new ideas. It may seem a little bit strange, but it works. Just try!

6. Realize ideas come and go

If you find you can’t come up with any ideas for a few days, do not worry—it’s normal. Ideas will arrive suddenly, one by one. Sometimes ideas arrive so quickly you will barely have time to write them down. Always be prepared to take full advantage of the flow of ideas when it begins to gush.

How to Come up With Ideas for Creative Writing

Where do authors get their best writing ideas?

Do writing ideas just fall out of the sky? Is it reasonable to sit around waiting for a great idea to land on your lap, so you can write the next big bestseller?

I don’t think so.

When it comes to developing worthwhile writing ideas, it’s either feast or famine for most of us. Some writers have so many ideas, we can’t decide which one to pursue. Other writers struggle to find something worth writing about; they don’t have enough ideas.

And even if you have a compelling idea, the idea itself might not sustain a story or a poem. It’s not enough to have a concept: you need characters, settings, plots, subplots, and themes.

When writers are at a loss for ideas, they often self-diagnose with writer’s block. But many are merely dismissing their own good ideas (often because they aren’t perceived as original enough), or they don’t want to put a lot of effort into looking for ideas.

However, there’s no shortage of sources we can turn to for inspiration. Why not start at the top? Why not find out where some of the most successful authors have gotten their brilliant writing ideas? If that doesn’t inspire us, I don’t know what will.

No Imagination Necessary

First, let us dispel the myth that if you want to be a writer, you must have a vivid imagination. Plenty of writers have found success by being simple observers.

Mark Twain is a shining example. His idea for Huckleberry Finn (aff link) was based on someone he knew from real life. It turns out that the beloved character was practically a replica of Twain’s childhood friend, Tom Blankenship:

“In Huckleberry Finn I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had. His liberties were totally unrestricted. He was the only really independent person—boy or man—in the community, and by consequence he was tranquilly and continuously happy and envied by the rest of us.” — Mark Twain

Have you ever known someone with a standout personality? Such a person can influence your work in the same way that Tom Blankenship influenced Mark Twain.

Political and Social Commentary

Of course, Mark Twain is not the only author to successfully draw from real life. During the 1930s, hundreds of thousands of people migrated to the western United States from the Dust Bowl to escape intense dust storms that were destroying agriculture and the local economy. John Steinbeck (one of my literary heroes) told their story in The Grapes of Wrath (aff link):

“I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this [the Great Depression and its effects].” — John Steinbeck

Steinbeck’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel is a thoughtful commentary on social injustice and the forces behind poverty and oppression.

Thanks to the internet, political and social issues are well documented and easily accessible. If you can find an issue that matters to you, just look to the news and documentaries for true stories that you can use for inspiration.

Dreaming Things Up

Creative people from all walks of life from artists to inventors have found answers and ideas within the magical world of dreams. One of the most successful living authors of our time, Stephen King, attributes a dream as the inspiration for Misery (aff link), a novel that was also made into a film and an off-Broadway play:

“Like the ideas for some of my other novels, that came to me in a dream…I fell asleep on the plane, and dreamt about a woman who held a writer prisoner and killed him, skinned him, fed the remains to her pig and bound his novel in human skin. His skin, the writer’s skin. I said to myself, ‘I have to write this story.’ Of course, the plot changed quite a bit in the telling. But I wrote the first forty or fifty pages right on the landing here, between the ground floor and the first floor of the hotel.” — Stephen King

Unfortunately, many of us don’t remember our dreams, and if we do, they’re hazy at best. Luckily, there are some proven techniques to help us learn how to remember our dreams. Try a few of them and see if you can’t get your next big writing idea while you’re sound asleep. You can also keep a dream journal and then harvest it for inspiration whenever you need it.

Making Connections

Suzanne Collins broke the mold with The Hunger Games (aff link), one of the most successful series of the aughts, and the adapted films turned the series into a cultural phenomenon. This dystopian, young adult story takes place in a future where teenagers fight to the death in an oversized arena. Collins came up with the idea by connecting two seemingly disparate ideas:

“One night, I was lying in bed and I was very tired, and I was just sort of channel surfing on television. And, I was going through, flipping through images of reality television where there were these young people competing for a million dollars or a bachelor or whatever. And then I was flipping and I was seeing footage from the Iraq War. And these two things began to sort of fuse together in a very unsettling way, and that is when I, really, I think was the moment where I really got the idea for Katniss’s story.” — Suzanne Collins

The world is full of strange, wondrous, and horrific people and events. You too can draw unexpected connections between them to form the basis of a captivating story idea.

No Excuses! Writing Ideas Are Everywhere

So much for writer’s block — and so much for imagination. We writers need only be influenced and inspired by the world (and the people) around us.

“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.” — Neil Gaiman

You know what that means: no more excuses! You’re a writer, so go out there, find your writing ideas, and then write. Write your hearts out.

Techniques for Finding and Developing the Ideas that Fuel Your Writing

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How to Come up With Ideas for Creative Writing

Anthony Harvie / Getty Images

Professional writers are often asked where they find inspiration for their ideas. In reality, all of us already hold an abundance of viable ideas in our minds. It’s just that successful authors know how to harvest them better than most. And while most how-to books on writing address the importance of identifying a solid story premise, they fail to discuss how kernels of ideas already exist in most people’s brains—and that nurturing these thoughts into fully-realized stories is a process that takes time.

The Secret to Endless Ideas

The solution to generating original ideas is, quite simply, to begin writing. The mere act of typing can coax out ideas. It’s astonishing how many great story ideas are subconsciously floating around our minds—begging to be released. A story can be triggered by almost anything, including an interesting person you know, or a compelling location you’ve visited. Even a great title can provide a valuable launch point.

Writers should accumulate story ideas from their daily lives. When they see or hear something that seems worth investigating further, they should write it down while it’s fresh in their minds. When they begin writing about one of these ideas, they should do so quickly and feverishly, without overthinking the exercise. And no thought should ever be off-limits. Writers can describe what an idea makes them think of, how it makes them feel, and the questions it raises.

Writers should strive to achieve volume, committing as many words to the page as possible. Thoughts should be varied an unrestricted. Writers need not worry about fine-tuning plot points at this time. Furthermore, writers should feel comfortable veering off into other areas, far outside the realm of their original idea nuggets. Writers should instead welcome any new paths they find themselves treading. Keep going for multiple writing sessions, and you’ll be astonished by the material you’ll produce. Images, characters, and story arcs will begin to emerge.

A Bottomless Well of Ideas

Because one original nugget will likely yield multiple story ideas, focus on nurturing one idea while archiving the rest for later. When successful authors brag about having a lifetime of ideas, they really mean that one idea invariably splinters out into many. You can likewise cultivate an abundance of ideas, simply by harvesting from your own life experiences and expanding them into story-worthy concepts.

60 Seconds of Writerly Inspiration and Perspiration

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13 Creative Methods to Come Up With Story Ideas

Do you know what the worst part of coming up with ideas is? It’s not getting the idea to start the story, though that looks hard. It’s keeping the ideas flowing because a story is made up of many ideas. So if you want to know “Where do you get your ideas from?” read on:

How to Come up With Ideas for Creative Writing

CREATIVE METHODS

1. Brainstorming. Set a timer for 15 minutes and write down everything that comes to mind, no matter how crazy it sounds. The most important part of this technique is to NOT filter.

2. Mind maps. Mind maps are holistic way to unleashing creativity. Pick a topic like “Things You Fear” and let it flow. This was how I got my initial idea for my next book.

3. Prompts. These can be anything from randomly combined elements to what ifs. A writer at Marscon said he uses prompts to create free short stories to promote his books.

4. What if. This is the most recommended way to come up with ideas. Start with what if and fill in the rest.

OUTSIDE RESOURCES

5. Newspaper. Anyone watch Law & Order? The stories used real crimes from the headlines. Don’t forget to read the obituaries, since these may have a rich source of unexpected ideas.

6. Images. Images can be evoke powerful emotions. From 50+ Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story.

7. Read. Ideas can come from what we read. This great tip comes from Day Al-Mohamed on this blog.

8. Research. Hitting the books can yield unexpected results. I was researching death and ran across a reference to Lincoln’s funeral procession. It changed the story in a unexpected way.

9. Museum. Museum exhibits have been a surprising resource for me. Sometimes an interesting fact in an exhibit catches my eye and can be turned into an idea.

WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE

10. Setting. A great location can lead to great ideas. For example, when I was coming up with my next story, I picked Virginia. I started thinking Civil War, and that led to more interesting ideas.

11. People. Go to a mall and observe people for a while. See what kinds of stories you can make up for the people descending the escalator.

12. Experience. Our own experiences, or the experiences of other people can be the sources of many ideas.

13. Just write. This is a very powerful tool. I did a workshop with Allen Wold, and we had half an hour to come up with an opening for a short story. Everyone came up with great ideas.

For you: Okay, now you get to tell me the sources for ideas that I missed. Share them below.

About the author

Linda Adams has been published in Enchanted Spark and Fabula Argentea and has a non-fiction story in the upcoming Red, White, and True from the University of Nebraska Press. She is a female war veteran from the first Persian Gulf War, and least likely to have been in the army.

How to write your own stories

Are you a budding David Walliams or the next J. K. Rowling? Then you’re in the right place!

Unleash your inner author with our creative writing ideas. Find out how to come up with story ideas , plan your story , write exciting characters, and edit your story to give it that final polish. You can even watch some of your favourite authors reveal their top tips on the Oxford Owl YouTube channel .

How to Come up With Ideas for Creative Writing

Write your best story ever!

Author Christopher Edge gives us his top 10 tips to create your most amazing story yet.

How to Come up With Ideas for Creative Writing

How to find story inspiration

Every story starts with a flash of inspiration. But how can you find that spark?

How to Come up With Ideas for Creative Writing

Develop characters for a story

Dream up some page-turning protagonists with these fun and creative activities.

Creative writing videos

Take a look at our YouTube playlist of creative writing tips, featuring amazing authors such as Malorie Blackman, Gill Lewis, and Ali Sparkes.

How to Come up With Ideas for Creative Writing

Find the perfect words

Find out how to write similes that shine like the sun and wield weird, wonderful words.

How to Come up With Ideas for Creative Writing

Creative writing challenge

Read Harriet Muncaster’s top tips, download her guide to writing stories, and join in with her challenge.

How to edit a short story

Editing can turn a good story into a great one. Here’s how to polish your story to perfection!

Creative writing activities

BBC 500 Words: Story mountain

Complete the story mountain to plan out the plot of your story. Start at the bottom with a dramatic opening and then work out the different twists and turns your plot will take until you reach the end! Take a look

Write your own Winnie story

Follow to prompts to create your own tall tale. Take a look

Write your own adventure story

Work out the beginning, middle and end of your story with this creative writing activity sheet from The Night Zookeeper. What problem does your lead character face, and what will change their world forever? Take a look

Roald Dahl: Write a limerick like Matilda

Have a go at writing your own limerick about Bruce Bogtrotter. Take a look

Creative writing books

How to Write Your Best Story Ever!

Christopher Edge | Age 7+

Ideal for children wanting to enter story writing competitions! This is a humorous and authoritative book that will awaken the author in every child, unlocking their story ideas and giving them hints and tips to create their own stories. View product

Oxford Roald Dahl Thesaurus

This is a real thesaurus for all chiddlers and even some adult human beans. It features hundreds of spliffling words used and created by the world’s best storyteller, Roald Dahl, together with useful synonyms, related words and phrases, idioms and word origins. View product

How To Be A Young #Writer

Christopher Edge | Age 9+

Created to inspire and guide budding writers, this book covers tips and advice for plot, characterisation, world-building, tone, editing, and much more to turn initial ideas into powerful stories. View product

Write Your Best Story Ever! Notebook

Christopher Edge | Age 7+

A must-have notebook to unlock the imagination and inspire children to start writing, full of great hints and tips, and activity pages for jotting down words, sketching characters, and writing in stories. Created by award-winning author Christopher Edge, this is the perfect companion to his How To Write Your Best Story Ever! View product

Creative block is the number one enemy of writers. It’s especially frustrating for younger students as it plants a seed of self-pity, sometimes self-loathing, at not knowing what to write about. As early as now, your students should know that writing is a process and that it doesn’t just happen. Part of the writing process is idea generation. While you can always feed students writing prompts to address the ‘I have nothing to write’ frustration, if you really want to train them to be good writers, you have to help them come up with ideas on their own, young as they are. At that, here are the pre-writing strategies you can teach pupils:

Brainstorming

This is the most popular writing warm-up routine. The goal of brainstorming is to link one idea after another. There are two ways to do this: individually or by group. In the case of the former, encourage your students to scribble freely on a piece of paper—make sure to attach that rough draft with their final write-up later. Brainstorming drafts help children see their flow of thought and appreciate better the writing process as they’re able to compare the initial, rough plan and the output. At the same time, the drafts are troves of many more ideas for the next writing sessions. If you’re doing the brainstorming as a group, though, make sure that every kid in the team contributes. Introverts may find it uneasy to participate in such settings, so you will have to have some sort of icebreakers to make children more comfortable.

Drawing

How to Come up With Ideas for Creative Writing

Idea generation doesn’t have to involve words always. Your young visual learners can come up with writing ideas with pictures or doodles. Hence, let them draw whatever pops into their head. To align with the writing session you’ll have later, tell the children the topic that they will have to write about. From there, they can materialize their ideas through drawings. For instance, your writing lesson is fairy tales. Let them do sketches of what they think about princesses and unicorns. This exercise will help stretch their creativity and hopefully make it easier for them to think of imaginative plots later. Moreover, you can let them use their illustrations when they write their stories. This will do wonders for their self-confidence. You can use writing tools from excellent websites, such as Studentreasures Publishing, which can also help you introduce publishing books for kids to your students.

Talking

People are natural storytellers. Children love to share narratives, whether that be how they got into the wrong school bus or where they spent their weekend. It’s a skill to organize thoughts and bring a logical sequence to stories, which is a very crucial strength writers need to develop. Therefore, it would be a very good writer training for students to talk. Divide them into groups and pose a thought-provoking question that will make them tell a story. Some fun examples are:

  • What would you do if you find a treasure chest in the middle of a forest?
  • How would you use the three genie-given wishes?
  • When was the last time you felt happy?

Young as they are, students will have to learn how to come up with their own ideas for writing. Teach them the strategies mentioned above and hopefully, you will never have to hear a single “I don’t know what to write, Teacher!”

AMY STERLING CASIL

CLASS

How to Come up With Ideas for Creative Writing

Narrative essays are frequently assigned in college writing classes. Students get practice in selecting and narrowing essay topics, writing coherently, and making a clear point when they write narrative essays. Many students dread being asked to write narrative essays because the prompts are often personal and they dislike writing about themselves. It is possible to come up with non-embarrassing, creative and satisfactory ideas for narrative essays in college.

Explore this article

  • Partnering
  • Questioning
  • Guided Brainstorming
  • Originality

1 Partnering

One effective technique to discovering the best idea to fulfill a narrative essay assignment is to work with a class partner. Both partners should review the writing prompt. For example, for a prompt of “Write about a childhood experience that made an impression on you,” partners should discuss childhood experiences and then write at least three detailed experiences. Each partner should select one of the three experiences for the essay.

2 Questioning

Asking questions and writing down the answers can point the way to a good idea for a narrative essay. For example, if the essay prompt is “Write about a ‘first’ that you have experienced (first kiss, first car, first date),” students should ask themselves about each example in the prompt. After all the answers are written down, reviewing the list will enable writers to select the event that best fits the essay prompt.

3 Guided Brainstorming

Brainstorming can fail because it doesn’t have a clear purpose. Before writing brainstorming ideas, students should rewrite the essay prompt in their own words at the top of a piece of paper. If the essay prompt asks “Write about an incident where you learned something important,” change this to “What incidents have I experienced where I learned something?” Students should write at least three or four answers to the question before reviewing and selecting the best one.

4 Originality

Chances are, the first idea that comes to mind in answer to any essay prompt is not very original. One way to find original ideas for a narrative essay is to write down three potential alternatives and then a fourth idea. If the essay prompt is “Write about an event where other people pressured you to do something,” take time to write down four incidents when this occurred. Choose one of the four incidents to write in the essay.

Many written stories start with an idea generated by asking ‘What if . . .?’: What if humans discovered that they’re not alone? What if a volcanic explosion triggered a tsunami that destroyed a major city? What if the bride called off the wedding just before the service began? What if the character discovered that his troubled sister was an adopted child?

But ‘what if’ questions can help you at every stage of the plotting process in creative writing, not only at the start. Every time your characters need to make a decision, work out what would happen if they chose each different option. Then ask some more ‘what ifs’.

What if your character Alfie had to choose between stealing something and resisting? He chooses to steal. What if he’s seen? What if he realises this – and what if he doesn’t? What if the witness – Emily – decides to tell the police, another person or keep it a secret? What if Alfie then decides to find a secret about Emily in order to keep her silent? What if he then starts to fall for her? What if she falls for him – or comes to hate him and thinks he’s stalking her? What if she calls on a friend to help her?

You can see the almost infinite possibilities contained within the most simple of stories. This sense of possibility gives a piece of writing narrative tension. (Readers never want the outcome to be obvious.) The great thing about ‘what if’ questions is that they force to you examine different scenarios for your story. They help you to come up with ideas that may otherwise never have occurred to you.

The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote a story in 1941 called ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’. It’s about a novel in which, instead of the character choosing one path and eliminating the others, all possible outcomes occur, each one leading to further proliferations of possibilities. The novel is, of course, never finished – because it would have to be infinite.

Try drawing a plan of your novel like a branching tree, with an initial choice and then the choices resulting from those choices, filling in all the possibilities. See how long it takes before you have so many branches that you can no longer fit them on the page.

Examine the choices your character makes and see which ones take the story in the most challenging and interesting direction. What seems to be a poor choice initially may result in a more interesting direction for your story. Even if the choice seems to take you away from the line you originally wanted to take, explore it further – you may find that you can find a way back again.

Get a large piece of paper and go from the start of your story through a long series of ‘what ifs’. The story quickly starts to take shape. You don’t always have to decide what choice your character makes – sometimes leaving the possibilities open is helpful, although you’ll want to eliminate the most unlikely ones.

The magic happens at the intersection of ideas and execution.

How to Come up With Ideas for Creative Writing

Josh Spector

Jun 13, 2018 · 4 min read

Let’s say you want to write a book.

But you’ve never written one before and it’s even been a while since you wrote your last college essay.

You’ve got an idea, enthusiasm, and no clue where or how to start.

Here’s what I’d recommend.

The first step to bringing a creative project to life is to recognize it requires two different things— ideas and execution.

While these components are related, it’s helpful to approach them separately when you start because each requires its own unique skills and mindset.

This is the f un part (if you can get out of your own judgy head long enough to enjoy it).

Spend an hour (or more) writing down a list of ideas related to your project.

In the example of writing a book, this could be a collection of ideas for stories, characters, settings, scenes, genres, character names, themes, and whatever else comes to mind that might be interesting.

Let your mind wander and don’t put any pressure on the idea phase — don’t judge your ideas as they come to you, just get something on paper.

If you need help getting into an idea-generating mindset, here’s a trick.

Write down the sentence fragment “What if…” 50 times on a piece of paper and then complete each of those sentences with questions related to your idea.

In the case of writing a book, it might look like this:

“What if…the good guy was actually the bad guy?”

“What if…the story was told backwards?”

Once you’ve filled out your 50 sentence fragments, pick one that interests you and use it as a jump-off point for another list of “What if’s” that relate to it.

For example, maybe that question about the good guy being the bad guy could be followed up with questions like…

“What if…the good guy only discovered his evil instincts after something terrible happened to him?”

“What if…once the good guy turned bad his challenge was to figure out a way to turn back to good?”

“What if…the good guy was actually a good girl?”

This kind of brainstorming will get you started on the right track to fleshing out and discovering valuable ideas for your project.

But that’s only half the battle.

The other half of the equation is to hone in on a creative process that works for you — the nuts and bolts of how to take your ideas and turn them into things.

In the hypothetical example of writing a book, you’d have to figure out things like how a plot works, how to develop characters, and how to come up with a title.

These are creative elements, but they’re more tactical and technical in nature than the pure creativity of the idea side of the equation.

Your ability to bring your creative project to life will hinge on your ability to figure out a way to get the work done.

How will you work? When and where will you get it done? How will you stick with it? What will it take to bring your vision to life?

Here’s one way to figure that out.

Just like you set aside time to brainstorm ideas, set aside an equal amount of time to research, learn and fine-tune your creative process.

Consume material similar to what you hope to create. Watch interviews with other creators. Research how others executed similar projects and how they approached similar challenges.

Immerse yourself in the world of any creative project you take on.

The goal isn’t to mimic what others have done, but to expose yourself to enough ideas and approaches that you can pick and choose the elements that work best for you.

Use your creative process time to educate yourself and find the inspiration you need to get your project off the ground.

Let’s say you commit time to the parallel paths of ideas and execution on alternating days.

Eventually, something amazing will happen — the paths will intersect.

The inspiration and knowledge you acquire through studying the work of others will blend with the original creative ideas you generate. Each will inform the other and help bring your work to life.

In our book example, a character development tactic you learned another author uses may make the twist you sought for your main character apparent.

That random idea you had for an underwater scene you may now recognize is a perfect fit for an opening moment like the one that grabbed you in another book you read.

As the puzzle pieces fall into place, the divergent paths you’ve traveled converge and you realize you’re no longer trying to figure out how to start your creative project…because you already have.

Now, you just have to figure out how to finish it.

But that’s a story for another day.

Before starting the main topic of 5 fairy tale ideas, let me tell you something about fairy tales. Fairy tales are filled with wonder and magic, this is what attracts children the most. Everybody likes to hear stories, especially in their childhood, from their parents or an older family member. At that time, with the emotional narration and voice of an older narrator, young listeners become enchanted and amazed by the wonder of such stories.

Some common features of a Fairy Tale

Before wring your fairy tale, you have to know the common features of one. Features that have been used in fairy tales from thousands of years ago to even now.

  • It begins with “Once upon a time”, “Long ago”, “You must have heard the name of…”
  • The main character comes from a relatable background and faces some sort of hardship.
  • There is a courageous hero/heroine.
  • Location of the story is an imaginary or “far away” land.
  • There are mythical animals that talk and use magic.
  • It has legendary creatures like unicorns, giants, flying horses, etc.
  • Good doesn’t surrender but always beats evil and the villain meets his/her doom.
  • The story concludes happily ever after. But it doesn’t always have to! It could have a surprising twist at the end!

You can take a look at this amazing step-by-step guide on how to write a fairy tale for further help and ideas. If you think getting ideas for a fairy tale is a difficult task, don’t worry, here are some short fairy tale ideas to get you started:

5 Fairy Tale Ideas to Inspire You:

Fairy Tale Idea 1: A lovely mermaid who wants to resurrect her passing father…

A lovely mermaid has to find a way to enter the human world and get a magic book of spells that she ought to examine to her deceased father. She can only appear human and live on backyard water for seven days. She finds the magic book, but falls in love with a handsome prince who is already engaged to an evil princess. This princess discovers that the prince is falling for the stunning “stranger” and starts making existence hard for her… a mission the mermaid should overcome to get back to the sea on time with the magic book.

Fairy tale Idea 2: A little princess who is taken away from her parents…

A little princess is stolen from her mother and father and locked away in a tower. The kidnapper is the palace royal chef who replaces her toddler with the princess and makes use of her darkish magic to persuade the king and queen that the child is theirs. The chef’s assistant finds out the fact and embarks on a mission to rescue the real princess and wreck the spell forged on her parents.

Fairy tale idea 3: A princess seeks to save unicorns from an evil sorcerer…

Unicorns are being hunted and offered to an evil sorcerer who kills them to have greater power. The princess of the kingdom discovers the villain’s hideout and tells her old friend who is a speaking goldfish. Together, they set out to expose the evil sorcerer and rescue the unicorns. As they face challenges, assistance comes in the shape of an elf.

Fairy tale idea 4: A handsome prince is turned into a pig every night…

A handsome however evil and arrogant prince has been cursed by way of a magician. Every night, he turns into a pig. To break the curse, he should locate a female to love him even after discovering that he turns into a pig at night…a venture that would force him to be humble and respectful.

Fairy Tale idea 5: A courageous soldier must resolve three riddles to defeat a creature…

A courageous soldier must resolve three riddles before he can defeat an evil large creature tormenting his hometown. He faces many challenges when discovering the riddles and seeks the assistance of a smart historic woman, who helps him to solve them and overcome the evil creature.

Use these fairy tale ideas to jump start your imagination, and use them any way you want. Change the characters, the settings and take different ideas from each different fairy tale prompt to create something different and new. Now it’s your turn to write your own fairy tale.

For further fairy tale writing resources, take a look at our post on how to retell a fairy tale in 5 steps and find more fairy tale writing prompts in our writing prompts section. If these fairy tale prompts have inspired you to write your own fairy tale, then our online community of writers to write a story online easily!

Katrina D. Keller is a well-known blogger who has a wide variety of interests and specialises in doing in depth research of garden. She is a Writer, Editor & Blogger who loves to garden. She is currently a blogger for Earth fairy in a genuine effort to provide the best quality content to her readers.

In creative writing, ideas are everything. No matter how good a writer you might be, without ideas you will have nothing to create.

You are actually already bursting with great ideas, whether you know it or not.

Trust me, you have enough raw material inside you right now for more novels than you could ever hope to complete, no matter what age you are or how uninteresting you believe your life might have been.

All you need is a foolproof method for discovering these novel ideas, and you will find it right here.

First, though, a warning…

Do you remember at school how your teachers told you to spend the first ten minutes of an examination reading the questions? Well, it’s the same thing with writing.

In creative writing, ideas might be plentiful but that doesn’t make them all valuable. In fact, settling on the first idea that drifts into your head could be costly if it later turns out to be the wrong idea. You could face months or even years of wasted work – and I should know because I’ve done it.

So, don’t rush into a decision. As this section shows, writing ideas are actually simple to find, and not that time-consuming to find, either – unlike writing the novel, which will most likely take you years.

It makes sense, therefore, to wait for the right idea to come along (you’ll know when it does), and not to settle on second best for the sake of another day’s or another week’s searching.

Of course, there is another potential problem here: being so cautious that you never commit to anything

  • Yes, you’ll know when the right idea comes along (the infinite possibilities it contains will keep you awake at night with excitement).
  • But you still need to make that decision to go with it – to dedicate a significant chunk of your life to it, effectively. And that takes courage.

Okay, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get down to the nitty-gritty of finding some ideas. Winning ideas might seem elusive if you have already racked your brains and come up with – well, not much. But if you go about it calmly and logically there is really nothing to it.

An Introduction to Ideas and Inspiration

How to Come up With Ideas for Creative Writing

What Are Novel Ideas?

The first thing you will want to know is what it is you are searching for, exactly. This article reveals all.

Where Do Novel Ideas Come From?

And while we are dealing with the basics, you might be wondering where all these creative writing ideas you’re about to magically discover are hiding.

Writing Autobiographical Fiction

All fiction is autobiographical to an extent. We have only ever lived one life (our own), and so we cannot help but write about it. The danger is being too autobiographical, as this article explains. I also look at…

  • How to “write what you know.” One piece of advice you hear a lot as a novel writing beginner is to write about what you know. But how does this square-up with the advice to NOT write purely autobiographical fiction?
  • The power of the imagination. In this detailed look at novel ideas and where they come from, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that you can create much of your novel right inside your head!

How to Find & Test Creative Writing Ideas

Finding Writing Ideas In 2 Easy Steps

My two-step process for finding ideas for fiction is simplicity itself, but also magical in its results…

  • In Step One, you learn how to brainstorm in a highly-focussed and highly-productive way.
  • And in Step Two of the process, you learn how to take all those brainstormed notes and play around with them, trying out different combinations, until you find the perfect writing idea for you.

Finally, this is the perfect point at which to name your baby – or give your novel a title. You’ll find some help and guidance on finding novel titles here.

Caveat: One Novel, One Idea!

This final piece of advice particularly applies if you’re writing your first (or perhaps your only) novel.

Writing a first novel is exciting, thrilling and probably the biggest creative challenge you will ever face. You have most likely been thinking about it for years…

Ideas have been building up inside you all that time – consciously or subconsciously – and all of a sudden you have the opportunity to set them free in a work of fiction.

There are few better feelings than that in life!

Now, the temptation is to let all these ideas come flooding out and somehow find a place for them in your novel. But it is something you must resist, at least if you want your first novel to be successful.

I see it all the time when folks just starting out in creative writing run their ideas past me…

  • They want to write a coming-of-age-novel about the effects divorce has on a child (because as a child they went through this experience themselves).
  • The novel is also about how people with mental disabilities are treated by society (because they have been on the receiving end of some prejudice in their time).
  • Oh, and they’ve got plenty to say about the power of friendship, too, so they are going to try to work that in somewhere.
  • The novel is basically a drama, but they’ve always loved crime fiction so they are going to work in a murder as a subplot.
  • And although the novel will mainly be set in their hometown of Sydney, they also want to try to include a section set in the Brazilian rainforest.

Yes, I’m exaggerating – but not by much. The temptation to do something like this really can be overwhelming when, for the first time in your life, you are faced with a blank canvas. But you must resist it.

A coming-of-age story about the effects a divorce has on a child sounds like a great starting point for a novel. Also making it about mental disability might work, particularly if the disability was triggered or worsened by the divorce. But throw in the friendship theme on top, as well as the murder and the section set in the rainforest, and it starts to sound like not one novel but several.

If you try to pour everything you have into your first novel, you will have two problems:

  1. The book will be a mess and very probably unpublishable.
  2. Even if you do achieve the near-impossible and get your novel published, you will have nothing left to say in your second book.

Like I said, writing a first novel (or any novel) is an exciting time, but you must be restrained. If ideas come to you which have no place in the book you are currently working on, get them down on paper but then file them away for later.

Take it one novel, and one idea, at a time.

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How to Come up With Ideas for Creative Writing

Do you dream of writing a novel but don’t know where to start because you believe that you don’t have any great story ideas? If so, then this video is for you. First of all, I want you to know that you’re not alone. Often when you first start out in your writing career you can fall prey to comparison syndrome, where you start comparing yourself to other writers and authors. It’s natural to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others but what you’re doing is comparing your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel. What you’re not seeing are those days your favourite author struggles to come up with an idea for their next book. Everyone struggles with this. So, how do you come up with great story ideas?

TAP002, How to Come Up With Great Story Ideas

by Amelia Hay | The Authorpreneur Podcast – Writing and Self Publishing Advice

So, you don’t have any great story ideas!

The truth is you do have great ideas, but you need to learn how to listen to them. However, I do feel it’s important to point out that it’s unrealistic to expect your first few ideas to be award-winning. The chances are your first ideas will fall short, and that’s okay, but I want you to know, everyone starts off where you are right now. These no so great ideas are an important part of the creative process. The most interesting thing about the creative process is ideas lead to other ideas. So, in theory, crappy ideas lead to other better ideas. Think of ideas like a viral plague, if you give it room, it will spread. In light of this, how do you learn to listen to great story ideas? In this video, I will share with you the exact steps you need to take to come up with great story ideas.

Understand the truth behind writer’s block

Writer’s block is often painted as this epic battle between a writer and the blank page. It’s a hurdle that a writer needs to overcome every time they write a chapter of their novel. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way. A lot of writers don’t understand what writer’s block is and what triggers it.

Once you start understanding this and taking action, then you’ll have a bigger problem. A problem that I consider to be the reason why there are so many unfinished manuscripts collecting dust. This problem is procrastination. That age-old dilemma where you know you should be writing, you want to write but you don’t feel inspired, and you can’t motivate yourself to sit down and write your story. Procrastination is all about creating a habit around writing. But, that’s a different problem for another day.

Writer’s block is a symptom of a much larger problem, an empty creative well. A lot of writers let their creative well run dry then attempt to draw ideas from it. I prefer to refer to this as the consume versus create ratio, but I love the analogy of a creative well because it paints a perfect picture in your mind. The various types of content that you consume eventually germinate over time and become seeds in which your great story ideas sprout forth. So, an empty creative well means no ideas and leads to writer’s block.

Change your perception on originality

The reason why most first time writers fail to fill their creative well out of a desire to create an original story. In pursuit of an original story, they stop consuming content because they don’t want other peoples ideas to affect their own work. This whole notion of a truly original idea is like the holy grail for writers. The tragic thing is, originality doesn’t exist, it isn’t real. Over the years, various story experts have mentioned there are seven different types of stories. So, if there are only seven different types of stories, then you can assume that all stories have already been told.

If most stories have been told, then what you need to focus on is creating a unique story. What do I mean by creating a unique story? What makes your great story idea unique? For example, say if your great story idea was red riding hood re-telling. If you were to do a quick search on Amazon for Red Riding Hood retellings, then you would soon discover this idea is not original. Nevertheless, how you choose to tell the story is what will make your idea unique and no two writers will tell a story in the same way. How you present these story elements will be unique to you:

  • Portrayal of the characters
  • Use of point of view
  • Elements that you add to the story
  • What you choose to leave out or add to the story
  • Your Character’s world
  • Story Subplots
  • Twists and obstacles

All of these elements will make your Red Riding Hood Retelling unique, even though, it’s the same story as all of the other versions on Amazon. If you focus on telling a unique story instead of a truly original story, then coming up with great story ideas will be a little easier.

Fill your creative well

Consider the different types of content you love to consume and make time to engross yourself in these activities. Think about reading books, listening to audiobooks, watch films and tv, visiting art galleries and museums, or even consuming news content. The point of filling your creative well is to simply follow your curiosity. Follow what interests you and not what you think you should consume.

There’s a lot of writing advice around writing what you know. To me, this sounds incredibly boring. According to this advice, I would need to do a whole list of things before I could start writing my book. If you want to write an espionage thriller, this advice is redundant unless you’re secretly James Bond.

My best advice for you is to write what you’re interested in not what you know. When you create ideas from what you’re interested in, then you’re more likely to follow it through and become excited about starting to write your novel. This way your writing career will feel less like a job, this is important because you will end up devoting many hours to honing the craft of writing.

Write down your ideas

I’m often surprised by the number of people who want to write a novel but fail to document their ideas in some way. The only way you will discover your great story ideas is by writing them down and looking back over them. In the review stage, you flag the ideas that stand out to you, and the ideas you can’t stop can’t get out of your head. It’s really important that you chose a method of recording your ideas that you can sustain long-term and be consistent. The last thing you need is to develop the habit of recording your ideas anywhere and struggle to find an idea when you need it the most. Consistency is your friend.

Actionable Step

So, those are the exact steps you need to take to come up with great story ideas. Over the next week, I want you to focus on filling your creative well and writing down your ideas. But, remember to be consistent with your method of documenting your ideas.

Concluding Thoughts

As always, I have an important question to ask you. Are you struggling to come up with great story ideas for your book? I want to hear from you. Let me know how you get on with the actionable step by sharing in the comments section below.

Thank you for listening, reading, commenting and sharing with such enthusiasm.

Here are lots of creative writing topics to give you ideas for your own stories and novels. If you are taking one of our free online writing courses, these fiction writing prompts are especially recommended for the sections on plot structure and story climax.

At the bottom of the page, you’ll find a links to browse more story prompts, plus the chance to take a free writing course.

Creative writing topics – story starters with a focus on: plot structure and story climax.

1) Creative writing topics – the puppy

Write a chilling, edge-of-the-seat, stay-up-late-reading suspenseful story about whether your character will get the new puppy he wants.

  • Make sure your character feels real to us. You can read more about character development .
  • Make us care about your character.
  • Make the puppy extremely important to your character, and make sure we know why. Make us ache with your character’s need for the puppy.
  • Set up a obstacles to the character’s getting the puppy. Create a situation in which it’s not clear how things will turn out puppywise.
  • What does your character do to try to push things in his favor? Show us his efforts.
  • What is the crucial event that will decide if your character gets the puppy? Plan this event from the beginning for maximum excitement. And when you get there, remember to show us the scene so vividly that we can see, hear, smell, and hear what’s going on as if we were in a dream.

2) Creative writing topics – envious friend

Your character desperately wants something that belongs to his best friend. He feels that if he had this one thing, his life would be better. Without it, his life is miserable. What is the thing? Why does he want it so much? You decide. Your character develops a plan to get this thing for himself. What’s the plan? But several obstacles block him. What are they? The situation is looking pretty bad for your character, but he decides to make one final last-ditch effort to get what he wants. This is the story climax. What is your character’s final plan? What happens? Write the story.

3) Creative writing topics – important party

Your character is a teenager, who wants to go to a particular party. Going to this party is incredibly important to your character, who practically feels that his or her life depends on it. (Why? Come up with a reason). Unfortunately for your character, Dad has absolutely forbidden this party. (Why? If you’re a parent, you can probably come up with about twenty possible reasons. Choose one). Write a story from the teenager’s perspective. The climax of the story is Party Night. The teenager tries with all his or her might to get to the party, and Dad tries with all his might to prevent this. What happens?

4) Creative writing topics – the competition

Your character decides he must become the best in the world at a particular sport. Choose your favorite sport. If you hate all sports, you can choose a board game. Why is it so important to your character to become the best at this? Show why it matters. Your character develops an unusual training program. What is it? He organizes a match to prove his skill. What’s the big match? Create obstacles and difficulties in his training and in his preparation for the match. Show how he tries to get past these roadblocks. Then show the big match. This is the story climax. What happens?

5) Creative writing topics – creepy hotel

Your character’s car breaks when he is driving home from a business trip late at night. Fortunately, there is a hotel nearby, so the character decides to stay there and deal with the car in the morning. This hotel is the creepiest place he’s ever seen. Why is it so creepy? Create the atmosphere. According to the hotel’s policy, the character pays in advance for the night. Then he goes up to his room, and things get even creepier. How? Show us. Your character wants to leave the place but tells himself he’s being irrational. He’s already paid for the room, and he tells himself everything will be fine. But it just gets worse. Depending on how you write this, it could be a ghost story, a crime story, a realistic psychological drama, or a comedy. You could even try your hand at all of them and write four stories.

6) More creative writing topics

Write about any of the following conflicts:

  • Rigid teacher versus creative student
  • Woman’s need to get a job versus her fear of rejection
  • Character’s conscience versus her temptation to get rich illegally when a unique opportunity arises
  • Man’s actual money problems versus his desire to look successful when his parents come to visit
  • Two men competing for the same woman
  • Traditional wife versus feminist husband

How to Come up With Ideas for Creative Writing

Even more creative writing ideas

Choose a link below to keep the inspiration coming:

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The one major problem I feel that I have as a writer is coming up with a plot that has any substance at all. I can write believable characters (most of the time), build a unique but not far fetched world, but I just can never come up with a plot that couldn’t be finished in less that 1,000 words, which doesn’t work out very well when trying to write novels.

Any good techniques for coming of with plot that have beef?

5 Answers 5

Give the character a problem, no matter how small. When the character tries to solve the problem, make the attempt fail. And make it fail in such a way that things get worse.

Now the character has a bigger problem. When the character tries to solve that one.

To continue the story, add another try/fail cycle.

To end the story, have your character put everything on the line in one last big try, which either succeeds or fails.

Dale Emery gave a great answer that I want to add to.

I found that my first writings were invariably short. At that time I did not aim at a novel, I just wanted to write, so that was not a problem for me as it seems to be for you, but I found that my first ideas were short by nature.

Looking back, I think that I had to grow as a writer. I had to first find out how writing worked for me, and with time my ideas became wider and longer all by themselves.

So maybe what you need to do is let go of that wish to write a novel and just write. Write whatever comes to you, and don’t worry about length. And either you will develop longer stories once you have found your writing self, or you will become one of the great short story writers.

Brainstorming new story ideas isn’t always the easiest task in the world. Often, it seems the longer you work to devise the concept for your next great novel, the more impossible the struggle becomes. So, how can you overcome the overwhelm and begin generating narratives like the ultra-imaginative writer you long to be?

Today, I’m sharing three powerful brainstorming methods that make the process of digging up new story ideas seem less like a headache and more like the romp through your creative playground it ought to be. So let’s go, writers. It’s time to play!

Some writers struggle to choose which of their many stories they’ll write next, and that’s certainly a valid struggle. In fact, we’ll tackle this topic in depth in next week’s article here on the blog. When you’re in the thick of struggling to generate a single story idea, however, it’s easy to look upon these writers with envy.

But writer, the Comparison Game isn’t worth your time. There are several reasons your creative well may be running dry, and I promise you none of them are a reflection of your skill or worth as a writer.

You see, creative writing is a multi-faceted craft. Writers must balance plot with character development, theme, world-building, and prose, among other elements, and it’s unreasonable for any writer to expect they will naturally exceed at every one. Some writers simply gravitate toward plot over characters or prose over story — and that’s okay!

There is no right way to be a writer, and you aren’t any less of a writer if you have to work diligently to excel at any particular element of the craft. If generating story ideas is a consistent struggle for you, I’d bet that you excel in other areas of the craft that would make more imaginatively-minded writers jealous.

That said, it’s also important to remember that our writing lives have seasons. In some cases, the struggle to generate new story ideas may simply mean that you’re experiencing a dry spell or a creative winter. Use this time to rest up and relax, refilling your creative well by reading widely, dabbling in other hobbies, nurturing your relationships, and getting out in the world.

With time and patience, this season in your writing life will pass and you’ll find yourself once more inspired to write a new abundance of stories.

If your personal brainstorming methods don’t appear to be getting the job done, have no fear. Generating new story ideas doesn’t have to be a desperate grappling for any old scrap of inspiration. Discover purpose and power in your brainstorming sessions by exploring the three methods outlined below…

Method #1: Steal Like an Artist.

Popularized by Austin Kleon, the concept of stealing like an artist acknowledges that there are no truly original stories left to tell and instead celebrates the power of influence.

By intentionally allowing ourselves to be influenced by stories and other forms of art, we learn to shape and transform those influences into unique new works. So, how do we steal like an artist to brainstorm new story ideas? Simple!

Set aside a block of time to create a list of artistic influences. Think about the stories you’ve most enjoyed and what it was about those stories that captivated your attention. Was it a certain character or theme? A plot twist or magic system? A breath-taking setting?

Create as comprehensive a list as you can, then play around with the elements you’ve written down. Try pairing the items that most excite you or combining some of the wackiest items on your list, then challenge yourself to create new stories that include them!

Method #2: The Question Game.

At the heart of storytelling is the question “what if?”.

What if space were ruled by a corrupt empire?

What if a wealthy aristocrat fell for a woman who loathed him?

What if a third-world African country were secretly the wealthiest nation on earth?

Brainstorming your very own “what if?” questions can be a powerful way to generate concepts for new stories. Begin by creating a fresh list and unleashing your curiosity. With your own experiences and interests in mind, how many “what if?” questions can you generate?

Once you’ve developed an extensive list, choose or combine the idea(s) that most excite your interest, then challenge yourself to write new a story based on each question.

Method #3: The Emotional Rollercoaster.

Readers must invest in your story emotionally if they are to care about the journey at hand. And if it’s emotion that hooks readers into your story, it’s no wonder that playing with emotions can be a powerful way to generate ideas for your next novel.

Jump on the emotional rollercoaster by creating a list of the situations that get your emotions churning. When developing your list, consider what causes you to feel joy, grief, sadness, anger, regret, hope, fear, peace, and so on.

With your list complete, you can begin to combine the situations that most pique your interest to spark ideas for your next story.

For example, if you’re afraid of spiders and getting lost in the wild, you could write a dystopian story about a world overrun by giant spiders and the girl who must fight them in the wilderness as she journeys to reunite with her family or find a life-saving medicine. Fun, right?!

It’s important to keep in mind that the purpose of brainstorming story ideas is to develop a concept for your story, not a core plot. You’re looking for the seed of inspiration that captures your attention wholeheartedly. Once you’ve found that seed, you can then begin to develop a premise, asking yourself these core questions as you expand your concept:

If you’d like additional guidance as you work to expand your new story idea into a full-fledged novel, you may enjoy working through Well-Storied’s most popular workbook, The Pre-Write Project!

In 2002, Markus Zusak sat down to write a book.

He began by mapping out the beginning and the end of the story. Then, he started listing out chapter headings, pages of them. Some made it into the final story, many were cut.

When Zusak began to write out the story itself, he tried narrating it from the perspective of Death. It didn’t come out the way he wanted.

He re-wrote the book, this time through the main character’s eyes. Again, something was off.

He tried writing it from an outsider’s perspective. Still no good.

He tried present tense. He tried past tense. Nothing. The text didn’t flow.

He revised. He changed. He edited. By his own estimation, Zusak rewrote the first part of the book 150 to 200 times. In the end, he went back to his original choice and wrote it from the perspective of Death. This time—the 200th time—it felt right. When all was said and done it had taken Zusak three years to write his novel. He called it The Book Thief (audiobook).

In an interview after his book was finally released, Zusak said, “In three years, I must have failed over a thousand times, but each failure brought me closer to what I needed to write, and for that, I’m grateful.” 1

The book exploded in popularity. It stayed on the New York Times best-seller list for over 230 weeks. It sold 8 million copies. It was translated into 40 languages. A few years later, Hollywood came calling and turned The Book Thief into a major motion picture.2

The Simple Secret to Having Good Luck

We often think that blockbuster successes are luck. Maybe it’s easier to explain success that way—as a chance happening, a fortunate outlier. No doubt, there is always some element of luck involved in every success story.

But Markus Zusak is proof that if you revise your work 200 times—if you find 200 ways to reinvent yourself, to get better at your craft—then luck seems to have a way of finding you.

How do creative geniuses come up with great ideas? They work and edit and rewrite and retry and pull out their genius through sheer force of will and perseverance. They earn the chance to be lucky because they keep showing up.

In her Dartmouth Commencement Address, Shonda Rimes shares a strategy that echoes Zusak’s approach…

Dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change…

Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer. Maybe you know exactly what it is you dream of being, or maybe you’re paralyzed because you have no idea what your passion is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know. You just have to keep moving forward. You just have to keep doing something, seizing the next opportunity, staying open to trying something new. It doesn’t have to fit your vision of the perfect job or the perfect life. Perfect is boring and dreams are not real. Just … do.

So you think, “I wish I could travel.” Great. Sell your crappy car, buy a ticket to Bangkok, and go. Right now. I’m serious. You want to be a writer? A writer is someone who writes every day, so start writing.

How Creativity Works

How to Come up With Ideas for Creative Writing

We all have some type of creative genius inside of us. The only way to release it is to work on it.

No single act will uncover more creative powers than forcing yourself to create consistently. For Markus Zusak that meant writing and re-writing 200 times. For you, it might mean singing a song over and over until it sounds right. Or programming a piece of software until all the bugs are out, taking portraits of your friends until the lighting is perfect, or caring for the customers you serve until you know them better than they know themselves. You can make any job a work of art if you put the right energy into it.

How do creative geniuses come up with great ideas? They work hard at it.

Thanks to one of our own community members, Michael A., for sharing the Markus Zusak story with me. As always, our community is doing the real work and I’m just trying to do you all justice.

All stories start with an idea. That idea then grows and becomes a setting, a plot, and characters. But if you don’t have the initial spark then you don’t have a story.

This can be quite frustrating when you really want to write something. Your mind is gearing itself up to create, but it doesn’t have anything to create from.

So how can you come up with ideas? Here are 5 ways:

All you need to do this is 1 word to start off.

This word could be a theme that interests you, the genre of your favorite book, a pretty color. It doesn’t matter what the word is, as long as you have somewhere to start.

I had started a novel a couple of years ago, but I forgot what the plot was, who the characters were, etc. Now that I’m continuing to work on it, I only remember one thing for sure. That it was inspired by a game about time travel.

So I decided to create a list of words (it ended being 100 words long) that I thought of when thinking about the game that originally inspired me, the previous words on the list, and what little I remember of the novel itself.

Here are the first 15 words in my list:

  1. Time
  2. Sand
  3. Fall
  4. Flow
  5. Web
  6. Circle
  7. Dimensions
  8. Ghost
  9. Astral
  10. Projection
  11. Plane
  12. Manipulate
  13. Autumn
  14. Darkness
  15. Cold

When doing this exercise, be careful not to inhibit yourself. Don’t overthink things, just write the words that come into your mind, until there are no more words left.

After you’re finished you may find that the words give you ideas for the characters, plot, themes, and motifs of a story.

Here’s a fun exercise: Doodle some characters and then give them personalities and backstories!

Grab a pencil and some paper and start making some marks. Don’t worry if you’re not artistically inclined, the point of this exercise is to have some rough character sketches, not fully rendered designs.

Play around with the shapes you use (try building things out of squares, circles, and triangles) as well as the gestures. You can use different colors, and play around with their costumes and poses.

Then choose the characters that intrigue you the most and give them:

  1. Personality traits
  2. Goals
  3. Backstories
  4. Fears
  5. Motivations

Take those characters and visualize what kind of person they are. Then redraw them, making their designs more cohesive with their personality.

Keep doing this until you have a character you would like to write about.

Going for a walk will always send my brain buzzing, even when I’m completely drained of ideas.

I like to put on a pair of comfortable shoes, and go when the weather is in my favorite state. A light rain on a mild day suits me best, but the weather doesn’t always cooperate, unfortunately.

Then I walk until I find a place where I feel a connection to the energy around me. There’s a little river that runs just a few minutes from my house. I can sit on an outcrop beside the bridge, and watch the water. No one will bother me.

Then I just sit and let my mind wander. I don’t try and force myself to think about anything, I just sit back and watch my thoughts play out, like watching a TV show.

After some amount of time doing that, my mind starts to focus on creative ideas.

If you’re out of ideas, try going for a walk and letting your mind wander.

You can’t create without some fuel, and one of the best creative fuels is inspiration.

What’s a fun way to get inspiration? Have a movie marathon!

Take out your calendar and block off as much consecutive time as you can. A whole day would be best (though I can understand and relate if you don’t have that much time).

Grab a blanket, some pillows, and remember to stay hydrated and fueled with your favorite beverages and snacks.

Then watch movies for as long as you can.

They can be movies you’ve already seen before, new movies, your personal favorites, good movies, bad movies. Just watch whatever you feel like. If you want, you can even invite friends and family to join you.

Whatever you do, don’t feel guilty about taking the time to gain some inspiration. Feeling guilty will just kill the mood and make it more difficult to come up with ideas.

Like I said, you need inspiration, and looking at artwork is a great way to gain some inspiration.

Fortunately we live in an age where you don’t need to go to a gallery to look at art. Just open up your preferred social media app and start searching for art to look at.

Do you want a recommendation? Go on Twitter and look at the work under #VisibleWomen. You’ll find lots of skilled artists who are girls, which is great since art tends to be a male dominated field.

A fun activity is to create a mood board.

You don’t need a specific idea to start one, just begin by gathering images that you find aesthetically pleasing. After awhile, you’ll find a cohesive aesthetic start to form, which can be the basis for the themes, motifs, characters, or setting of a story.

I used a mood board to help solidify the visuals and motifs of two of my current work in progress stories, and it helped me out of a creative rut.

There are several ways to come up with ideas for your stories. Try using these techniques when you get stuck, and see what you come up with.

Remember, getting too caught up on originality or perfection will hinder the flow of thoughts and ideas. Just relax and let your thoughts flow.

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a like or share it with someone who would enjoy it. I blog about writing every Wednesday, so check back next week for some new content.

How to Come up With Ideas for Creative WritingOne of the most common obstacles for a writer is the ability to come up with story ideas. Though all children, and adults for that matter, have them lodged somewhere in their brains, the trick is getting them out and on paper. So what are the best writing tips for kids to release their inner Shakespeare and develop a great plot line? Here are a few ideas to try out…

Draw on real life experiences.

One of the best writing tips for kids for finding great story ideas is to draw on real-life experiences. Has your child recently won a big game? Overcome an obstacle? Reached a goal they set for themselves? These experiences can be used not only as the basis for a story, but to draw out emotions in the reader as well.

Keep a creative notebook.

One of the simplest writing tips for kids is to keep a creative notebook to log interesting phrases and conversations they overhear; notes about images, locations, and people; or just thoughts about the world around them. Items logged in a creative notebook can easily result in new ideas, dialogue, plot twists, and more for an upcoming story.

Brainstorm.

For children having difficulty deciding on a plot, encourage brainstorming. For each of your child’s possible plot lines, have them examine multiple possible outcomes. This will often help them identify their best option. Example: Suppose you have a protagonist that suffered a sports injury during a game at the beginning of the season. What are the possible results? He or she could discover another passion, the injury is overcome, the player becomes a coach, and so on.

Play “What if…”

This is one of the most effective writing tips for kids when you’re brainstorming story ideas. Start with “what if” and fill in the rest with ideas from common to crazy!

Go people-watching.

Have your child sit down somewhere, such as a park, restaurant, or coffee shop, and write down not only what they observe but conversations they are exposed to. Overheard stories offer ample opportunity for creativity, especially when changed slightly and given a fun creative twist.

Use visual stimulation.

From newspaper photographs to surrealistic paintings, parks, and other interesting geographic locations, images can evoke both emotion and creative ideas in your children.

Read.

Reading the works of other writers, ranging from classic books to local newspaper columns, can inspire an array of story ideas your child may not otherwise be able to come up with on their own. Bonus: This is one of the writing tips for kids that can also improve their vocabulary, grammar, and reading retention!

Write regularly.

Great ideas often come from the simple act of writing regularly, whether it’s a paragraph or a full-blown essay. This can be one of the most difficult writing tips for kids, however, especially when they’d rather be glued to the TV or the computer. Writing for even just 20 minutes a day, however, keeps creative juices flowing and prevents stagnation. For a fun creative writing exercise when your child (or you) are drawing a blank, try Scholastic Story Starters.

Write fast.

Don’t overthink it! Ideas are more easily generated when you write as much as you can, as quickly as you can. Explain to your child there is no need to think about the complete story or even sentence structure when trying to come up with a plot line or purge ideas onto paper. A large volume of unencumbered writing allows the brain to unload, often containing a wealth of story possibilities and a variety of thoughts that can be incorporated into your child’s work later on.

Consult an expert.

One-on-one lessons with a great tutor who has writing and publishing experience can really help your child develop their writing skills. Established authors, teachers, and tutors can help young writers with the creative process, plot line and story structure, grammar, and style, challenging them in ways the typical parent cannot. Tutors are seen as an unbiased source, so the encouragement and constructive criticism they give can be incredibly helpful.

The next time your child is spending hours staring at a blank page, help them set their ideas free with these simple writing tips for kids. Get those creative juices flowing and they’ll be hard-pressed to put the pencil down!

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