How to Come Up With Story Ideas

Some people struggle with creativity. Some people already have plenty of ideas, but have no idea how to expand upon them. Let’s dive into some of the best ways to foster creativity even in the least creative among us!

#5: Live Life

Plenty of great stories are inspired by real events. If you can’t come up with a unique idea, try drawing inspiration from your own life, or the lives of those around you. Go people-watching at a park, restaurant, or bar, anywhere you are most comfortable, and take notes.

The truth can be stranger than fiction. Odds are you or someone close to you has one or two intriguing tales to tell. I’m not saying you should write a biography, but you can extrapolate the struggles and personalities of people to craft an original story of your own.

As I was formulating the idea for Liquid Death, I struggled with anxiety and depression. I was sensitive to touch, and I realized it was due to strong empathy. I was highly attuned to others’ emotions, deceptions, and hypocrisy, and it was growing overwhelming. I daydreamed through classes of a girl with my condition taken to the utmost extreme — what if someone could actually feel and experience the pain of others simply by touching them? What might that do to a person? How would it affect their daily life? Obviously, the sci-fi/supernatural elements came later in the creative process.

Examine your history and ponder your greatest trials and weaknesses. Make them so extreme in your imagination that you doubt you could bear them in reality. Now make a copy of yourself with all your flaws and insert them in that dire situation. How do they overcome it?

#4: Study History

One thing that has helped me is studying ancient history, especially since I am currently building a fantasy world outside of Earth. It’s interesting to examine the rise and fall of civilizations, to see how societies and peoples evolve. Any moment in history could serve as ample inspiration for your next novel. Take a trip to the library and read about wars, philosophy, and various historical figures. How did people live in 1,000 A.D.? Why did [insert war here] happen? What motivated [historical figure]? Where did [this philosophy] come from?

Studying history is a method related to the first I mentioned — it isn’t just learning about Events that happened Long Ago. It’s learning about people. It’s walking in their shoes and contemplating how they think. It’s taking a step outside your little bubble in the modern world and learning how things actually operate. It will give you insight into the inherent wickedness of men and the glorious triumph of those who overcome it.

Go to the library with questions in mind beforehand. If you have even an inkling of what you want to write, formulating these questions should be quite simple. Then, as you read, read as though you are both the perpetrators and the victims. Read as though it is currently happening. Immerse yourself in the past.

#3: Watch TV/Movies

Watching TV or movies is the simplest and often most entertaining way to come up with an idea of your own. Watch good and bad cinema and discover what works and what doesn’t. Good shows should help you realize what works for you, what you find most enjoyable. Bad shows should show you what to steer clear from — after all, you want to write something you’re passionate about.

As a fantasy writer who grew up in the early 2000s, I obviously drew inspiration from the LoTR trilogy (dir. by Peter Jackson). When writing my first story at age 9, I created my own languages and maps and sentient species. X-Files made me want to write about aliens; it fostered my interest in sci-fi. Mulder and Scully’s relationship inspired me to add romance to my stories as well.

What you watch will shape what you write.

#2: Listen to Music

Listen to All the Music. I personally adore epic music. I make playlists on Youtube to suit my writing needs. Listen to any type of music that gets your creative juices flowing. Hopefully something will spark a movie to play in your head. Listen to it on repeat; train your brain to think of your idea until you refine it enough that you can write it down. Later, as you are writing the story and find yourself stuck, you can play this music again and get the juices flowing.

#1: Read Books

You can also listen to books. The goal here is to read/listen to as many books as you can. This should span an entire lifetime, so there’s no rush. Reading books is the only way you will be able to write your own credibly. You must know what other authors are writing before you will be able to do it yourself, I promise.

The reason reading books is at #1 on my list is because books are much deeper than movies and tv shows. Books have the power to change the way you think and feel. They carry more weight than any other medium when it comes to inspiring new ideas.

Honorable Mention: View Art

Looking at great works of art could stimulate the same process as any of the above. 🙂

If none of these methods help you, I don’t know what to tell you, except that perhaps your personality isn’t suited for this type of work. Not everyone is creative. But clearly you are not here to grow a third arm. You’re here because you have many ideas, or too few, and you need a way to nourish the creativity seed in your mind so it will sprout again. If I were in your position, I would start with tip #5: live life. The best ideas can come from the unlikeliest of places.

Any thoughts?

What do you think? Where do you draw inspiration? What inspired your current wip? Comment below! 🙂


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