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Old 09-28-2007, 04:39 AM View Post #1 (Link) How to Get Ideas
Andy (Offline)
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About Ideas

Because fiction is made-up, every story has to start with an idea, from which the entire story can grow. Ideas are everywhere, but sometimes they can be hard to identify, especially in today's fast-paced world.

Flannery O'Connor said, "Anyone who has lived to the age of eightteen has enough stories to last a lifetime." Meaning: enough ideas to last the rest of your life. It is the author's job to identify good ideas and turn them into stories.

Just by looking around you on an ordinary day, you will encounter dozens of possible story ideas. But since fiction is made-up, you must take these ideas and twist them into a story that is not real. In doing so, you can make your story more exciting, more intricate, and cause any other number of positive changes.

Easy Ways to Get Ideas!

So, where to look? Here are several idea-getting methods you can try almost anytime. They're from a wide variety of sources; some are quoted directly.

Observe People: Don't stalk anybody , but take a look at some of the strangers around you. Observe how talkative they are, what they're wearing, etc. Ask yourself questions (and make up your own answers): Where will that person be in 1 hour? Where is he going? What is she thinking? With these answers, you can create a unique character that you can use for a story.

Ask: What is important to you? Take any principle that you consider to be important, and find a story in it. If honesty is important, create a story populated with characters that are defined by how honest or dishonest they are, and show the consequences of this trait. If a political principle is important to you, imagine new stories that show what happens when this principle is followed, or when it isn’t.

Ask: What do you best understand? More specifically, what do you understand that other people don’t seem to understand? What do you wish they knew? How can you demonstrate this truth in a story? Wrap adventure, drama and the elements they want in a story around a truth that is important to you, and show why it is important. Showing is always more powerful than just telling, and a fictional story shows.

Ask: How Do You Feel? Entire stories can be based on emotions. Think of an emotion, and try to think of a scenario that would evoke it most strongly. (like for anger, you could have someone betrayed by a close friend)

A Major Event:Think of something that happened to you that really sticks in your mind. Chances are, it was probably something big. Ask questions about the event to help you remember it better. If you want something original, change things about the event, like who it happened to, what exactly happened, what led up to it, and what will happen next.

Ask Other People: Try asking other people for their ideas and suggestions. Doing this doesn't mean you're bad at creating things; it just shows that different people have lots of different ideas. They're there; use them!

Methods That Take Longer Than 1 Minute

Watch a television show, then add a new twist, new character, or new plot. The themes of most TV shows, particularly prime-time dramas, often work with cutting-edge trends in fiction and nonfiction. Remember, the better the market for your story, the better chance it will sell.

Watch Shows Like “Saturday Night Live” and “Tracey Takes On…” They are prime examples of characterization. Study the characters and note which attributes make them humorous and memorable to you, as well as what makes them popular. This will help you create likeable characters your readers will remember.

Explore the Phone Book: Sometimes, a catchy name of a person or company can wield a story idea. "Brad Bomberson"? You can also use it as a source for character names.

Free Association: Making connections between related things is called free association. Write down a word and then connect related words to it, and so on. You will end up with an idea web, and some of those words can be connected to make a story. Here's an example.

There is no predetermined order for this web - ideas should flow randomly and without any attempt to organize a structure for them! If you stop to think about every idea as it arrives, you will be slamming the brakes on your brainstorming session. Ultimately this can restrict your output.

The Newspaper: Read the news. Tweaking an article can create a completely new and interesting story.

In fact, you can also try combining two articles, resulting in a story that can be new and strange:
Story 1: Bank gets robbed by masked gunmen
Story 2: New school constructed to relieve overburdened nearby schools

Possible result: The money was stolen to pay for the new school. This could turn into a story where the reader must decide if the thieves should be scorned OR praised.
Complete Quiet: Get in the quietest place you can think of, but not the same place where you normally write. Bring something comfortable, like a blanket or pillow, or both. And pencil and paper. Close the doors. Lie down (or sit down), get in a relaxing position. Let your mind wander, and as it does, write down everything you think about. Do this as long as you like, but preferably for at least 20 minutes.

Just write. Don’t worry about format, topic, or anything else. Just write, about anything at all. It might be a description of your kitchen ceiling, or a diatribe about the lack of parking spaces at your local veterinarian’s office. The important thing is that you get writing, and keep writing. Let one thought lead to another, or just write on one thing, in ever increasing detail. Maybe you’ll write for a set amount of time, or maybe your aim is to fill a page or multiple pages. Pick out individual topics, ideas, names or anything else. Whatever you do, you’ll soon have many ideas to work with.

Sentence Completion: Write down a noun, or verb, or any word, and then write down a word that can help turn it into a sentence. Repeat. And repeat. It doesn’t matter if the resulting sentence doesn’t make complete sense. It will help bring unrelated thoughts and ideas together in a way that you can use in a story.Example:
A man (think: this needs a verb)
is walking (think: the next word should describe his walking)
into a building (so what? what next?)
and looking for...
something that can...
Because the sentence will be mostly random, it will leave many unanswered questions. The answers you create will be able to mold it into a story.

Look at Pictures, either in a book or online. Then try to think of a story behind it. If you can create an explanation for the scene in the image, then you can expand on what happens during, before, and after that image, and slowly create a story.

Listen to Music: Music can help you focus on what you want to write, which is called "setting the mood." The music will help direct your thoughts (i.e., peaceful music makes for peaceful scenes) and help you visualize settings that could be associated with that music.


When looking for ideas, there are several important things to remember:

Write your ideas down! Keep a notebook handy, or you may forget them!

Do not confine your ideas to the way things really are. Let your ideas wander wherever they try. Fiction requires a story that is more interesting than real life. Remember, you're not writing a memoir. You're writing something that will keep readers reading, that will keep them interested.

Lastly, good stories are not complete with a single good idea. They require many, for every single person, place, and event.

You can find good story ideas everywhere. Just keep an eye out, and you'll find them.

Die, Writers' Block! :p
						Last edited by Andy; 09-28-2007 at 04:46 AM.
Old 10-12-2007, 12:30 AM View Post #2 (Link)
Ichigo (Offline)
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Die writer block is right...
Thanks a lot for this!
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Old 10-12-2007, 07:03 PM View Post #3 (Link)
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Good guide. I just take a walk in nature, and, if the nature doesn't inspire me alone, I'm thinking of my novel and that gives me good ideas. I want to write now, but I'm saving up for NaNoWriMo.
Old 10-12-2007, 07:16 PM View Post #4 (Link)
Andy (Offline)
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Thanks, you guys.

Old 11-22-2007, 12:31 PM View Post #5 (Link)
Eve (Offline)
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Thank you for sharing this with us.

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Old 09-11-2008, 03:14 PM View Post #6 (Link)
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It's really great... I know I have lost some time but in return i have got much knowledge. anyways...
Old 09-11-2008, 05:03 PM View Post #7 (Link)
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More specific for fantasy/scifi writers:

Science Magazines/papers/websites
Pay attention to the big science sites and Universities to see what people are cooking up at the moment. Sometimes you can get a great scifi idea this way.

Anything related to it is solid gold for fantasy writers as it provides a lot of historical understanding to the various types of myths and folklore across the world. Studying this stuff to a certain extent can help you develop more realistic fantasy worlds.
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Old 09-17-2008, 11:11 AM View Post #8 (Link)
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Hi Andy.
Your guide was really great. It has opened a whole new set of ideas for me(and my anivel; short for anime-novel). By the way i use the Look at Pictures and Listen to Music methods for my writing.Here's another suggestion: Watch Anime and Movies.
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Old 09-25-2008, 01:31 AM View Post #9 (Link)
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HAZZAAAH!! very helpful
Thank you!

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Old 01-05-2010, 02:11 PM View Post #10 (Link)
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Thank you very much for this, it was really helpful. (: I usually have most problems in this area, because even when I have ideas, they usually tend to be uninspiring ones.
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