How to Get Story Ideas for Fiction Writing

Techniques for Finding and Developing the Ideas that Fuel Your Writing

Woman sitting at table looking up into space for inspiration to write a fiction story

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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.