Finding Ideas for Writing a Story
10 Top Tips to Find Ideas for Writing
Many writers will tell you that they’ve experienced writer’s block at some point in their writing career. Other writers will say there is no such thing as writer’s block.
If you are struggling to know what to write about, try these top tips on where to find ideas for your next story. Avoid the panic of a blank mind.
Top Tip 1
There are hundreds of magazines to suit all ages and interests. Inside the pages you will find dozens of sources in just one magazine.
The Problem Page
Many readers write about their problem relationships and seek help from the resident ‘Agony Aunt’. There is often a conflict situation that you may be able to weave into a story. Good stories, particularly short stories, are filled with conflict situations that usually resolve themselves. You could use a husband/wife conflict, an unpleasant divorce, in which children suffer, a teenager with a health problem…ideas will spring to mind as you read the problem.
The Letters Page
Letters from readers are usually about real situations and can range from your Sat Nav taking you down a dead-end country lane or family reunions. Just trawl through the letters in several magazines to discover the wide range of ideas.
These are popular in many magazines and with such a range of ways to travel, places to visit and types of holidays, from back-packing to package holidays, you may be able to imagine the germ of an idea.
Study the pictures in the magazine and save them as a stimulus for your story. It could be a silly photograph of a cat with its bottom sticking out of a cardboard box or a view from the top of a tower block. The tower block could be a story about an isolated life within the 4 walls on the 29th floor.
Many women’s magazines have some colourful true stories about unfaithful partners, losing vast sums of money, murder and illness. Read the true story and consider developing the basic idea with your own characters. Make sure it does not mirror the real story too closely.
Published Short Stories
Look at the pictures accompanying the short story and write your own based on the pictures.
Or, read the title of the story, but do not read the story itself. Write your own based on the title.
Top Tip 2
If you use situations that really happened in your childhood they will often be vivid memories. You will be able to recall not only the event but often the emotions you felt at the time. Together with the memories of your childhood friends and neighbours you could intertwine some real events with some from your imagination. You may remember rivalry at school, pets you had, scrapes you were reprimanded for and each may lead you to remember another event.
Some of your memories may have been traumatic and may re-awaken difficult times.
Top Tip 3
Often newspapers publish historical articles, particularly in local newspapers. This is your village or town 50 years ago or 100 year
Read the court reports about criminals and their crimes. An idea for a crime fiction story may emerge.
Science articles about solar panels or wind farms or nuclear waste may stimulate you to write a science fiction story. The Japanese Tsunami of 2011 could form a basis for a story about how lives can be devastated by a natural disaster.
Top Tip 4
Holidays, trips or days out can be a real source of ideas. If you stay in a resort in another country you can soak up the different culture in terms of its people, language and surroundings. Watch the local residents as well as the horrendous family disturbing everyone at the swimming pool. Leave the tourist strip along the coast and go inland where you will really be immersed in the daily life of the locals.
Look at the weather, the types of shops, the churches, any unusual buildings and the landscape. Take lots of notes abou
Pick up the local newspaper in the place you’re visiting, visit the tourist office, find local free magazines. Keep travel guides as they are a useful source for places to eat, shopping and places to visit. All this information can be woven into a story.
Study your home area with a different eye. Look at local buildings, exhibitions, antique fairs and wildlife centres and use these descriptions in your story. If you use places you’ve visited your story will command a real authenticity.
If you travel on public transport study the people around you. Make discrete notes about their appearances, mannerisms and speech.
Top Tip 5
Watch your favourite old film, again. Take the basic plot and study the characters, the dress, speech and mannerisms of the main characters. Plan a story using the period setting or take the hero or heroine and change some of their characteristics. You could take the basic idea and set the story in the present day.
Top Tip 6
Do you keep a diary? Did you keep a diary when you were younger?
Diaries are a good source of ideas for characters, events, dress and emotions.
There are many published diaries of celebrities or famous people in history. Read these and use the speech patterns of the characters.
Top Tip 7
Songs and Poems
The first line or title of a song or a poem may stimulate an idea. The poem, ‘Warning,’ by Jenny Joseph is a favourite poem of many people. It is about how you can come to terms with growing old. The first line, 'When I am an old woman I shall wear purple With a red hat which doesn’t go,…’
A song, such as, ‘My Aphrodisiac is you,’ by Katy Melua may suggest an idea.
Top Tip 8
Top Tip 9
Old Photograph Albums
You will find these also at antique fairs but it is likely that you have your own photo album in your family archives. Look at the photos with a fresh eye. What if old Uncle Joe had married Aunt Annie instead of her sister. What might have been the consequence? There can be a lot of ‘What if’s…’. Just get your imagination working.
Top Tip 10
Always carry a notebook, pen and camera. Be observant and study the people and your surroundings. You will be amazed at how many ideas you will find.
When considering writing fiction, you may find my other writing article on Infobarrel, 'Write a Short Story' will be useful with the information in this article.