Story Ideas and Where to Find Them

Inspiration for story ideas is a difficult task for many writers. Very often, when beginning writers ask this question, they’re looking for a one size fits all solution. The onlooker is looking for some sort of magical key of understanding that demystifies the entire creative process. Well, the good news is that you can get ideas fro a wide variety of places. Much of the great literature studied in universities spans a wide variety of topics (for example, Mrs. Dalloway, a slice of life story). What you also find is that the story always some how traces back to the author, which is to say, your writing is not only uniquely yours, and it is, in some way or another, a part of your life story.

Don’t believe me? Last year Plato’s Republic served as the basis for my novel, and I’m continuing that story this year (after a much needed revelation about how to handle one of my characters). I studied antiquity in college as my minor, and Republic showed up in more than one course. While I may never accurately place or describe how it actually came to me to do this, other than one day I thought, “why not?” after my classical political thought class, anyone can look at my fascination with that period of history and point to it as a starting place.

Maybe you start with a man walking out of a house. My story telling professor had us write a story about a man who walked out of his house, and got into his car. What happened after that was completely up to us, the author of the tale. Or, have a character miss a train (intentionally or accidentally). Find a photo and write the story behind it. You never know when the mundane will lead to something extraordinary.

The possibilities are limitless when you stop looking for the extraordinary. Explore topics you’ve always wanted to explore. The only thing limiting your creative bounds is you. Go out on a limb and write about characters who don’t share your world view and see how they thrive, or fail to thrive. Explore a familiar topic from different angles. Dip your toe in a genre you don’t normally write in – a lot of times creativity thrives on putting ourselves in unfamiliar waters. Often  I’ve discovered that my writing is much stronger or my plotting is much better in a particular genre.

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