Last Updated on by Michael Brockbank
Coming up with ideas for stories is the first step to writing something people want to read. But how do you come up with a good idea that can engage the audience? That depends greatly on the author and for whom he or she is writing.
Not every idea is going to land well. But that’s part of being an author. For example, not all of Stephen King’s books hit the same way. Some were simply not as popular as others.
While a big part of that has a lot to do with plot and writing, it all starts with an idea. Well, that and being able to articulate it in a way that makes sense to the reader.
How I Get Ideas for Creative Writing
I was recently asked about where I get ideas when writing my stories. I had to spend a bit of time thinking about it because most of the time, the ideas just jump into my head.
However, there are a few things that really spark my creativity in profound ways.
Unsolved and Unexplained Mysteries
One of my favorite methods of coming up with interesting ideas is by watching unsolved and unexplained mystery shows. After watching an episode, it’s easy to just let my imagination fill in the blanks.
The best part is that these kinds of shows can accommodate virtually any genre. Though, I do find them to be most effective for sci-fi, horror, and fantasy tales.
Now, you don’t need to use the precise mystery to fuel the story. You can take bits and pieces throughout the episode to formulate your own ideas.
For example, take the mystery of the treasure of Oak Island. It wouldn’t take much to turn that into anything from a pirate tale to a fantasy regarding legends of lost treasure.
Perhaps an alien buried something it thought was treasure and scintillated a legend.
My point is that mystery shows often spark a barrage of ideas for me from a wide scope of viewpoints. Sometimes, I’ll just let my imagination run wild with what I just watched and see what outline I come up with on a notepad.
As they say, fact is often stranger than fiction. Human history is rife with all kinds of tales that can inspire a variety of ideas. In reality, there’s even a genre for “historical fiction” that many will dive into for telling tales.
I’ve come up with a variety of stories ranging from the Amarna period in Ancient Egypt to World War II. In fact, one of my stories on Wattpad (that I plan on cleaning up soon) is based on real events.
What’s great about using historical references is that you’ll actually learn a great deal while writing the story. As I love to learn, this is a great method for me, personally.
Also, consider that the older the history, the easier it is to use a bit of literary licensing. It becomes more difficult for people to point out inconsistencies and whatnot.
I mean, you still want to do extensive research to make sure you get everything correct. But the older the history, the easier it is to get away with simply making something up.
That is unless you write fantasy and sci-fi stories. At that point, you can bend the space/time continuum to the point of breaking, as long as your audience loves the storyline.
Thoughts of What If?
I love playing around with what-if scenarios. I have one, in particular, on Wattpad that is a mixture of a what-if and fan fiction.
When it comes to what-if ideas, it may require an incredible amount of research. Especially if you’re writing one about real events, people, or places. For one thing, you need to make it believable.
For instance, let’s say you wanted to write a book answering what if Adolf Hitler focused on a painting career instead of spearheading one of the worst atrocities of humankind? How would that have affected Germany, Europe, and World War II in general?
Something like that would be heavy on the research.
How about, what if the Titanic was actually sunk by a prehistoric creature instead of an iceberg? Or, perhaps the captain missed the iceberg but someone from the future had to make sure the ship sunk to ensure history was preserved.
There’s a lot you can do with what-if scenarios. But remember, it’ll take a lot of effort to make them seem relatable, believable, and engaging.
I love the prospect of fan fiction. Although I currently have a short story on Wattpad for Star Trek, I do plan on writing one I have planned out for the Fallout universe sometime in the next few months.
Writing fan fiction is great for new writers who are testing their mettle at the keyboard. It’s usually created by those who cherish the franchise, which makes the material much easier to write.
Not to mention that if you hammer out your ideas for fan fiction on Wattpad, you won’t get sued as you’re not profiting from the story.
In any case, fan fiction is one of those things that can really open the floodgates for creativity. Especially if you take obscure references or characters and turn them into major heroes or villains.
But like the what-if scenarios, fan fiction may require a great deal of research. Fans of a franchise will be the first to jump all over your content if it’s not true to the source material, is unrealistic to the franchise, or has glaring continuity mistakes.
And fans can be ultra-ruthless on social media.
Already Having a Wild Imagination
From a very young age, I’ve always had an overactive imagination. I know, a lot of people say that. But how many of them were accused of being mentally retarded by their teacher because they would turn erasers into spaceships and play in the middle of class?
Not only did I pass their little cognitive test with flying colors, but they also discovered that I was far beyond what the teacher was trying to teach. The end result was being bored and then letting my imagination run wild in the middle of the school day.
My imagination has been dialed up to 11 ever since.
Coincidentally, that particular teacher was reamed by the school district afterward. It’s a long story, but I managed to shut a lot of people up over the ordeal. It’s one of Mom’s favorite stories to tell about me, actually.
Over the years, my imagination has served me well in a variety of jobs. For example, it inspired creativity when I had my own computer shop as one of my services was carving 3-D characters and images on the side of acrylic and plastic computer cases.
I’ll even act out a few scenes from stories I want to write just to see if the flow is right. And yes, I’ve even brought tears to my own eyes by imagining a scene I want to write between characters.
Curiosity About Other Genres
While I primarily write horror and dark fantasy, I’m always interested in trying something new. After all, how do you know you won’t like something if you’ve never tried it?
In one instance, I tried my hand at a dark western when writing a story for Vocal Media during a fiction contest in 2021. It didn’t do very well, but I still enjoyed writing the piece.
I’ve always been a curious sort, though. It’s part of what made me such a success when writing for content mills back in the day. I’m quite flexible as a freelancer, and a lot of that same spirit travels with me in fiction.
I’ve also been curious about different methods of mixing genres to create something unique. Or, at least something that is uncommon compared to similar books and stories.
I would be the type of person to write something like Cowboys vs Aliens…but probably with a better script.
At the end of the day, though, it’s simply that I love to write regardless of the topic, niche, or purpose. I’m most happiest when typing away at the keyboard bringing life into something new, whether it’s a blog post or my latest book.
One of the newer methods for getting story ideas is through the use of plot generators. Although I haven’t used these yet as of this post, I have come across quite a few that I want to use for future books.
If I have time this year, I plan on writing an anthology using nothing but a plot generator for each tale. It’s more out of curiosity than anything. Can I write a book based on random ad-libs?
Something else I would love to try is to see if I can use more than one plot generator to put together a single story. Kind of like subplots or perhaps ways to expand the primary storyline.
In any event, I’ve found quite a few generators that can offer some great ideas if anyone is having trouble coming up with something to write.
Do I Ever Use Dreams for Ideas?
Both my mom and my sister wrote their books based on dreams. Unfortunately, I’m not that lucky. The dreams I can remember are often so far off the wall that I doubt they would make good books.
Case in point, last night I had a dream that featured Colonel Potter and Radar from MASH as well as Gordon Ramsay saving me from a ton of mind-controlled women. Needless to say, it was freakin’ weird.
Now, I have used basic plots to drive some stories. One, in particular, involved a battle on an alien planet. But for the most part, my dreams are simply too outlandish to really make sense most of the time.
The only dream I’ve ever had featuring a reoccurring theme was during a very dark time in my life. I kept losing a certain someone in a different way every time. The last included a vampire, at which point, I popped claws like Wolverine – and then woke up.
Aside from that, though, I think I’m just too strange to really benefit from “dream books.” At least to the point of where an idea would make sense in the morning.
Writing Ideas Can Come from Anywhere
In reality, ideas for writing can come from virtually anywhere. You could be sitting in traffic on a nice summer’s day and instantly think of something that would fit during the Christmas season.
Truth be told, I wind up getting a lot of ideas just walking around. I really should start carrying a small notebook with me. I’ve forgotten a lot of things that I wish I would have written down.
What kinds of things stir your creativity?
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