10 Ways to Spark Your Story Ideas

Today’s guest post is by Chrys Fey.

Artists are naturally afraid that their well of ideas will dry up and they won’t ever get another good idea. All you need is a spark. The good news is a spark can be anything and found anywhere.

I started writing when I was a little girl, after I found a rusted screw with a crooked tip hidden in the grass. At first I had hoped it was a key to a secret place, as I was very much enamored with the idea of having my very own secret garden.

Funny enough, I wasn’t disappointed when I noticed I held a screw, not a key. Instead, the gears in my mind started to spin, and I wondered: What if this screw is a just screw in my world but a key in another world? What if it’s the key to another world? I started to imagine what that world would be like. And just like that, I had a story idea.

But what if you wrote your one good story idea already, and you’ve been anxiously waiting for another one to arrive? Now you fear you won’t ever get another decent idea.

This is a worry that many of us share, but there are techniques you can try to increase the chance of capturing another great story idea. And another and another!

  1. Keep a dream journal. Many of my dreams have inspired stories. I even have a list of potential book ideas that I’ve cultivated from all the interesting dreams I’ve had over the years. Dreams that stuck with me throughout the day, dreams that I woke up and literally said, “That would make a good book!”

As soon as you wake up, before you lose your dream, write down everything you can remember about it. Even the odd twists and turns that dreams are known to make. This is a potential story just waiting to be developed and written. You can morph it into a story of any length. We’re not just talking about novels here but short fiction too!

Or maybe you can use bits and pieces of your dream as scenes for your current work-in-progress. I’ve done that too.

  1. Study a subject that has always fascinated you. Are you fascinated by mummies, urban legends, a local haunted spot? What about psychology, criminal justice, medical science? Read up on a certain subject, get your hands on anything related to it, and take notes.

The smallest interesting fact could ignite an idea. Maybe it’ll inspire you through a roadblock you’ve encountered in your current work-in-progress. Or maybe it’ll inspire something entirely new, even a genre you never thought you’d try.

You never know what you’ll learn that’ll trigger an idea, so become a student again. Never stop learning.

  1. Research a setting. Have you ever wanted to go someplace? Is there a place you love? Research that location and imagine a story set there.

This is especially fun for writers who enjoy penning fantasy. Google mystical locales, and take a look at the gorgeous pictures that show up. You’ll be surprised at how stunning this world really is. There are places out there that are breathtaking, that look like they belong in a Tolkien book. These images can be a fantasy world, your fantasy world.

  1. Learn a new hobby. Have you ever wanted to take up archery, knitting, yoga, winetasting, or any other hobby? Now is the time to do it! While you immerse yourself in your new hobby, picture a character doing it too.

It doesn’t necessary have to be a new hobby, though. Is there a pastime that you got away from but miss? Take it up again; enjoy it.

When you imagine a character doing this hobby, put in all the details of what this character looks like. Name him/her. And then start to ask yourself about this character’s life. And just like that, you have a character to write about.

  1. Listen to music. Songs with lyrics can yield many story ideas. Pop in a CD by your favorite artist, or explore a new-to-you artist on Spotify. Pay attention to the lyrics and imagine a character living those words. There are many songs on my playlists that I attribute to my stories or characters. Now, when I listen to them, I can’t help but see scenes I’ve written.
  1. Look into your past. You don’t have to write a memoir, but you can take something that happened to you, good or bad, and let it happen to your main character. This time, you have control over the end result. What do you foresee occurring? Or what do you wish had transpired in your life instead of the outcome you had?
  1. Admire artwork. Go to a museum and gaze at the art. Does a piece catch your eye? Come up with your own interpretation for it. Could you write a story based off that idea? Or even a poem? Sure you could!
  1. Pay attention to your kids. If you write children’s books, look at your kids. Have they said or done something funny recently? Is there something you want to teach your kid(s) through the help of a story? My mom got the idea for a story because my brother loved to eat pea soup. Imagine that. And after she wrote that story, it opened up a door to a series of children’s stories.
  1. Study your family history. Talk to your oldest relatives, look through documents and family albums, and search your family tree for ancestors and stories that fascinate you. Dig until you know your family’s history. Is a story there? Of course there is! Even the smallest detail about a relative’s life can inspire a character or story.
  1. Write the book you want to read. Have you ever read a book with an ending you hated? Well, write your own version of that story with your own characters, plotline, and ending. I got the idea for Hurricane Crimes after reading a story set during a blizzard. Although it was different, I had read many books set during snowstorms but not weather I knew—hurricane weather—so I wrote that story.

Look around you. Open your ears. Learn. Seek. Enjoy. As you do these things, what you discover can lead to an infinite number of stories. Start collecting them now.

Which of these ten techniques have you tried that worked for you? Do you have any other techniques to suggest?

Be sure to download this beautiful PDF with 20 inspirational tips to help spark ideas! Pin it next to your computer! Click here to get your downloadable PDF.

Chrys Fey is the author of Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication and an editor for Dancing Lemur Press. In addition, she runs the Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s Goodreads book club. She is also the author of the Disaster Crimes series. Visit her blog, Write with Fey, for more tips, and connect with her on Twitter. And enter her Rafflecopter giveaway by July 6th for the chance to win a writer’s notebook, coffee mug, and tote bag.

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  1. The other day I watched a movie where they briefly touched on something and moved on. I wanted to shout at them to go back. That ‘something’ was really cool but now it’s gone. How could you!

    In many cases that’s how an idea is born. Something catches our eye. Maybe in a movie, a book or walking down the street.

    Good stuff. Thank you!!!

    1. Absolutely, Bryan! The littlest thing can spark an idea. Once, a safety pin I spotted on my nightstand gave me an idea for a scene in a WIP. The possibilities are endless.

  2. I created a scene after my daughter played a wedding song for me. Ideas come in many forms. Thanks for sharing. Great post!

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