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5 Ways to Spark Story Ideas

I’m sure you’ve been there at some point. You want to write, feel compelled to write, but you sometimes struggle with what to write. The ideas don’t always flow.

But never fear, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to help you get those creative juices flowing. Next time you find yourself feeling stuck, consider trying these 5 tips to spark new story and scene ideas and get back to doing what you love.

Story Ideas

1 | Step away from the computer. Seriously. Let the world around you be your inspiration. Take a walk in the woods, go outside and play ball with your dog, head to the store or a coffee shop. It really doesn’t matter where you go, as long as it’s away from the screen. When you do this, you’ll be amazed at how quickly and easily ideas begin to fall into place. 

2 | Listen to music. When I was writing my short story “Regret,” I had the general idea of it bouncing around in my head, but it wasn’t fully formed yet. I mulled it over for a bit, then one day the song “Crying” by Roy Orbison came on, and I’m not sure what exactly happened in my brain, but what I do know is that in that moment, while listening to that song, the complete story formed in my mind. Music is an amazing gift. Give it a try.

3 | Pay close attention to situations and events as they happen around you, then ask “What if?” An ordinary, everyday event can be twisted into an entire story by simply asking, “What if?” For instance, when writing “That’ll Be the Day,” I asked myself, what if someone, whose life is looking a little bleak at the moment, were to board a ferry (an everyday event for some), fall asleep, and then wake up to find themselves back in the 1950s? It was great fun to explore this idea and to write about it.

4 | Writing prompts (pictures or text) are another great tool to get the ideas flowing. The stories in “Sincerely, Grace” were all based on writing prompts, and the characters in the stories were the very same characters in two of my full-length novels (Choices & Providence). Using these prompts was a great way to come up with ideas and situations for a group of short stories that I was later able to publish in a collection of short stories.

5 | Fill your creative well. Visit a new place, go to a museum, a historical landmark, or even read a book about a new topic that’s piqued your curiosity. Take note of all the things that grabbed your attention, then ask, “What if?”Once you’ve gathered tidbits of ideas, you can then connect and combine them with other bits you’ve gathered elsewhere to create a fully fleshed out story idea.

So now that you have ways to ignite your imagination, what’s next?

  • Write all your ideas as they come to you. You may think you’ll remember that great idea later on that evening or the next day, but more often than not, you’ll lose it, or at least lose some part of it.

  • Keep track of all your ideas in one place. I used to jot my ideas down everywhere! It was great that I was actually writing them down, but the problem was that it became a process to find what I was looking for. I had ideas in various notebooks, on the notes app in my phone, dictated into emails to myself… Do yourself a favor and use some sort of system that allows you to keep all your ideas in one easy-to-access location.

  • Once you’ve gathered ideas, they’ll begin to connect in ways you never imagined. When an idea for a novel begins to take shape, your next step is to develop it further and then test it to see if it can carry a 50-, 60-, or 70-thousand word story.

If you’re ready to develop and test your idea, then stay tuned! Next week I’ll be sharing the process I run my ideas through before I actually sit down to write my books.


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