There are plenty of sayings about writing and inspiration. Most center around the idea that if you want to be productive, you can’t always wait for inspiration to strike. And while I think that’s mostly true, I also think you need inspiration to spark a story and get you started.
Every story is inspired by something or someone. Inspiration is everywhere, but it can also be fickle. It may not always come to you; sometimes you need to go to it.
With that in mind, here are four places to look for your next story idea:
1) Untold stories
If there has ever been an idea or character from a book/movie/TV show that you’ve wanted to know more about, create your own version of that character and world to explore. This source of inspiration is one of my favorites! It’s actually how I got the idea for Crossing the Line. After seeing The Avengers, I found myself really interested in the character of Black Widow. I hadn’t known much about the character coming in, but one thing that’s made pretty clear in the movie is that Black Widow wasn’t always one of the “good guys.” In fact, at one point, she worked for the enemy. I became fascinated with what the transition from enemy to ally would have been like. The movie didn’t dig into this idea at all, so I created my own spy and spy world to explore this concept.
You can do this with any story that you love or are intrigued by.
2) What ifs
What if there was life on Mars? What if time travel was possible? What if pigs could fly? Pick a fact that is most definitely false and explore a world where it’s true. Or vice-versa, pick a fact that is most definitely true and explore a world where it’s false.
For this idea, start by making a running list of “what ifs.” No idea is too absurd or ridiculous. When you find one that’s really interesting to you, do an exploratory freewrite and see if it’s an idea you can turn into a story.
3) Flip a Cliche
Make a practiced story idea new again by doing the opposite of what readers have come to expect. For example, the cliche: two people for different worlds desperately want to be together but can’t. Instead: Two people from different worlds want nothing to do with each other but are stuck together. Or, cliche: The chosen one rises to the occasion to fight the big bad and save the world. Instead: The chose one wants no part of being the hero, never gets their act together, and your characters have to find some other way to not die. The possibilities are endless! This is another favorite of mine. The idea for a current project came from this source of inspiration, not to mention a handful of ideas in the past.
For this idea, brainstorm your favorite stories and see if you can pick out some of their more cliche storylines, or take note of any storyline you’ve seen repeatedly. Then flip each of those cliches and choose your favorite to write about.
4) Find something in real life and explore it deeply
Go to a public place. Find someone who captures your attention. What draws you to them? Turn this person into a character by creating a story backstory for them, then develop a world for them to live in. Or! Take a walk or a drive and find a location that either grabs your interest or a location you’ve overlooked in the past. Develop a story about that place and the people who frequent it.
All of these ideas are just points to jump of off. Don’t be afraid to let your stories take on a life of their own, even if they deviate from the original source of inspiration.
As always, I hope this helps!
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Now it’s your turn: Where do you get your inspiration from? Is there a source of inspiration that I missed? Is there a source that’s inspired you in the past you found surprising? Tell me about it in the comments! Feel free to add to my list!