Story ideas often come to us almost out of thin air—whether from an overheard conversation in a coffee shop, or just a random thought that pops into your head in the shower. But other times, you’re ready to write a new story and all that you’ve got is the blank page in front of you.
That’s okay! There are a number of tried and true methods to jumpstart your brain and draw those story ideas out. Here are my three go-tos:
1. Free Write
Grab a pencil and three sheets of paper, and start writing down whatever comes to your mind. Literally.
If your hand is tired from pulling the pencil across the page, write it down. If you think this is stupid and you can’t believe you’re doing it, write it down. Whatever.
But start with your goal in mind, stated as a question: “What can I write a story about?”
One rule: Do your freewriting by hand on real paper, not on a computer. Something about handwriting forces your brain to slow down and quiet a little.
This exercise takes about 15 minutes, and I never come out of a freewriting session empty handed.
Open the dictionary to a random page, point your finger to a random word, and write it down in the middle of a piece of paper. Set a timer for five minutes. Ready? Go!
Using that word as a jumping off point, map out as many different thoughts from that word as you can. Don’t worry if they’re too small, too big, too ridiculous, too dumb, have no way to tie into a story.
The goal here is quantity, not quality, so turn off your inner editor and just keep writing down the thoughts. As you start building up threads around your anchor word, feel free to do the same to one of your spinoff words too, as they inspire you.
When the timer dings, look over the story idea web you’ve created. I promise there are seeds of new stories in there, so find them.
3. Writing prompts
There’s a ton of great writing prompt sources out there, from websites to entire books of them. Use them! They can stretch your thinking in new directions and give you story ideas you might not find on your own.
The Write Practice offers a prompt right here on the blog weekly, or check out our 14 Prompts ebook. Another one of my favorites is DIY MFA’s Writer Igniter (full disclosure, I contribute to DIY MFA).
Whatever You Do, Don’t Let Creative Blocks Slow You Down
Sometimes story ideas come to us on their own, but when they don’t, don’t let it stop you from creating great stories—just find a way to jumpstart the process.
Keep these brain-boosting methods on hand, and you’ll never have to be pushed around by the blank page again.
How do you come up with your story ideas? Let us know in the comments section.
Pick a tactic from this post and take it for a test run. When you’re done, flesh out your results into a story concept.
Share the method you chose, how you felt about it, and your story idea below in the comments—and be sure to give feedback to others, too!