Writing

7 sources for story ideas

Sources for story ideas

Finding story ideas can be tough sometimes. Sure, just about everyone has their million dollar novel idea, but shaping that idea into a true story and adding the detail to keep readers engaged can be daunting. Here are 7 sources for story ideas that you can use.

Overhearing/Eavesdropping

This sounds a lot worse than it actually is. Listen to everyday conversations that people are having. If you take public transportation, you’re riding in a gold mine of story ideas. Listening for just a few seconds of a conversation can give you an idea of what’s happening, who’s involved and how each person feels about it. It’s a great method to pick up characterizations too.

A simple way to do this without being a creep is to put in ear buds but not turn on music. People will think you can’t hear them and talk a little louder. Okay, maybe it is creepy, but it’s a great way to source story material.

Visual Observation

Pay attention to what’s going on around you. The world is full of stories that you can see unfolding in real time. You can then take these scenes and make them your own. See that woman walking down the street with the seven dogs on a leash? What’s her story? What could happen with her and those dogs?

Anecdotes/Gossip

These are stories that we hear from other people but we can make them our own with a little tweaking. No, it’s not stealing…it’s generating story ideas! When your buddy tells you the story of how his great uncle was in a nursing home and started biting nurses, you can take that idea and run with it. Is the uncle crazy? Maybe he just needs some lovin’? No, he’s just crazy.

Gossip is another great place for story ideas. Most gossip is made up anyway, and you know it’s a good story because it’s already something people are talking about. Cheryl’s older sister slept with her husband even though he’s gay and Cheryl’s been in a coma for six months? Go on…

News

Fact is stranger than fiction. Grab a newspaper (those still exist, right?) and thumb through some headlines. There are tons of ideas in there. Take one and run with it in your own way.

Dreams

Yep, dreams. Keep a pen and paper by your bed at all times. You’d be amazed at how many weird and fun stories come from dreams. I have quite a few pages of a notebook full of story ideas that came from dreams.

Memories

Memories are a great way to build a world around a story. Think back to something that happened to you. Then close your eyes and picture your surroundings. Start moving in each direction and really explore what’s there. It’s amazing how much your mind actually remembers.

There was a park across the street from my elementary school. To this day, I can tell you the location of the swing set, ball field, bike paths, swings, and even the trash cans. This detail can help you create a world for your reader too.

Research

Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, researching people, places and things in history can conjure up all kinds of story ideas. You can also enrich your environments by researching real places. I’ve done this a lot using Google Maps, of all things. I researched a location for my second book and used Google Maps to map out where the characters went and how they got there. It’s amazing how exploring the area helped shape the story.

I hope some of these ideas help you create new stories. Happy writing!

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3 Comments

  1. Doug

    I also used Google Maps to find places of business in my novel's setting. I pick up street names, restaurants, bistros, coffee shops, etc and use in my scenes to add reality, particularly for readers who live in the locale.

    • brandon_chicago

      I'm glad I'm not the only one, Doug. I love reading a book and going, "Hey, I know that place!" It's fun to give that experience to other readers as well.

      • Ron

        Shucks, I thought that was a good original idea I had…. !

        I agree Brandon, it is fun to be able to insert oneself into the story based on personal experience.