Top 5 Places to Find Story Ideas

Ever want to write a story, but couldn’t come up with the right idea? Here are some places that I go to find story ideas for fiction, and sometimes, for non-fiction.

1. Seventh Sanctum

The Seventh Sanctum is a website devoted to random generators. They have all kinds, from silly romance plot generators to secret government naming schemes. You can generate 1, or 5 or 15 or more at a time. I find it helps to get my creative muscles pumping. For example:

In this story, a burnt-out newscaster becomes infatuated with a smart grave robber – all thanks to a massacre. Yet, how can a striking exorcist tear them apart?

How would a newscaster and a grave robber meet? Does she do a story about rampant grave robbery in whichever city they’re in—and what kind of massacre would allow her to notice a grave robber? And does a “striking” exorcist mean he’s attractive, or that he’s on strike for some reason? (I can picture him saying: “No, I won’t drive another devil from those rural farm girls, they’re just asking to be possessed anyway!”).

As you can see, it’s a good warm up exercise for any writer.

2. Dreams

Everyone dreams, it’s just a matter of remembering them. It takes some practice.

Before you go to sleep, tell yourself that you will remember your dream. Place a pen or pencil and some paper by your bedside. As soon as you wake up, write down any details you remember. It doesn’t have to be chronological: start with the dialogue and the details, and then move on to the broader arch of the dream, because details are often forgotten first.

I like to keep my laptop near my bed and an open notepad document so that I can type out my dream right away, since I type faster than I can write by hand.

The more you record your dreams, the more vivid your descriptions will become, and the more story ideas you will have at your disposal.

3. Attend lectures and seminars

There’s always something going on at the local universities, especially if you come from Halifax like I do. If you’re looking for something for an article idea, lectures are a good way to find experts in any particular field. Even for fiction you could use the information given at lectures as a jumping off point, or background for a story.

4. Random, Unusual Words

When I was in junior high, in English class we’d have Word of the Day. Each person would have to bring in an unusual word and the class would guess its meaning. Once we got enough words, we would have a test on them. To study for the test, I made up coloured cue cards: pink for adjectives, green for verbs, and blue for nouns. Eventually I started finding my own words to add to my collection, and ended up with a binder of cue cards.

Choose ten random unusual words. You can get them at dictionary.com or by searching for unusual words on Google. Look at their meanings. Is there a similar thread that runs through them? If you were to use words in a sentence, how would you do it?

This exercise is all about making connections between things that might not normally go together, which is the foundation for building a story.

5. What if?

By far, my favourite and most common way to get story ideas.

What if you or someone you knew suddenly went blind?

What if you had one day left to live?

What if you waited for the next bus, instead of getting on this one?

It’s a question that you can ask at any time during the day and imagine without a lot of effort.

There you go, five places to harvest ideas–now, get writing!

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