23 May, 2012

Where In the Galaxy Do Story Ideas Come From?

Every writer has been asked this. There might be variations (such as the oldie but goodie: where do you get your ideas?) but both writers and readers have all heard or asked it. 

  The Answer

 Everywhere and anywhere.
Writers are people, too, and we walk by the same neighbors, drive the same cars, and have the same hobbies everyone else does. Ideas abound in every moment in our lives. Anything, at any time, could trigger that mysterious being called the muse.
For me, it's little things. The way a character tilted her head in my favorite T.V. show. A snippet of conversation. Music. A sentence in the book I'm reading. The wind in the trees. A child's laughter. Deep water at night. Even dreams.
The possibilities are endless, literally. They're also different for every writer.

 What About You?

If you're a new writer, you might be worried about getting ideas. Don't be. You wanted to write for a reason, probably because you already had an idea in your head. Where did you get it? You might have just experienced a fabulous concert. Maybe you noticed something new on your way to work. Or perhaps the bite mark in your sandwich looked just like a spaceship.
Whatever it was, it wouldn't leave you alone. You had to write it down. Then characters arrived and a setting and you started imagining what would come of it.
That's where the ideas come from: from keeping your eyes and ears open and absorbing the world around you. What are your interests? Your favorite books? Do you remember your dreams? Is there something you've always wanted to do or see but never have?
These all hold true even when dealing with science fiction and fantasy. It doesn't have to be all scientific or fantastic to start out – that's your imagination's job. Your job is to keep looking.
Most importantly, look for ideas where you least expect them. Those ideas can be the best of all.

How To Get Ideas In A Nutshell

  • Read! And read some more.
  • Collect and hoard ideas like a dragon.
  • Look for the unexpected.
  • Write about your interests, hobbies, and dreams.
  • Write about what you'd like to learn.

 Where do you get your ideas? Sound off in the comments or Tweet for idea-starting fun!


  1. My ideas do come from all over the place. One novel was partly inspired by that Simpson's episode where Lisa finds the supposed skeleton of an angel; another was loosely sparked off by re-reading Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere; a lot of my short stories were triggered off by a word, phrase or a passing comment. And sometimes my head just gets some bloated with stuff that ideas pour out in a gooey mess and I sort through to see if there's anything useful.

    1. I find that it's rarely the same place every time or even the same sights or sounds. That's why it's so important to keep your eyes open - you never know when it will strike.

      The Simpsons bit made me laugh - it's so crazy but I've had moments like that, as well.

  2. I'll sit on ideas, and let the ferment in my head. I have even been known to dream them when I'm asleep. But inspiration comes from everywhere, but especially from people I meet.

    1. I love that you can get ideas from the people you meet. I've never been able to do that. Complete strangers passing by will sometimes conjure something but very rarely do I get anything from simply talking with someone.

  3. My ideas come from anywhere/anything...Sometimes I find it helpful to pick a setting and work a short story from there. I like to keep note of the little things I encounter in my daily life: snippets of conversation, advice, encounters.

    1. I tend to work from settings much of the time, as well. I keep a small notebook in every major spot in the house and in my things when I go out, as well, just in case.

  4. I read this post a few days ago, but didn't take the time to comment. Shame on me! I love inspiration for stories, maybe even more than writing the stories, which is my biggest weakness. For me, music is a huge inspiration. Lyrics that hint at a story always make me want the story completed. Dreams have inspired a few of the stories I've started to write, although I'm often skeptical about the idea being a good one since my dreams are bizarre.

    1. That's a weakness of mine, too. It's too easy to stay in the idea stage, where's it fun and no pain is required. ;)

  5. American History, Ancient History and Mythology are my areas of interest, and I taught HS for 10 years. Between the lessons of our past and the new drama that teenagers generate, I'll never run out of ideas.

    Back at ya' on the follow :)

    1. Thanks! Looking forward to reading your stuff!


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