If there’s one questions all writers get asked it’s, Where do you get your ideas from? Most writers say that ideas just come to them. That much is true, but for an idea to find a writer, the writer has to meet it halfway. If you’re passionate about writing but not sure where the inspiration for your next story is going to come from, here are 9 sources to ensure you never run out of ideas for writing.
1. Read A Lot
It goes without saying that reading is an essential activity in the life of a serious writer. However, reading does more than just develop your skills, it can also be a great source for writing ideas. What to read? Fiction books, non-fiction books, magazine articles, news stories, literary magazines, short stories, blog posts, poetry… Everything you read can become an inspiration for a story. Sure, you don’t want to copy the ideas of other writers. However, you can inspire from those ideas, and write them in a different way with a different purpose and come up with an entirely unique story.
2. Watch Movies
Movies are another great source for ideas, and by movies I also mean series and documentaries. Little details in a film or documentary can become the subject for your next book or story. Pay attention to characterization in movies as the visual aid can help you with your own characterization. Documentaries can inspire fiction stories and movies can inspire articles. Even movie reviews are a great way to get some writing practice and even make some money. Written and visual content isn’t the only outlets for writers out there, which brings us to the next source.
3. Listen to the Radio
A lot of you may wonder what could the radio offer that the tv, the internet, and a library couldn’t. Even though radio stations today don’t offer much more than top hits and current news, many stations report local news bits that you can’t hear anywhere else. Radio shows get callers all the time and some have interesting stories to share. There are a ton of podcasts that share short stories read by voice actors. Also, have you heard of radio plays? Radio plays are a great way to train yourself to listen to good dialogue. BBC radio has plenty of shows that feature radio plays and read new and famous works of fiction, some submitted solely for that purpose.
Listening is a great skill to develop if you want to become a professional writer. People usually have great stories to share, the most trivial of which can be inspiring. Even the people closest to you and whom you never thought would be interesting can have experiences that prove to be the most intriguing. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn about a person just by asking the right questions. People watching, also, is another source for ideas. By sitting in a public place and watching people go by, you can notice small and major details that can contribute to your story. The way people dress, talk, their body language, tone, demeanor, etc… can all contribute to your characterization. Just don’t be creepy about it.
5. Personal Life
There’s truth in all fiction, and what better way to find truth but to look into one’s own life. A personal experience, tragedy, or trauma could be transformed into a compelling story and would provide a plethora of writing material, whether fiction or non-fiction. Personal curiosities are a fine source of material as well. Do you find yourself wondering about one thing or the other, like the health benefits of certain foods, or who the best barbers in your town are? Do some research and write about it! Not only will you get the answers you need but also get the writing material your longing for.
They say, write about what you know. What could you know more about than your own life and experiences? Sure, writing about your experiences may be painful, even shameful sometimes, but no one could possibly know that it happened to you unless you tell them. And the greatest thing about using events from your personal life in a story is that they are unique to you.
6. Previous Writing and Notes
Do you take notes when you get story ideas? If you don’t, you should as they are a great source for writing material. Keep a notepad with you at all times, or just type a quick note on your phone when you’re on the go. When you find yourself stuck, take a look at those notes, you will always find something worth developing.
Past writings are also a good source for ideas. Even though you already wrote those stories, some elements of them can be reworked into a new and unique premise. After all, any story is just an old story written differently. Don’t write 10 short mysteries with the same plot and only change the names of characters. But you can take one mystery and resolve it in many ways, each time with different characters and different settings. You can even do that with the same characters and you’ll have yourself a short story collection!
A great way to get story ideas is to broaden your horizons, see new places, and get introduced to new cultures. Even traveling from one city to another, or even from one neighborhood to another, can sometimes be just as effective as traveling across the world. Every place you go to has a special vibe and energy that is unique and full of potential writing ideas. Absorb your surroundings, take notes, ideas will come later.
8. Keep a Dream Journal
Dreams are the subconscious’s way of telling us something important. Sometimes that thing is, Write this story! Yes, dreams are sometimes obscure and indecipherable. However, most of the time, you will find elements in your dreams that can be turned into a compelling story. It’s scientifically proven that the best time for writing is in the morning right after you wake up. They say that being in the state between sleep and wakefulness pushes their subconscious ideas to the surface and makes it that much easier to write.
If you tend to forget what you dream about often, keep a notepad by your bed and write down your dreams the moment you wake up. One day when you’re short for ideas, this journal will be a savior.
9. Keep Writing
The best way to get story ideas is to keep writing. “The water doesn’t flow unless the faucet is turned on.” By writing often, not only will you become better at your craft, but you’ll find that ideas come frequently and more clearly. You will find yourself getting creatively stuck less often and when you do, a quick walk, or a coffee break would usually do the trick.
The truth is, writing material is endless and more often than not, the greatest ideas come when you least expect them to. What are some of the methods you use to get writing ideas?