10 Tricks for Coming Up With Endless Story Ideas

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Coming up with a story idea is a strange process. Sometimes inspiration may slap you in the face.  But most times…well, you’d be lucky for inspiration to give you so much a poke. Usually you have to coax little nuggets of inspiration from deep within the dark recesses of your brain.

What’s hiding in your mind-palace? Here are some tricks for luring out the plot bunnies.

#1: Look a Photos

I draw a lot of inspiration from photos, and they really help to get my creative juices flowing. Pinterest is an excellent source for photos. Simply search “story inspiration” (or something similar) under boards, and you will find great visual resources compiled by fellow writers.

I have created some story inspiration boards myself, which I organize by story topic. When you look at photos, ask yourself: what is the story behind it? What happened before? What will happen after?

#2: Brush Up on Your History

If you love history this is a great place to find story ideas and inspiration. Choose an event or time period that interests you and read up on it. You’ll be surprised what cool facts you’ll find that would make an awesome story!

#3: Explore Mythology

Mythology has a wealth of ideas waiting for you to harvest. I use mythological inspiration in nearly all of my stories. A great starting point for finding interesting myths from all of the world is Encyclopedia Mythica.

#4: Writing Prompts

Writing prompts can be a good way to get you in a creative mood. I’ve written a couple stories from prompts lately myself. For ideas, check out my writing prompts board on pinterest.

#5: Listen to Music

When I’m in the midst of a creative dry spell, I love to listen to music. In my case I love epic scores–they arouse a variety of emotions and I try to picture a scene to fit with the music (I highly recommend E.S. Posthumus if you like epic music). Songs with lyrics are also great as you can imagine stories that fit the lyrics.

#6: Daydream–Ask ‘What If?’

Take some time to just brainstorm. Look at the world and ask ‘what if?’ What if Hitler had won the war? What if we could breathe underwater? What if your boyfriend turned out to be an alien refugee?

#7: Travel or Explore

Getting out in the world exposes you to different ideas and cultures and offers a wealth of inspiration. But you don’t have to go across the globe–you can explore your own city. What would be different or unique about it to an outsider? Become a tourist in your own city. Discover adventures you can take in your own hometown.

#8: Get out in Nature

Humans have a deep connection with nature, whether we realize it or not. Exploring nature can help you relax and give you inspiration for settings.

#9: Browse the Titles of Other Books

This one is kind of weird, but it’s one I really like. I’ve actually written a short story using this method. Get on goodreads or amazon and look for books with interesting titles. When you find one that draws you in, try to imagine a story that could go along with that title.

#10: What Do You Want to Say? What Are You Passionate About?

A good source for inspiration is passion. Are there any issues, topics, or interests you’re passionate about? How could they inspire a story? For example, I’m passionate about horses and my first novel heavily involved them. I’m also passionate about the issue of human trafficking and want to write a story about this topic in the future. What do you feel strongly about?

camilla facceAdvice from the Quills

Keep track of all your ideas in a journal or Word doc. Always write everything down–don’t rely on your memory to keep track of ideas!

There you have it! Ten different ways to get ideas for stories. Soon you’ll have so many you won’t know what to do with them all 😉

How do you come up with story ideas?

Like what you read? Know someone who might enjoy it? Please share it with other writers! Thank you for reading!

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How to Write an Opening Line that Will Hook Readers (and a Publisher!)

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The first sentence of your story is the most important you will write. It will determine whether the reader (or publisher) decides to keep reading or toss your book aside.

Think of it this way: when you meet someone new you decide from your first impression whether or not you like the person and are interested in continuing a conversation. (Or if that Hitler stache is just too creeptastic and you want to hightail it out of there first chance you get).

The first sentence is your story’s first impression to a reader. So you need to make it brilliant.

The first thing I do when I pick up a book at the store is read the opening line. If it catches my interest, I’ll examine the book further, maybe even buy it. If not, it goes back on the shelf. So how do you keep a reader from putting your book back on the shelf?

Let’s look at some examples of opening lines. On a scrap of paper, jot down which numbers make you want to read the rest of the story.

  1. “I’ve been locked up for 264 days.”
  1. “The songs of the dead are the lamentations of the living.”
  1. “She killed him in the darkest part of the night, before the dew had settled on the grass.”
  1. “Around midnight, her eyes at last took shape.”
  1. “Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.”
  1. “Laurel’s shoes flipped a cheerful rhythm that defied her dark mood.”
  1. “I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves.”
  1. “Chauncey was with a farmer’s daughter on the grassy banks of the Loire River when the storm rolled in, and having let his gelding wander in the meadow, was left to his own two feet to carry him back to the chateau.”
  1. “After a year of slavery in the Salt Mines of Endovier, Celaena Sardothien was accustomed to being escorted everywhere in shackles and at sword-point.”
  1. ““Four-ball, side pocket.” Aislinn pushed the cue forward with a short, quick thrust; the ball dropped into the pocket with a satisfying click.”

Which of these books would you like to read? Which opening lines arouse your curiosity and make you want to know what happens next?

The odd-numbers are examples of excellent opening lines; the even-numbers are examples of weak opening lines. I’m willing to bet the odd-numbered examples were the ones that made you want to read the rest of the story.

And guess which books are on my bookshelf? That’s right–the odd-numbers. They aroused my interest enough to make me want to buy the book, which is exactly what you want as a writer.

So what makes the good lines good?

  • They arouse curiosity: Why is she locked up? Why did she kill him? Why would she kill her true love? Why is she surrounded by wolves? How did she become a slave?
  • They present conflict: Will she escape prison? Will she get away with killing him? Will she really kill her true love? Will she be killed by the wolves? Will she escape slavery?
  • They start near the action—things are happening or about to happen. There is the feeling of forward momentum from the combination of curiosity and conflict. You want to plunge your reader into the heart of the story as quickly as possible—start in the middle of the action.

What makes the weak lines weak?

  • They don’t arouse curiosity or present conflict.
  • #2 tries to be profound but just ends up being confusing.
  • #8 is description, which slows down the story before it even starts.
  • The problem with opening with dialogue as in #10 is it’s somewhat jarring–we haven’t been introduced to the characters yet and we don’t know who’s speaking.

In case you’re curious, here are the books whose opening lines were used in the example: 1. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi 2. Eldest by Christopher Paolini 3. Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson 4. Fallen by Lauren Kate 5. The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater 6. Wings by Aprilynne Pike 7. Shiver by Maggie Steifvater 8. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick 9. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas 10. Wicked Lovely by Marissa Marr

 camilla facce

 Advice from the Quills:

The attention spans of 21st century readers are frighteningly short so you must snag your reader with that first sentence. This is  known as a hook.

The purpose of your opening line is to hook the reader by arousing curiosity and/or presenting conflict and action. Give your reader a reason to keep turning those pages! Are you up to the challenge?

Go to a library, bookstore, your own bookshelf, or even amazon.com, and browse through some books examining the first line. Which ones draw in your interest? Which ones don’t? Share below!

Like what you read? Know someone who might enjoy it? Please share it with other writers! Thank you for reading!

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