12 Great Ways to Generate Ideas for Fiction
Need an idea for a short story, play or movie script? Here are twelve kick-starters for
1. Dictionary Roulette
Open a dictionary at random and choose the first word that appears. Do this twice more, so
that you have three randomly chosen words. Now try to incorporate all three words into a story.
2. Take it from Here
Read the first paragraph of a story you have never read before in an anthology or magazine
(if the opening paragraphs are very short, read the second and third paragraph as well). Now
put the story to one side and write the rest of the story. The chances are that you will end
up with a completely different story from the original. All you need to do then is change the
opening paragraph/s in your story to have a completely new tale of your own.
3. The Untidy Professor
Think of a character with a particularly strong character trait, e.g. absent-minded, lazy,
domineering. Place your character in circumstances which conflict with this trait. Immediately
you have two of the essential ingredients for fiction: characters and conflict. To create a
story, all you need to do is build the conflict to a crisis, and show what change results.
4. Hold the Front Page!
Take a newspaper - local papers and tabloids are often best - and choose a story from
it which intrigues you. Imagine the events which led up to the incident described and/or what
happened next. You could easily have the basis for a story.
Write a story based on a proverb or a quotation, e.g. cheats never prosper.
6. Tales by Letter
Write a story in the form of a series of letters or postcards, faxes, official reports,
(imaginary) newspaper stories, answerphone messages, e-mails, diary entries or a travel journal.
Combine any or all of these in your finished story.
7. What's My Motive?
Start with a character who wants something badly. It might be a new job, a new partner,
a holiday, something else. Place obstacles in the path of your character and show how he/she
overcomes these (or fails to).
8. Start with a Setting
Write a short story with one of the following settings: a small seaside town; a pub,
cafe or restaurant; a doctor's waiting room; a hotel or boarding house; a factory; a busy office;
a bus or railway station; a caravan park; a garage; a shop or supermarket; a theme park; a
13th storey tower block flat; a school; a nursery; a college campus; a picnic. Perhaps the
setting itself could provide the source of conflict in your story: for example, a wife wants
to move to the country, while her husband prefers to live in town.
9. Events and Situations
Here is a list of events and situations: a job interview; a pop concert; a telephone
call; the arrival of a stray cat; a car breaking down; going on holiday; losing a purse or
wallet; an eye test; a party; going on a blind date; a birthday party; a child starting school;
a circus arriving in town; moving house; starting a new job; a family meal; a football match;
a car park; a long car journey; an argument; going back to your old school; breaking an ornament;
a diary or calendar; mowing the grass; visiting a fairground; writing a letter; going round
a supermarket. Take any two of these and think about how they could be combined in a plot.
Ask yourself 'What if..?' or 'Supposing...?' type questions to help develop the plot.