Writers Write creates writing resources and shares writing tips. In this post, we discuss how to find workable story ideas.
How To Find Workable Story Ideas
Where is your Idea Store?
Mine is easy. It’s a fat paperback with tatty edges and scribbled notes on just about every page. I found it a few years back in a dusty second-hand bookshop. Now the Video Movie Guide-1987 is a permanent part of my bookshelf.
Not because I want to know what films were hot in the late 1980s, but because this book has thumbnails of over 4 000 movies that are story ideas just waiting to be reinvented in the imagination.
Make Something New Out Of Something Old
Paging through this tome, I jot down notes in the narrow margins. I think, what would these storylines look like today?
- What about a story focused on a family wedding? Lots of potential for conflict there. Here’s a film about coming-of-age in a pivotal summer? Those never go out of style.
- Another is a tale about success and heartache—there’s another timeless idea ready to spring to life on the page with fresh characters.
- Here’s a horror film about a soul-sucking demon in a big city. Could you turn this into a political or social allegory?
- A sci-fi B movie tells of a scientist who has found a way to move through walls and objects. How would that play out in comedy setting?
The ideas, as you can tell, are limitless.
Source for comic
Find A Connection
Sometimes the plot outline will inspire a new idea for a story or novel. Other times you’ll recognise a certain character—the feisty woman in a man’s world, the reckless adventurer—and this will inspire the lead in your own story. You will always find a connection.
What I like about the Video Movie Guide book is sheer volume of ideas—it’s like a roulette wheel of basic plots, a big bingo game of character ideas. No way could anyone watch thousands of movies in an afternoon—but you can skim through the highlights and see if anything grabs you. And then use it in your own story with a fresh plot and new characters.
Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a book, sign up for our online course.