How to generate story ideas
To some writer coming up with a story is the easiest part of writing a novel, while for others that might prove the hardest part.
No matter whether this is easy for you or require conscious effort, you won’t be able to write a book, without a clear concept of what your story is and of what you are trying to tell your reader.
Below I have summarized three methods you can fall back on if you’re having trouble generating story ideas:
1.The ‘what if’ scenario
In this technique you imagine an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation.
- What if a high school student discovered that she had the powers to cure diseases?
- What if a jewelry store employee overheard a plan to rob the store, and she is the only one able to prevent it?
- What if a housewife discovers that her husband had been cheating with her sister and has produced a love child?
What is great about this technique is that it’s simple and quick. You can generate many ideas in half an hour and then narrow it down to the best ones.
- The four steps model
Another way of finding your story is to use the four steps model below.
- Protagonist needs A
Decide who your hero is, what he needs and why.
- Antagonist needs B
The need of the antagonist should be the opposite of what the protagonist wants or in direct conflict with need A, meaning that only A or B can be fulfilled.
Don’t limit yourself to thinking of the antagonist as the bad guy. There are three levels of antagonistic force: within us, in personal relationships and in social relationships. To add depth to your story and make it more interesting, it is best to have conflict on all three levels.
- Obstacles that lead to main conflict
Think of plausible obstacles that you can throw into the way of your protagonist and how he would try to overcome them. What is the final obstacle that appears insurmountable?
How is the protagonist able to resolve the final conflict and win against the antagonistic forces? What is the implication of him winning? How does it change his life and the lives of those around him (provide glimpse of the future)?
The above technique will appeal most to those writers that start out by thinking about the plot. If you are more character driven, you might prefer the third method outlined below.
3.Creating Story through Characters
There are three steps to this method:
1.Decide on three characters:
- 3rd Character dependent on genre
– Romance: love interest of protagonist
– History/fantasy: King, mentor, etc….
– Thriller: FBI agent, victim, etc…
- Give each of your three characters a friend
- Think of at least one secret that each character has
For example: Genre: Romance
Sheila – gives government funded art classes to underprivileged kids. Secret: blames herself for the dissolution of her marriage
Dora – works with Sheila. Secret: has accepted a new job and hasn’t told Sheila yet
Dean – manages the school where the art classes take place. Secret: distrusts every woman ever since his Ex cheated on him
Martin – knows Dean since childhood, they meet up weekly to catch up. Secret: is in debt
Jeremy- decides where funding goes and does not agree with funding something as “useless” as art classes. Secret: was a failed artist, prior to becoming government employee
Jack – works with Jeremy in funding department. Secret: has a crush on Sheila
Now that you have decided on your three main characters and their friends (secondary characters) and given them each a secret, I hope it is easy for you to see how this information would translate into possible stories.
If you’re unsure about what method works best for you, try them all then stick to the one that feels most natural to you. You might also decide that you want to use a combination of all three.