No Idea, No Story – How to Come Up With Story Ideas

No Idea, No Story - How to Come Up With Story Ideas - cozycreativewriting.wordpress.com

All stories start with an idea. That idea then grows and becomes a setting, a plot, and characters. But if you don’t have the initial spark then you don’t have a story.

This can be quite frustrating when you really want to write something. Your mind is gearing itself up to create, but it doesn’t have anything to create from.

So how can you come up with ideas? Here are 5 ways:


1. Create a word chain, list, or map

All you need to do this is 1 word to start off.

This word could be a theme that interests you, the genre of your favorite book, a pretty color. It doesn’t matter what the word is, as long as you have somewhere to start.

I had started a novel a couple of years ago, but I forgot what the plot was, who the characters were, etc. Now that I’m continuing to work on it, I only remember one thing for sure. That it was inspired by a game about time travel.

So I decided to create a list of words (it ended being 100 words long) that I thought of when thinking about the game that originally inspired me, the previous words on the list, and what little I remember of the novel itself.

Here are the first 15 words in my list:

  1. Time
  2. Sand
  3. Fall
  4. Flow
  5. Web
  6. Circle
  7. Dimensions
  8. Ghost
  9. Astral
  10. Projection
  11. Plane
  12. Manipulate
  13. Autumn
  14. Darkness
  15. Cold

When doing this exercise, be careful not to inhibit yourself. Don’t overthink things, just write the words that come into your mind, until there are no more words left.

After you’re finished you may find that the words give you ideas for the characters, plot, themes, and motifs of a story.


2. Draw characters and then flesh them out

Here’s a fun exercise: Doodle some characters and then give them personalities and backstories!

Grab a pencil and some paper and start making some marks. Don’t worry if you’re not artistically inclined, the point of this exercise is to have some rough character sketches, not fully rendered designs.

Play around with the shapes you use (try building things out of squares, circles, and triangles) as well as the gestures. You can use different colors, and play around with their costumes and poses.

Then choose the characters that intrigue you the most and give them:

  1. Personality traits
  2. Goals
  3. Backstories
  4. Fears
  5. Motivations

Take those characters and visualize what kind of person they are. Then redraw them, making their designs more cohesive with their personality.

Keep doing this until you have a character you would like to write about.


3. Take a walk

Going for a walk will always send my brain buzzing, even when I’m completely drained of ideas.

I like to put on a pair of comfortable shoes, and go when the weather is in my favorite state. A light rain on a mild day suits me best, but the weather doesn’t always cooperate, unfortunately.

Then I walk until I find a place where I feel a connection to the energy around me. There’s a little river that runs just a few minutes from my house. I can sit on an outcrop beside the bridge, and watch the water. No one will bother me.

Then I just sit and let my mind wander. I don’t try and force myself to think about anything, I just sit back and watch my thoughts play out, like watching a TV show.

After some amount of time doing that, my mind starts to focus on creative ideas.

If you’re out of ideas, try going for a walk and letting your mind wander.


4. Have a movie marathon

You can’t create without some fuel, and one of the best creative fuels is inspiration.

What’s a fun way to get inspiration? Have a movie marathon!

Take out your calendar and block off as much consecutive time as you can. A whole day would be best (though I can understand and relate if you don’t have that much time).

Grab a blanket, some pillows, and remember to stay hydrated and fueled with your favorite beverages and snacks.

Then watch movies for as long as you can.

They can be movies you’ve already seen before, new movies, your personal favorites, good movies, bad movies. Just watch whatever you feel like. If you want, you can even invite friends and family to join you.

Whatever you do, don’t feel guilty about taking the time to gain some inspiration. Feeling guilty will just kill the mood and make it more difficult to come up with ideas.


5. Look at a ton of artwork

Like I said, you need inspiration, and looking at artwork is a great way to gain some inspiration.

Fortunately we live in an age where you don’t need to go to a gallery to look at art. Just open up your preferred social media app and start searching for art to look at.

Do you want a recommendation? Go on Twitter and look at the work under #VisibleWomen. You’ll find lots of skilled artists who are girls, which is great since art tends to be a male dominated field.


6. Create a mood board

A fun activity is to create a mood board.

You don’t need a specific idea to start one, just begin by gathering images that you find aesthetically pleasing. After awhile, you’ll find a cohesive aesthetic start to form, which can be the basis for the themes, motifs, characters, or setting of a story.

I used a mood board to help solidify the visuals and motifs of two of my current work in progress stories, and it helped me out of a creative rut.


There are several ways to come up with ideas for your stories. Try using these techniques when you get stuck, and see what you come up with.

Remember, getting too caught up on originality or perfection will hinder the flow of thoughts and ideas. Just relax and let your thoughts flow.

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a like or share it with someone who would enjoy it. I blog about writing every Wednesday, so check back next week for some new content.

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3 thoughts on “No Idea, No Story – How to Come Up With Story Ideas

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