Many writers constantly have ideas bubbling around, each waiting for
their turn to be put down on paper (or screen). However, if finding inspiration is an issue, then there are a few ways you can break through the frustration of just having no idea where to begin.
Newspapers and News Websites
The first thing I recommend doing is reading the news. The general news will do, just skim over until you find a story that catches your eye. Or, if you know you want to write about a particular subject, such as celebrities or political espionage then go to the appropriate section and read those stories (gossip, International etc). Don’t forget you can always change the setting – for example move a story that happened in your local area to the Wild West, Victorian England or Ancient China. As you read, think about what other details and secrets could be hidden behind the story – hopefully you’ll find something inspirational enough to be a story kernel, that can be expended into a premise.
Another great way to get inspiration for writing is to people watch. Go to a café, get yourself a drink and a paper or book (but make sure you have a way of taking notes) and watch people – but try not to stare. For the people you see, try to imagine what their life is like. What are they doing right now? Where are they going to? Where have they come from? What are they thinking about? What is their family like? Are they married? Kids? What do they do for a living? What their biggest secret? When did they last cry and why?
If you’re really lucky, you might even see someone having an argument…
You may feel that this is too much like stealing someone else’s idea, but if you’ve ever taken part in a writing exercise where a roomful of people all write a story based on the same prompt, you might change your mind. Movie synopses are often just a couple of lines long and are pretty much a standard premise, offering a character and a story set-up. By taking this as a starting point (but not watching the whole movie), you can take the story off in completely different directions that make it nothing like the original.
Real life documentaries are a rich source of strange facts about life, and tend to be chock full of larger than life characters, unexpected twists and delicious detail. Whether it’s about Head Hunters, A Day in Berlin or the Night Mail Train, documentaries can provide tons of ideas which you can turn into great plots. Don’t forget that you don’t have to stay faithful to the real life story if you’re writing a novel or short story, it’s inspiration only, so move events around, merge characters and change the ending to make it more dramatic – real life doesn’t always follow an elegant plot arc, so do what you need to do to turn it from messy real life into satisfying fiction.
Hopefully you’ll find some of these suggestions useful for finding inspiration for your novel, and if you have more ideas, we’d love to hear them.