Do you know what the worst part of coming up with ideas is?  It’s not getting the idea to start the story, though that looks hard.  It’s keeping the ideas flowing because a story is made up of many ideas.  So if you want to know “Where do you get your ideas from?” read on:

A green x-ray view of the gears and wheels turning inside a person's brain.


1.  Brainstorming.  Set a timer for 15 minutes and write down everything that comes to mind, no matter how crazy it sounds.  The most important part of this technique is to NOT filter.

2. Mind maps.  Mind maps are holistic way to unleashing creativity.  Pick a topic like “Things You Fear” and let it flow.  This was how I got my initial idea for my next book.

3. Prompts.  These can be anything from randomly combined elements to what ifs.  A writer at Marscon said he uses prompts to create free short stories to promote his books.

4. What if.  This is the most recommended way to come up with ideas.  Start with what if and fill in the rest.


5. Newspaper.  Anyone watch Law & Order?  The stories used real crimes from the headlines.  Don’t forget to read the obituaries, since these may have a rich source of unexpected ideas.

6. Images.  Images can be evoke powerful emotions. From 50+ Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story.

7. Read.  Ideas can come from what we read.  This great tip comes from Day Al-Mohamed on this blog.

8. Research.  Hitting the books can yield unexpected results.  I was researching death and ran across a reference to Lincoln’s funeral procession.  It changed the story in a unexpected way.

9.  Museum.  Museum exhibits have been a surprising resource for me.  Sometimes an interesting fact in an exhibit catches my eye and can be turned into an idea.


10.  Setting.  A great location can lead to great ideas.  For example, when I was coming up with my next story, I picked Virginia.  I started thinking Civil War, and that led to more interesting ideas.

11.  People.  Go to a mall and observe people for a while.  See what kinds of stories you can make up for the people descending the escalator.

12.  Experience.  Our own experiences, or the experiences of other people can be the sources of many ideas.

13.  Just write.  This is a very powerful tool.  I did a workshop with Allen Wold, and we had half an hour to come up with an opening for a short story.  Everyone came up with great ideas.

For you:  Okay, now you get to tell me the sources for ideas that I missed.  Share them below.

About the author

Linda Maye Adams Linda Adams has been published in Enchanted Spark and Fabula Argentea and has a non-fiction story in the upcoming Red, White, and True from the University of Nebraska Press. She is a female war veteran from the first Persian Gulf War, and least likely to have been in the army.