Ideas. There are so many out there that they aren’t really worth anything. Yet it is so difficult to find good ones, or ones that suit the genre or style that you write in.
An added difficulty is the concept of intellectual property. When you come up with an idea that is inspired by someone else’s work, are you infringing on their creation?
The truth is that no thought or idea is truly original, and that truth has existed for a very long time. Nothing is ever truly unique or original, so stop worrying about that right now.
Have you stopped worrying about the concept of originality? Good. Now you aren’t focusing on fear, so you can focus on creation instead.
Notice how I didn’t say limitations, I said fear. Limitations can be excellent when trying to create or decide. It may sound counter intuitive, but you may understand better if I put it this way:
You walk into an ice cream store. You don’t know what you’re going to get, but you see that they have 50 different kinds of ice cream.
Since you walked into the store without any idea of what you were going to get, you ended up spending 30 minutes trying to decide.
You walk into an ice cream store. You don’t know what you’re going to get, but you do have a craving for something chocolate and something seasonal.
You see that they have 3 kinds of chocolate ice cream: chocolate with peppermint, peanut butter and chocolate, and plain chocolate.
It’s winter so you get the ice cream with peppermint in it. You don’t even consider the non-chocolate items because you have a specific craving for chocolate.
Having those limitations in place makes the ice cream decision so much easier, so don’t be afraid to put limitations on yourself when trying to come up with writing ideas.
Let’s say you want to write fantasy, but you don’t have any ideas. Limit yourself to 10 ideas, and try to narrow down what kind of fantasy. Will it be epic fantasy? Urban fantasy?
Once you limit yourself, you can start adding in hints of other genres. As an example, you could come up with 5 urban fantasy writing ideas that have hints of horror in them.
Another way to come up with writing ideas is to phrase them as ‘what if’ questions. When you ask yourself a ‘what if’ question your mind wants to ask more ‘what if’ questions, which will create a train of possibilities that could turn into an entire story.
Instead of writing:
- An ordinary highschool girl wakes up to find herself in an alternate universe.
- What if an ordinary highschool girl wakes up to find herself in an alternate universe?
After that question you can ask more ‘what if’ questions:
- What if it’s a universe where some people are born with supernatural powers?
- What if that girl doesn’t have any powers because she’s not from the universe that has supernatural elements?
- What if she has to fake having powers because her alternate universe self does have some powers?
- What if the people who don’t have powers are treated poorly, and have fewer rights in this new universe?
See how one what if question just leads to another? This is a very powerful way to create a chain of events in a story, and to also add in lots of conflict. You may also have noticed that the last ‘what if’ question dramatically increases the stakes for the main character.
If you desperately need ideas, and quickly, I suggest setting a timer for 10 to 30 minutes and writing as many ideas down as you can within that set amount of time. It could get you anywhere between 5 and 60 ideas, depending on how quickly you can write and think.
Afterwards you can take all of the ideas and turn them into ‘what if’ questions and see if anymore ‘what ifs’ follow.
This is going to sound like a cliche, but even if the idea seems weird or dumb, write it down anyways during that brainstorming session. A weird idea can often spark the most questions.
Remember that you shouldn’t be afraid of your ideas being unoriginal, and that you shouldn’t be afraid to limit yourself.
The creative process is different for everyone, but I hope that the way I do it is helpful to you.
Before I go, some of you who have visited my blog before may have noticed that things are looking a bit different. I’ve changed up my visuals a bit, to fit my personal style a bit more. I quite like the change, but let me know if you do or don’t.