Writer's block typically hits you when you are in the middle of writing a novel. It could be your mood that stops you, your lack of energy or the scene might be difficult to continue as the next step is hard to figure out. Sometimes the writer's block hits you before you even start. Before you even have an idea.
Here are 7 ways to find unique story ideas!
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1. Use Real-Life Inspiration
The first way is simple; take a look at your own life.
Have you experienced any exciting moments? Have you had fears or dreams in situations that would make for an exciting story? Have you encountered wonderful people who would make for excellent characters in your book? Would some dialogues or situations help you create an interesting scene in your story?
If you have not directly experienced a story, then do you know somebody who has?
A story told to you by a friend or family member can inspire a story. Usually, a story will never be exactly like the idea that forms in your mind, but it is a great way to start the creative process of finding that unique story idea.
Finally, the end of the story can change completely when you are creating your plot. You don’t even have to adhere to the core points of the story, you are free to make the changes you want to make. The uniqueness of the story depends on the circumstances of the situation and the adjustments you wish to make. Those are enough to make the story unique.
Although, if you are writing a story based on actual events and you wish to adhere to the core elements of this event, then its uniqueness should not matter. You are telling a story that happened, which means it is unique because those people are unique and the circumstances that led them to that situation are unique.
That’s why true accounts of people stranded on a deserted island are never, or should never, be judged by their ‘uniqueness’.
Now, this is only 1 way to find a story idea. If this way doesn’t work for you, let’s tackle the next!
2. Write a Short Story Based on Character/Concept Art
Character art can be found anywhere. There are many popular artists on social media, you can use google images, or my personal favourite, Pinterest.
A picture paints a thousand words, but a writer with a strong enough imagination can take it further. A character can show who they are from their attire to their markings, to their expression. A writer can go about creating a world and a story to explain every feature.
Or, this can simply inspire a character to include in your story, rather than the entire story itself.
You can use the same method to inspire different things in your story. Concept art can also be found online in abundance, which can inspire places, people, scenes and stories. Concept art is used by professionals to properly visualise a scene before creating it in a movie, a series or even a video game. It can also be used by writers to generate ideas for the novel.
Now, you might not get so great a feeling from someone's visualized imagination, so it takes a little test to find out if the story is the right one. Simply write a short story, be it a chapter or a scene, using that concept art as inspiration. Carry forward as long as far as you can, then consider if the scene would fit a story you would want to write.
Or if that small test inspires you to write something similar.
3. Use Classic Stories/Fairy Tales as Inspiration
There have been many adaptations of classic stories and fairy tales. These are the stories we are all familiar with, the stories that stem from or inspired legends and folktales that still thrive in many communities around the world.
The classic stories, many of them have grown so old that they can be adapted and used to make money to this day. Stories such as Sherlock Holmes no longer belong to a specific person or company, meaning, a writer can write their own Sherlock Holmes mystery, with all the characters that are presented in the old stories and publish them.
The same goes for fairy tales as they are even older and most are as old as several centuries.
If you are ever in need of an idea, then turn to these classic stories. You can take the works and use them to inspire your own story. It can have the same feeling and style as the originals, or you can put your own spin on them. Whatever you decide to do, you can do so with confidence.
You can even look at other writers and creators today who have done just that. There are still movies that use vampires and werewolves, there are still stories that include these classic characters. Some have done very well for themselves, and some have flopped.
Yet, if you approach these classic ideas with the same mentality as you would your own story, you can easily create something investing. There is the added ease of having most of the foundation of these stories, characters and legends already established, but it is your style and story that breathes new life into them.
4. Take Inspiration from Your Favourite Book
It doesn’t have to be from a classic or a fairy tale either.
A great source of any inspiration for a writer is their favourite book or the book that inspires them to write the most. It could be the feeling the novel gives, it could be the plot, the world, or the characters, but the book simply has a quality that the writer finds enjoyable.
No doubt you already know which book inspires you.
A writer can use the book to create their own story if they feel that the story is something like what they want to write. A writer can create their own world, their own characters and even their variation of the plot. There will be similarities, but the writer can make it their own by creating it from scratch, using another story's structure as a guideline when there is an issue with the plot or some other element in the story.
I should clarify that I am not encouraging a writer to plagiarise another writer's story. Although every story has been done before, when a writer creates something from scratch they will inevitably add their sense of logic and style to the story. It just comes from writing naturally.
If you wish to use another novel as inspiration, try using it as the foundation of your story and not the entire structure. If you are not sure how much to change before it becomes something completely different, consider the characters and their personalities and the key plot points in the story.
Everything else can be completely different, but if those two elements are the same, your story will not be unique.
5. Start Small with a Short Story
Of course, this is no indication that the story will be a winner straight away, so the next suggestion is to write a short story based on anything that can be used as inspiration. Previously I mentioned concept art, but you can also use writing prompts.
NOTE: You can find many writing prompts online, some ranging from a small exchange of dialogue to a few paragraphs that set the scene. From there, you write the scene itself as a short story. It’s an effective method for taking an idea and turning it into something bigger. It’s also how you can turn a short story into a full novel.
A feeling can be derived from a short story. It can be the mannerisms of the character, it could be the ambience of the world, or it could be the beginnings of a greater story. A short story allows you to experiment and discover new aspects of an idea that the source of inspiration does not provide.
On a side note; writing short stories is a great way to practice writing and develop your style. Whether you are looking to improve your writing or experiment with different ideas and genres, it’s always a good idea to do a few practice scenes before dedicating yourself to a novel.
Typically, a short story should be of a pivotal moment where characters have a conflict, or the world itself is established.
6. Write an Alternative History with a What If Question
Our history is filled with great stories, most stemming from particular events that marked us at our best and our worst. Stories from these times are either mundane or compelling, some with very clear lessons that we can all recognise and appreciate. These lessons underline the common phrase, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Of course, in the world of fiction, nothing is safe from the imagination of the writer.
A subgenre of fiction, if it can be called a subgenre, is alternative history. It’s a story based on a certain time period, but it’s a story that isn’t true. Writers sometimes turn to this subgenre so they can have an established world to work with. The writer can understand what life was like at the time, the phrases and the level of technology.
Thus, the writer can create a compelling story and a realistic one if they do enough research.
On the more creative side of alternate history, we can have fantastic stories filled with magic, supernatural elements and more. These are stories that merely use the time period and events as a setting, but most of the story’s elements are purely their own.
Finally, we have the ‘what if’ side of history. While all of these are examples of ‘what if’ scenarios, generally the major questions would affect history in major ways. More questions would be asked after that to create even more hypothetical changes in history.
For example, what if dragons were real?
Would humanity be united against them as a threat or would they be tamed for personal use? If they are tamed, would they change the course of major events in history, or only add to them? Would the results of wars change? Which nationality would have the most dragons? What are the casual uses of dragons in everyday life?
You can have a lot of fun with simple ‘what if’ scenarios.
7. Break Expectations
The final method is one that I stand by. For that reason, it is the one least tested as I don’t know if it’s something most writers do. With that said, if you do use this method, please let me know in the comments!
Whenever I was writing a short story, I tended to get frustrated with the predictability of the story. I always wanted a beginning and an end to my stories. Sometimes, the ending was clear and desirable. I would write the story, reach that ending and that would be that.
However, most times, I wanted to write a unique story and I felt the best way to do that was to break my expectations. I would force the story in another direction, or I would include a twist to break the expectations. I wanted both to challenge myself and also to regain my interest in the story.
The stories that didn’t capture my interest would receive this treatment to create a more entertaining story, but also to make the writing process fun. The stories that I was invested in would not have such sudden twists unless I initially had a twist in mind.
That being said, these broken expectations had fascinating results.
More often than not, I would have a story that I believe would make for a good novel. Not all the time, but a lot of the time. These ideas could be adapted, fleshed out and carefully plotted into a novel that would be, at least for me, interesting to write and read.
I feel that a lot of writers who are struggling to regain interest in an idea, or simply generate an idea at all, are struggling with the painful predictability of some plots. By changing things up with a sudden shift in narrative, there is a chance to stumble upon a new and exciting idea.
If you haven’t tried this yet, I recommend you do it next time you are dabbling with a short story. The result may surprise you. Or at the very least, make you laugh.
The worst thing one can do when they are lacking any new story ideas is wait it out. I was given the same flowery advice when I started writing, that hitting this creative drought meant I had to wait until the rain would come. That I would have to wait until the idea fell from the sky.
The reality is that any good idea will come to you no matter what you are doing and there is no guarantee that the idea will be any good.
The best method is to search for an idea. Enjoy your favourite inspirations, look at artworks, listen to music, read books and watch movies. Chances are you will find the idea before the idea finds you, except this time you have more to back it up. You have that feeling, but you also have a few more elements to work with other than a vague concept.
These were 7 ways to find your unique story idea and I do hope they help. If you are familiar with this writing block, what is your solution to the problem? How do you find your unique story ideas? Let me know in the comments below!
Thank you for reading and as always,
Good day, goodnight and happy writing!