Tips for coming up with story ideas

Good stories center on the clashing of characters’ goals and motivations. If trying to come up with a compelling story idea, as you go through your day think of situations in which characters can come into conflict with one another.

Here are three such areas you can mine for story ideas:
• Scour the news – Headlines are a source of great stories. Always ask “what if” in conjunction with the headline and then build the story from there: “Boat capsizes, leaving 115 dead” – but what if there were 116 passengers? What happened to the one who survived? How did he survive? Ask “What is the real story?” Why did that boat capsize? Did it carry a spy or someone with information who needed to “disappear”? Was it revenge for not paying up to the local mob?
• Add a family member – Usually in happy families, each member has found a satisfying position or roll in it. Think about the different people you pass each day and disrupt this happy family by adding one of them as a new member. For example, what if the family discovered that once the father had a child with another woman? What if a single mother out of the blue marries a man, giving her children a stepfather? What if half-siblings suddenly come to live with a remarried man and his wife and children? How must each character change so that happiness can be restored?
• Enter a portal – Symbolically, going through a door, turnstile, window or other opening is an entryway into another world. Look for such portals during your day and ask what would happen if your main character passes through a portal in which he shouldn’t go – a poor man into a bank’s vault, an escaped slave on a train heading west, a custodian into a scientist’s experimental wormhole? How does entering this portal change your main character’s life? What obstacles does your main character face in this new world? Would the main character want to stay there?


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.