Ideas take time to come by. Some people have an active imagination, and the ideas to write a story keep pushing through. Other people have one or two good ideas for stories and then struggle with their next book idea. To learn more about the inspiration for new novel ideas, keep reading.
Definition Of A Novel Idea
First, write the book you want to read and write for yourself. Even if you decide to publish your story, make sure you’re writing for yourself.
When you come up with a book idea, it’s meant to be something worth telling a story for. There’s a purpose or meaning behind it.
Now, this meaning could be educational for its audience, or it may be meant for entertainment purposes.
But where do you come up with these ideas to write a book? Again, it’s second nature to some, while others need to think and plan about what they’ll write next.
So, let’s go over how to come up with a book idea.
How To Get Story Ideas For A Novel
Ideas and inspiration are all around us in our everyday lives. However, when we come up with an idea, we need to ask ourselves the following:
- Will this tell an important, entertaining story?
- Does this idea serve a purpose to me or an audience?
- Will I enjoy writing this story?
I’ll repeat myself: you should write your books for yourself. Then, if the idea is strong and you think others would enjoy it, you can worry about getting it out into the world later.
But for now, you need to find a solid fiction writing idea. Let’s discuss ways you can become aware of the inspiration around you.
Ask, “What If?”
No matter what’s going on, an idea can spark from asking a simple question: “what if?” If you’re sitting in traffic, think about possible scenarios that could happen to a character in the same situation as you.
What if their car ran out of gas? What if all the vehicles on the highway started vanishing one by one? What if one of the cars on the road begins smoking?
Now, you may be asking, can you really write a whole novel based on the premise of the main character’s car running out of gas?
Well, I’m sure someone wrote a flash fiction or short story piece about that. Who knows?
In terms of a novel, you need to expand on your “what if” ideas.
Where was your protagonist going when their car ran out of gas? Were they meeting a friend for lunch, or now are they late for an important business meeting or job interview?
No matter what the plot is about or who your character is, something as simple as the car running out of gas can turn the day (and the scene) upside down. It can help or hinder what needs to happen to push the plot forward.
When you come up with a “what if” scenario, try writing a brief flash fiction piece about it. Then try expanding it into a short story, if the idea goes well. Further still, that might branch out into other ideas. One of those thoughts might do well as a novel.
We all do this, don’t deny it. You might be sitting at a coffee shop, keeping an eye on the young couple that walked in. Or you might be looking at the deli meat in the grocery store and overhear a couple arguing over which cheese to get.
And if someone in the bookstore is talking loudly on the phone, they deserve to have their one-sided conversation eavesdropped on.
Think about what that person on the phone is saying, though. Who do you think they’re talking to on the other end? What do you think they’re talking about? What tone of voice are they using?
All of that can be used to start a story. For example, maybe your main character hears something they weren’t supposed. Maybe it was about them, or perhaps it was about someone else they knew.
Put A Spin On Your Favorite Fairy Tale Or Myth
How many books are in the world? How many of those plots are 100% unique? Remember that every book is a different arrangement of the same 26 letters.
The fairy tale retelling market is popular. People love reading a different version of their favorite fairy tale or myth.
Once again, you must ask yourself “what if” based on a well-known plot with a beloved cast of characters and put your unique spin on it.
I find fairy tale retellings easier in a way because the characters and settings, for the most part, are already established. So, you mainly need to focus on the plot and adding original characters into the mix.
Fan fiction is another option to practice writing within your favorite fandom.
Think About Your Passions
One of the best ways to find ideas and write a fun novel is to think about your passions. What are your likes and hobbies?
For example, if you’re into candle making, write a story about a candle maker. Maybe they’re looking for an apprentice candle maker to take over the business someday. Or perhaps they’re the apprentice.
Did a candle-making session go wrong, and none of the candles have a scent? What if they lit too many candles at once and a fire breaks out in the shop?
Again, once you think of one idea, new ideas will branch from that. Before you know it, you have a plot.
Use Writing Prompts
Creative writing prompts are one of my favorite ways to think of new ideas. If I can’t think about what to write, I search for a prompt and stem ideas from that.
Prompts can be anything and everything. I typically go to a random word generator and pick a few words to throw together into one story.
You can also take inspiration from photos, dialogue, a piece of description, and anything else.
Not only do writing prompts allow you to think outside the box, but more and more ideas will come to you as you write.
Write About A Real Event
You can also turn real life happenings into a story. As long as you don’t use a person’s real name without their permission and tell someone else’s story without their permission, real life is filled with novel ideas.
For example, you can write a memoir if something happened to you that you’d like to share. On the other hand, you can take a moment from your life and turn it into a fictional situation for your cast of characters.
Write About What You Don’t Know
When I first started writing back in the day, I was always told: “write about what you know.” I think that’s true to a certain extent. If you’re a beginner writer, writing about what you know (like your passions, as mentioned earlier) is a good place to start.
But writing about what you don’t know is excellent if you want to go beyond your comfort zone, try something new, or think outside the box regarding your bubble.
How do you write about something you don’t know? First, think about something you’ve wanted to learn about. Then, think about a place you’d like to travel to someday.
Then, do the research. Read books, listen to podcasts, and talk to people with experience in that field.
If you have the means to do so, definitely try to get hands-on research done. For instance, if you have the time and money, travel to that place you’ve always wanted to visit to get hands-on experience.
What Do You Do With A Novel Idea?
Once you have an idea, it’s time to decide how you want to write it. For example, is it a short story idea? Will you work the plot enough to stretch it into a novel?
Do you have quick, brief thoughts on a topic that might work better in poetry form? For example, is your idea from something that happened to you in real life, and you don’t know if it should be fictionalized or written as a memoir?
The answer to this will come to you easily. However, before you have your idea, you may already have in mind what form of writing you want to do.
If you read a lot of poetry, try that out for yourself. Alternatively, if you read many science fiction books, chances are you’ll gravitate toward writing within that genre.
How Do You Choose A Genre?
This may sound weird, but I’ll say it anyway: the genre will choose you. At least, in my case, it did.
You may write in your favorite genre or the genre you read the most. However, you might choose a genre based on what you like in real life. For instance, if you are fascinated with ghosts, you may be more interested in writing paranormal stories.
When I first started writing, I loved watching superhero shows and reading about comics. So, some of my earlier works are fantasy about superheroes.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized I loved writing murder mysteries. I never read murder mysteries, but I always watched murder mystery tv shows and played murder mysteries and puzzle video games.
When I started writing mystery stories, I found that writing became much easier.
My point is that when it comes to choosing a genre, it might be trial and error. Your specific idea might be suited for one genre or work well within many genres. It’ll depend on what you enjoy writing the most.
Where Do You Find Your Novel Ideas?
Finding a novel idea is more simple than you think. It’s what you do with the idea that’s so important.
- Podcast Episode: What Has Inspired Your Writing?
- Podcast Episode: How Do You Choose Which Story To Write?
- Podcast Episode: What Do You Do With Old Story Ideas?
Rachel Poli is an indie author, podcaster, and content writer working on her debut cozy mystery novel.
Although she favors mystery, Rachel is a multi-genre author with too many ideas and characters in her head, often experimenting with short stories and flash fiction.
When she’s not writing, she’s reading, organizing something, or playing video games. She currently resides in New England with her zoo.