We all have a million excellent ideas for stories, but, without fail, they magically disappear the minute we sit down to write. It seems impossible, but it happens constantly. Hours are wasted staring at a blank page. And, no matter how many cups of coffee are in our systems, we still can't find the energy to kick our muses into gear and develop story ideas.

Have no fear: I have five ways that will help pump up your creativity muscle and build story ideas that will keep you writing for hours on end. Here they are.

1. Reinvent a scene from a book.
Take a very small, seemingly non-important scene from one of your favorite books and consider what it'd be like if that were the opening scene to your novel. Change the characters of course, and add one or more unique elements to that scene. The key is to give you a starting point and then let your imagination run wild. While there are many ways to stay inspired, this challenge really takes something that you love (an old book) and gives it new life.

2. Use junk mail as inspiration.
Take the next two pieces of spam mail you receive (either snail mail or e-mail) and use it to determine the profession on your protagonist and your protagonist's love interest. I get this type of mail all of the time, particularly from politicians, credit card companies and auto dealerships-and that's just what's delivered by the United States Postal Service! When I add in the junk sent to my e-mail inbox, I get "foreign ambassadors from Nigeria" looking for million dollar loans and women begging me to click through to get "erotic" pictures of them. Any one of these jobs will lead to many fun and unusual situations-and will give you plenty of fodder to write about.

3. Invent a history for someone with whom you've lost touch.
We have all had friends in our lives from grade school, high school or college that we knew quite well back then, but haven't seen much (if at all) since. In fact, most of their lives are a mystery to us. Pick one of those old friends and write about the life they've been leading ever since you lost touch. What happened in his or her family life? What career path did he or she choose? Was he or she involved in something that led them to a life of crime? The possibilities are endless, which should drive you to be as creative as possible. 

4. Eavesdrop on a conversation.
Just because you're stuck in a bit of a funk when it comes to ideas doesn't mean that other people are. Take your notepad or laptop out of the house, sit down somewhere and observe the scenery around you-and listen to any and every conversation within earshot. You can do this at a park, restaurant, coffee shop or, my personal favorite, a bar (people who have a few drinks in them tend to share the best stories). Remember, jot down all the stories you hear but be sure to give them a twist to make them your own.

5. Find a writing prompt and run with it. 
Sometimes the best cure for writer's block is to let someone else start your story for you. You can search the web and find a number of sites that offer them, or check out our database of creative writing prompts that gets updated every Tuesday. And who knows: The idea you get from a writing prompt may be just the inspiration you need to spark your creativity and write a short story or novel that sells.

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Also... Make stuff up as you go along!

This worked for Indiana Jones as he chased the Nazis who stole the Ark of The Covenant from him.

It allows you to free your mind and throw things at your fans they may not have even expected to happen.

Sometimes following the standard issue rules can lead to making a product that too closely resembles everything else.

This is very good. Thank you for posting. But you said something that gets us all. Staring at a blank screen. Like the story will write itself. I hope there is someone here like me. But I never write the great American novel by looking at the screen. It never pops into my head. 1st you have an idea. Start writing. I know it sucks because you write page after page of something you'll never use. But this will get you kick started. You will cut/erase all those pages but now you have a basis to go off of.

I don't care if all you have is a cool ending. Write it.

A great premise. Write it.

A awesome action scene. WRITE IT

There is never a substitute for writing. Never another way to FORGE your work. But to get in the work shop and CLANG AWAY!

6. collect a series of pictures from anywhere, from the net, family photos, strangers, objects, etc. Arrange them, connect them with a story, rearrange them, reconnect them with a new story.

7. take a current event, change the faces, culture, technology, time, setting.

8. a picture is worth 1000 words, folded in half it's 2000, anyway Thaddeus your 5 ways work for picture makers too. Thanks!

Awesome post, my problem is I can never finish my stories. I started two great stories, but maybe I should make them in to short stories?

If you cannot finish long tales, perhaps you should try to turn them into short stories. Then by practicing short stories you may find the desire to finish or create longer stories will grow with practice. 

Finishing is very difficult for some people (I am one of them) so it behooves you to practice whenever possible. Practice writing outlines, it helps significantly with finishing because the outline should include the resolution to your tale within it.

Try Snowflaking as a method of outlining. There are many different ways to outline, though, so if it doesn't work for you, try something else.

As always, never give up.

Thaddeus

Hub City Blues

Thanks, will do!

When you first meet someone you never know if they will accept your attempt at the initial conversation and listen to you. You certainly do not know what they will say or if you will get to know them in any consequential way but you blurt something out anyway and the interaction takes on a life of its own. Maybe you have a one off convo or maybe you found your true love but you never know unless you make that first attempt. Many times in the past an idea for a story would come to me but be so basic and elementary that i knew it wouldn't work. I tried to start writing but get stuck trying make logical sense out of it. I realized that all novels have a storyline that initially grabs the reader but what makes the novel great is the author 's skill at the twists and turns of developing that simple storyline. How the protagonist/antagonist works their way to resolution of the issue. What is the deal with the people who help/work with them. How the details are worked out by the author is what makes the novel good or bad. Once i realized that i always write my initial ideas down. It often is just a paragraph but that is all it takes to be my memory peg. When you first get a story idea you never know if others will like it or not. You should write your first idea down as complete as you can and then put it aside while you do something else. Come back to it later. You mess up a good story when you bum rush it just like you can mess up a good relationship when you bum rush it.

The one thing that helps me keep those ideas from disappearing is to write them down immediately. If I can whip out a brief outline that works better.

This is some pretty sound information. Thanks for the drop Thaddeus. 

This post is timeless.

Thanks for this Drop Thad

I understand how you feel. I've found out that when starting with an idea it is helpful to summarize/plot the beginning scene and the ending scene first and then work the middle. That way an awesome beginning will inspire a great ending avoiding whatever exhaustion of inspiration and creativity one might have by the time you would get to the ending if worked otherwise.

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