The truth is that active writers will produce more great ideas than they can use in a lifetime. Having a life and a daily writing practice will do more to generate new and fresh ideas than anything else.
However, there are ways to produce ideas in a more planned way. Pick the decent ones and develop them a little to see if they go anywhere. If not, move on and trust that the seeds of such exploration will sprout when the time is right.
So how can you generate ideas? These are what work for me. You may find some methods more helpful than others, and several items are geared toward specific genres (such as crime fiction).
- Writing prompts
- Story starts
- Writers group challenges
- News items or articles
- Writing the story behind a song
- Riffing off books, plots, and characters you love (caution, be influenced by them but make the idea your own)
- Word lists (Ray Bradbury’s method)
- Memory prompts
- Legends and myths
- Overheard conversations
- Police blotter
- Change in routine (you’ll be amazed how changing your routine can wake up that part of your brain)
- Doing something scary (same as above, it jump-starts that part of your brain)
- “What if”
- Historical events
- Family stories
- Old photographs
- Book title lists
- Imagining the future
- Watching documentaries
The more you take in and filter through the writer mind, the more opportunities there are to make new connections and generate story seeds. This is useful if you are struggling with creative log jam (too many ideas) or a dry spell (ideas that won’t come forth). However, the best way to generate story ideas is to write every day and maintain a lively daily writing practice.