Story Ideas: 10 Quick & Easy Tips [Novels, Short Stories, Flash Fiction]


Writers are always asked, “Where do you
get your story ideas?” And it’s a popular question for a reason. Sometimes getting
started on a new story is the hardest part of the entire process. I’m Anna
Yeatts for Flash Fiction Online. And in today’s video I’ll give you ten quick
and easy tips to help you along the way to your next short story or novel idea.
And if you stick around to the end I’ll even throw in a bonus. If you want more
content like this, head on over to Patreon and become a Patron of Flash
Fiction Online. Patrons get lots of exclusive rewards like issues of the
magazine, manuscript critiques, and personal coaching for writers from yours
truly. If you’re watching this on YouTube make sure to subscribe and to ring the
little bell for notification so you never miss an episode. You’re ready to
write but you’re coming up with nothing. You need a boost. A quick and easy story
idea. So what do you do? Here are 10 quick and easy tips to help you along
the way. Number one: Writing prompts. They’re
everywhere. As a writer it’s hard to go anywhere or
do anything these days without running face-first into like a million writing
prompts. So seriously go on Google and Google writing prompts. You can find
podcasts with writing prompts and you can subscribe to email lists that will send
you writing prompts on a regular basis. Another pro tip is when you find a
writing prompt that you might not have an idea for in that immediate moment but
you think it’s interesting, file it away. Text it to yourself or write it on index card
or a post-it note and save it for later. I’ll leave links to some of my favorite
sites that include writing prompts down below and if you have a site that you
enjoy, why don’t you leave it down in the comments and help out your your fellow
writers as well. I’m sure it’s appreciated. Number two: read the latest
news cycle. Adapt it to your genre. Apply what could go wrong.
Create a character who could have invented such a thing, done such a thing,
or whose life will be changed in a fundamental way by whatever it was that
you just read. Number three: Turn up the volume. So let’s say you have a relative
who tends to get a little bit overdramatic at the worst possible
moment. Create a character loosely based (okay but not recognizable) Create a
character who becomes completely histrionic over-the-top at the worst
moment you can think of. Or let’s say you read a story about a politician
who is accused of leaking information to the media. Well instead of being a
politician let’s go ahead and make it the ambassador for the entire world to
the rest of the galaxy and instead of just being a piece of news that they’re
leaking to the media let’s make it some secret that have given to this alien
race is going to destroy all of humanity. But you see where I’ve going with this
right? Just keep turning up the intensity and eventually you’ll come up with
something though to at least generate some kind of conflict. Number four: Use a
random story plot generator. Now I’m just gonna tell you the plots you’re gonna
get are kind of cuckoo but that’s all right. Your job is to take these plots
generated by the random plot generator and make it into a story that’s actually
a coherent whole. It’s more of a challenge than you might think but it’ll
also get you thinking in some unconventional ways. I’ll leave some
links to some random plot generators down below.
Number five: Eavesdrop. Okay so this isn’t the most socially correct thing to do
and I’m going to say do this with caution but it’s something that all
writers do. We eavesdrop. We can’t help it. You can tell who a writer is at a
restaurant or coffee shop because they are the ones like pressed back against
the edge of booth just like listening to the people behind us to see what they’re
talking about or like leaning forward saying don’t talk to me I’m listening to the
people in that booth. Okay, so you’re going to eavesdrop. You’re going to
listen to little snippets of conversation that the people around you
are having. But here’s the deal. You can’t actually take those exact people and put
them into your novel or your story. You’re gonna take the idea of what
they’re talking about, whatever it is that sparks your interest, and use that
to start your story. Let’s please not use actual real people and put them in our
stories because that usually ends poorly and really please protect the privacy of
the people around you. Please don’t get arrested. Number six: My
companion piece of advice to eavesdropping is people watching and
again please do this in a non-creepy non-threatening way. But whenever you’re
in a public space or around family and friends just watch how people interact
with one another. And the same guidelines apply here. Please don’t write about the
people around you in a way that will invade their privacy or that will be hurtful to them but watch people. Watch how they
interact, what they wear, what they do, their mannerisms, their nonverbal cues,
the relationships that play out in these tiny little dynamics that if you’re not
paying attention you would never see. You’ll find people engaged in
heartbreaking acts of kindness and you’ll also see some really horrible
moments. Use these in your fiction and again turn up the volume. And then
disguise it so we don’t know who you’re talking about. Please.
Number seven: Roll the dice. So I have gamers out there. You’re gonna love this
one. You’re gonna need some dice. Now there’re actual storytelling dice kits that you can buy on Amazon or you can make your
own. You can plot your entire novel or short story this way. You can create a
character or you can just get story ideas. So for example let’s say you just
want to come up with the genre that you’re going to use. You can use one dice
okay and that’ll give you six options or you can use two and you can get twelve.
But one for six or two for twelve, you’re gonna list out a number of regular
genres so: science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, thriller, romance in one, two, three, four, five, six. Roll the dice. Whatever you get …one two
three That’s your first genre. Then list out
six through twelve (being how many dice you’re using) I mean, I don’t know, like 14
types. Whatever. How many options you have, you’re gonna list out lesser-known
genres. Let’s say noir, spaghetti western, space opera, whatever it is you
want to use. A second set… and I’ll list a bunch for you down below. You can also
contribute your own. Okay list those out. Roll the dice again. So you might end up
writing a fantasy noir or mystery spaghetti western – because doesn’t that
sound fun? But you never know what combination you’re gonna get. A
mythological thriller. And then make it work. What kind of characters would
inhabit this genre? What kind of setting would work for
this genre? The tone and the atmosphere? And then your plot comes rolling out
from there. Number eight: Ask what could go wrong. For this one you can start with
a work-in-progress, a trunk story, a snippet of a story you’ve been working
on, if you’re stuck on a scene, or if you’re at the very beginning. If you
have a character or situation you could use this. From the news cycle or a current event. Anything will serve as a jumping-off point for this one.
Just continue to ask yourself what else can go wrong. You see, conflict is the
basis of every great story and everything that goes wrong makes your
story a little bit better. For each event list out ten ways that it can go wrong.
Choose the three most interesting ones. And then you have three try/fail cycles.
If you aren’t sure what try/fail cycles are, stick around and we’ll
discuss that in an upcoming video. Number nine is create a mind map.
Create a mind map. Choose a word or a topic or character. Write it down or draw it on
a whiteboard then branch out with central ideas that relate back to that
keyword, topic, idea or character. You’re gonna continue doing this from each
branch into a sub branch, getting more and more detailed each time until you
finally reach an idea that you can use as your jumping-off point for your plot
in your story number. 10: Mash two completely unrelated objects. This is a
fun one to do if you’re sitting around. You’re in the doctor’s office, you’re
waiting on the train, whatever you’re doing, you’re waiting at your
kid’s PTA meeting, just look around and pick two completely unrelated objects. It
could be something that’s sitting on the floor next to you and whatever
the lady next to you is holding. Okay so you might have a kitten and an orange.
Put them together and now you have to solve a murder mystery. How in the world
are you gonna make this happen? Or take two completely unrelated pieces of
clothing and come up with an entire civilization where people wear these two
things together. But sometimes the greatest part of creativity is taking
things that shouldn’t go together and making them work or take two characters
that would never ever ever fall in love and write a romance. Take two people who should never be friends, who should be complete polar opposite enemies, and send
them on a quest together. It’s when you find that conflict and you put those
people together or there’re characters together, there’s two opposite parts, that
we come up with the best stories. All right you made it the end so here’s my
bonus tip for you: never use your first idea. Never use your second idea. Keep
going. The best ideas, the most brilliant ideas, are often hidden behind some
really good ideas. But if you stop at that really good idea you’ll never get
to the brilliant idea. So keep asking what else could go wrong, what’s next,
what can make it bigger, what could make it better, what can make it harder to do,
what’s the biggest challenge I could throw at this character. Just keep going.
Write the stories that scare you. Write bigger.
Don’t be afraid to try and when you find that idea that excites you, push yourself
a little bit further. If you’re telling a friend about the story and you’re
excited and they’re excited then you really have found that idea. In the next
few episodes we’ll be talking about how to move a really good idea into an
actual story so stick around for those. I’m Anna Yeatts for Flash Fiction Online.
If you want more content like this head on over to Patreon and become a
Patron of Flash Fiction Online. Don’t forget if you’re watching this on
YouTube to give this video a thumbs up I’d really appreciate it and to hit the
subscribe button and the little bell for notifications. Thanks for watching and
I’ll see you in the next video.

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