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Generating Story Ideas
By Darcie Carsner Torres

Generating a story idea can sometimes be akin to a painful birth. Every writer has had experience with writer's block. But that usually comes in the midst of writing a story. There are different techniques for handling that type of block.

But what happens when you simply run out of ideas? Where do authors and story tellers come up with the ideas for story after story, creating a seemingly endless supply of entertainment for the masses?

The key question isn't "where do story ideas come from," it's -

Where do GOOD story ideas come from?

The seeds of stories exist all around us in our everyday lives. Many of my short stories grow out of personal experience. The true or semi-true versions of these events usually serve as fodder for entry into contests. I tend to write these stories for inspirational categories.

But, our little personal life experiences can be boring to others - especially when we stick to the absolute truth.

So, what about fiction?

The real world

Fiction can find its roots in real life, as well. For instance, a friend of mine is working on a short story about a man who loses his job and goes on a small rampage on the freeway. The roots of his story come from a real-life event in Chicago. Just read the daily newspaper or internet news groups and you have a whole crop of potential stories in any genre for which you write. Each story can be purposed for your needs - there's always a new angle to be written.

Writing prompts

There is a whole host of writing websites that offer story prompts. Daily. That's a lot of story ideas for you to look through. Writer's Digest is one of those sites. Even if the prompt doesn't quite fit what you're looking for, look for an angle that does.

The epiphany

Epiphanies are some of the greatest sources for writing inspiration. They are those moments in time when sudden realization dawns on us like a lightning bolt. It sizzles through our brain and often causes us to stop whatever we are doing to ponder the particular realization and its consequences on our lives.

One particular epiphany that hit me recently was that middle age is hell. Not old age - that's a classic misconception my epiphany told me. The epiphany came about one day when I discovered that a small spot of discoloration on my leg was...God help me...a patch of varicose veins. I wasn't ready for that. It was at that moment when it dawned on me that middle age was much worse than being elderly because by the time you're 80, you don't care what new ailment or "disfigurement" pops up - you expect them. In middle age, however, old age starts to appear and you are in no way ready for it. This will be the inspiration for my next short story.


How many times do I have to tell you to read and never stop. Read everything. There is a multitude of story ideas contained in the writing of other authors. You don't have to have a completely new and unique idea - hardly anything is. But you can take the same topic and write it from a different view, from a different set of characters, or simply write it better. Of course, I'm not recommending plagiarism. Simply take what was written and spin it into something new and unique to you.


Keep a journal. I'm not a diary kind of person, but I keep a story idea journal. There are many times I come up with a great idea, but I know the idea isn't right. Perhaps I don't have a unique enough spin to interest people, or I haven't developed the right purpose for it.

For instance, I have a story I want to write called Dark Glass. It's been sitting on the burner for about a year now because I haven't had the right purpose for it - is it a short story or a novel? Knowing your purpose often determines the type of story line you will want to employ. I don't have that yet. I have some ideas, I have a beginning, but the ending and the writing must wait until I know what my purpose is in writing it.


Finally, we come to brainstorming. This is a technique I use in article writing. I usually write articles in batches, so I need to start by coming up with a list of topics before I can put pen to paper. First, I start out simply by immersing my brain in thinking about the topic and write down everything I can come up with. When I run out of ideas, I search the internet to see what other people are writing about within that topic. This usually inspires more article topics and headings than I need.

In the end, however, story ideas are inert matter until you act upon them and bring them to life. Just start writing about something - anything - and most often you will find that your own creative juices start spilling over the top with ideas that spin off of what you are writing. Sometimes, the story you write may go in the garbage, but the ideas that come out of it will be the source of something truly great.


Darcie Carsner Torres is a professional writer and editor with over 20 years of experience. She provides editing and critiquing services through CanAm Author Services,, and editing and ghostwriting services through Pen & Pestle, Her mission is to help budding authors improve their writing and get published.




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