We’ve all been there.
The crumpled papers scribbled with horrible ideas, the dents on your forehead from where you slammed into your desk, the strained eyes that are just trying to find that one brilliant plot. You want to find the idea that will spark your fire and make you enjoy putting words on a page. However, sometimes it feels useless to just brainstorm, when after hours and hours nothing comes to fruition.
How do you find a million-dollar story idea?
Furthermore, how do famous authors find these brilliant plots and characters? Did it all just pop in their head one day? Is it all just a talent that they were born with that we mere mortals can’t obtain? Or, was it something else?
Could it possibly be a question?
You’ve read the blogs, you’ve watched the YouTube videos, you’ve even grabbed a library book on finding story ideas but nothing works. Some stories, as said before, do just pop in your head. I had one of those ‘epiphany’ moments but it wasn’t random. It was because I was asking a question that sparked story fire.
For me, my WIP came from watching a movie. I saw a detail in the background and it just caught my eye. It wasn’t even what the story was about but I immediately thought, “Huh, what if there was a book just about this?”
It was so random at first, or at least that’s what it felt like. I had been looking for a story idea for weeks and had tried some plotting, character brainstorming, and even writing but they all just fell through.
I just couldn’t find ‘The One’.
It had been hard, waiting for a story idea to just drop in. When this idea came, I was stunned and foolishly my brain trailed off to titles and covers.
However, I finally buckled up, got serious, and asked myself, “Would I want to read something about that? Would I even want to write it?”
The wheels started turning.
Also, because I’m writing a book with chess involved, I grabbed my little sister and forced her to play a game while I took notes.
Yet, you may be wondering, what do I get out of this? Do I just have to wait for a story idea to just pop in? What if I told you there is a way to skip all the messy doodles, random ideas, and endless hours?
Trust me, most stories begin simply because the author asked one simple question. Usually starting with what if.
Ask the Question
What if there was a wizard school? (Harry Potter) What if there was a cyborg Cinderella? (Lunar Chronicles) What if there was a famous genius who gets captured but makes a suit to free himself? (Iron Man) What if there was a woman ashamed of her family’s frivolity and has a hate-to-love relationship with a proud, wealthy gentleman? (Pride and Prejudice)
Now, I’m sure that these weren’t the exact questions the authors asked but ideas usually spark this way. They asked the ‘what if’ question. You see, the ‘what if’ question gives writers tons of freedom. It allows crazy and ridiculous ideas to form and doesn’t pressure them to serve the masses and write fantasy romances just because people read a lot of fantasy romances. It can start so much creativity with one simple question.
The ‘what if’ question can bring about your new story idea.
Now, this is the hard truth. You can’t force an idea but you can use special ways to bring it about. The ‘what if’ question does that.
So, what if (I have to stop using those two words), you thought of something. Your pulse rises a little and you jot the question down. For example:
What if some humans on Earth were actually aliens all along?
You nod and then start thinking of characters… wait, stop! Before you go further ask yourself the questions from before.
- Would this be something I want to read about?
You could potentially be working on this story for years. Don’t sacrifice yourself just because it might be a ‘good’ idea and it’s all the rage. I promise you, most books out there are the ones the author sat down and said, “Hey, I would love to read this.” Chances are, hundreds if not thousands of people would also want to read it.
- Would I want to write it?
That’s even more important. As stated before, is this something you would want to put your blood, sweat, and tears into? Is this story idea compelling you? Of course, you don’t know the full plot yet or even the characters, but there should be a desire. A desire to work with this idea and let it grow. For me, it had been a simple question, and then from it, I asked another question. Suddenly, I found myself desperate for it. I couldn’t not write it. For me, this story became a part of me. The characters became, even more, a part of me.
So, if you’re not ready to write about aliens or space or whatever you saw the book shaping to be then that story idea is not ready for you.
Ask a question about the world. Something different, something wild. Don’t be afraid of the question but embrace it and fill it with your most desperate imaginings. Don’t play to what’s cool, or what’s popular, but something you would want to read. There are readers just waiting for that story.
So, what if you came up with your idea today?
In this article, we looked at the simple, yet brilliant way to find your story idea. Next time, we will look at how to flesh it out and bring it to life through the purpose behind your stories. Look out next for finding you theme and message! You won’t want to miss it!
If you want a free worksheet on how to ask these what-if questions along with some other helpful tidbits, then go to the Resource page! Also, check out the previous post: Start Your Story… Now. Remember to subscribe so you may receive writer worksheets, articles, and more delivered straight to you inbox. Share this article with other authors who are looking to find their story idea!
Keeping on writing and changing the world with your stories!