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planning a story

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Writing

How To Find Your Next Story Idea

23/08/2019

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it.
That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”

― Octavia E. Butler

Thinking of your next story idea is probably the most important, and the best place to start when writing. Without an idea, where do you go from there?

This is post will tell you how to come up with your next idea to help you plan your story.

Remember, you don’t need a very intricate idea to start with, just the main premise.

This is my way of doing things, it might not be how everyone else plans or writes…

First, I like to create my main character, and the thing they will do; Overcome something, find something, achieve something etc…

For example, “Boy buys a pair of shoes that transport him to the previous owner’s life.” – Yes, I did just think of that on the spot…
Within that example, you have an understanding of what the MC (the main character) is going to do, to set off the story.
You can then plan how he comes about getting the shoes, and what happens after.
Easy right?

The biggest tip I have is – Just don’t overthink it, go with it.

If you have started an idea that you then begin to hate, see if you can tweak it around a little bit.
If not, start again! No one likes to write a story they already dislike.
Write about what you want to read.


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Lets Start Writing!

Let start with the characters, the most exciting part!

I love creating characters and having them be exactly how I want them.

Depending on their character and personality, I find it easier to then create the main premise around them.

Or, on the other hand, you might want to think of the main plot first, then choose a character to fit within it.


Finding Your Character

You might want to look around and find some inspiration first. This could be a character from a film you have watched or even someone you know.

I tend to look on sites like Pinterest or Tumblr for physical features I like, just search for character inspiration or models with attributes you’re thinking of.

Once you have a bit of physical inspiration, its easier to create an image if you don’t already have one.

Now let’s create your MC.

  • Think of what sexuality you want them to be, and their sexual preference (or it could be anonymous).
    This is a huge part of a character, once you have decided this, it’s easier to create their image and personality, and in the long run, decide who the other characters will be.
  • How old you do want them to be?
    Think about their age. This also leads to discovering their maturity levels, and the background bits; do they go to school or have a job etc…
  • Personality.
    Before you can create their image, think of what their personality will be like.
    Are they outgoing or shy?
    Do they invite people in or shut them out?
    You can find lists online to creating your characters in-depth, here is one I have used before! – Character Questionnaire
  • Their appearance!
    You don’t need to go into too much detail when thinking of the main story idea, but it’s nice to have the image in your head.
    Think about the main immediate things like; hair colour, skin colour, height, weight, clothing preference and their different features (freckles, tattoos, scars?).

Now you should have a better idea of your main character, mostly for you to be able to have them in your head and see them as if they are a real person! Don’t worry if you don’t fully understand your character yet, you can always go back to planning them again in more detail.


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The Main Story Idea

Now we can think of the basics of what is going to happen in the story. Remember again, you don’t need to go in-depth here yet either, you can go into that later.

Here we are just thinking of that main sentence or even a short synopsis of what’s going to happen in the story.

Character First

  • You either have figured out your main character by now, or you are doing that next. This step requires the main character in mind.
    What do you want them to achieve?
    Do you want them to overcome something and rise above a personal issue, or something physical?
    Your main character should develop throughout the story. Otherwise, what’s the point?
    Write down a few scenarios, for example; Tommy wants to win the race, Tommy wants to gain confidence and join the sports team, Tommy wants to save his mother from a house engulfed in flames.
    (Wow you can really see how my story writing mind works here!)

Setting First

  • Let’s have a look at finding the idea without the main character in mind too.
    I find it easier to think of the setting first, or you could think of the type of conflict you want to happen
  • Choose the setting – If you don’t have your character yet, or if you do, find the setting you want them to be in.
    For example, maybe you could have them in a school, on a holiday, at a camp, or just in their hometown.
  • Choose the conflict/s – Again, you can decide this with or without the main character in mind, but it does help to have an understanding of the personality of the character first before deciding the conflict.
    You might think of; Beating the bully, getting the girlfriend, or surviving a disaster. Try to think of multiple things and write them down.

Tie It Together

  • Now tie them all together to create a mini synopsis or paragraph of your story idea!
    Here’s the one I have from what’s written above;

Tommy isn’t very big, or very strong. He wants to join the rugby team since his dad is so disappointed, he is nothing like him. So, Tommy joins the summer camp scheme and comes home bigger and stronger. His dad, however, doesn’t care, until Tommy saves their lives after a disaster in their home. 

Now, of course, I don’t think that idea is exactly amazing, but it’s a story! A very simple short story that can be easily written. Of course, if you are writing a longer story, include more scenes and more detail.

If I was to write this story, I would start with Tommy’s relationship with his dad, then him joining the camp, then him saving their lives. OR you can go backwards. Start with the disaster in small detail, then go back to the start and give the story more depth.


To conclude, I really hope that helped you to come up with your short story idea.

When you are ready, make sure you read my post on How To Plan a Short Story In Four Easy Steps so you can continue your story writing process!

If you need any more help or want to talk about ideas, message me on social media!

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