How Do You Come Up With Story Ideas?

Where Do Your Ideas Come From?

This post is more of a question to you all than anything: how do you come up with your story ideas?

I’ve mentioned in the past that in addition to the one nearly complete novel, I’ve got several others on the go, some of which I’m more excited about than others. I was discussing this with a friend the other day and they asked the question ‘how do you come up with the ideas?’ and I literally didn’t know what to say.

Did they expect me to have a formal process? Perhaps picking a word from the dictionary and then brainstorming story ideas? In truth I have no logical explanation for how I come up with ideas. The closest I can get to articulating it is that I ask myself the question ‘what if X happened?’ Sometimes X is related to my personal experience, so I’ve got an idea at the moment about my upbringing. Other Xs are inspired by current affairs, or my take on them.

But there’s never any clear path for me. A story idea will often seem to come out of nowhere, and on top of being excited at spotting one, I’m also kicking myself ‘why didn’t I think of that before?’

Where does your inspiration come from?

In reality I probably had thought of it before, but just never in the ‘story’ context. But I think as I’m moving along in my journey towards Becoming an Author I’m more attuned to these fleeting ideas. Before they’d almost certainly pass my by, but, like a bird watcher, I know what I’m looking for, I’m getting better at knowing where to look and can spot it easier than before.

Yet, also like a bird watcher, the best story ideas tend to pop up when I’m least expecting them, and often I confuse a rare and exciting story idea for one that’s commonplace and not worth pursuing. It’s only once I’ve followed it for a little while that I come to realise it’s a pigeon, not an eagle.

OK, enough of my bad metaphors. Back to the question: how do you come up with story ideas? Do you have a process? If so, I’d love to hear what it is? And if, like me, you just keep an eye open for inspiration, how do you pick to eagles from the pigeons?

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