Book ideas come to authors through many channels. Through history or current events. Emotion or indignation. Through legends, songs and legends. Family jokes and drama. If you’re looking for your next great story idea, try these 12 sources of inspiration:
12 Creative Ways to Find Ideas for Books:
- Discover myths and legends
- Investigation of historical events
- Find book ideas in documentaries
- Find story ideas in magazines
- Use the story brainstorming tool
- Topic archives
- Talk again about other stories
- Try new experiences
- Use short stories to test ideas
- Ask “what if?” Questions
- Get inspired by music
- Find new ideas in creative constraints
Let’s explore these ways to come up with story concepts:
1: Discover myths and legends
There are wonderful legends in cultures all over the world, both contemporary and ancient.
An example of an interesting legend – Persephone
In the Greek myth of Persephone, the daughter of the goddess Demeter was kidnapped by the king of the underworld, Hades. While Demeter searches extensively for Persephone, she neglects her duties of stewardship of the natural environment and crops wither and die.
She eventually made a deal with Hades whereby she could have her daughter for three quarters of the year. (And so the legend explains why we have winter.)
Why myths are useful for finding story ideas
Myths often inspire book ideas for the following reasons:
- They contain powerful symbols and images that can be linked to (For example, the world literally freezes while a mother searches for her daughter)
- that they Often has an illustrative purpose (The differences between the Earth’s seasons are illustrated by Demeter’s blacksmith)
- Myths give us effective story structures Show cause and effect (kidnapping and search, hostility and decisiveness, crime and punishment)
Read the legends and think of their creative potential for book ideas. you may:
- Write a novel that reimagines the myth in a contemporary setting. How would Demeter’s research differ in a concrete urban forest?
- Write a novel that draws on the story structure of a legend (For example, a mother looking for her daughter has to make a deal with her daughter’s captor)
What if you wanted to find story ideas through a realistic source rather than a mythical one?
2: Investigation of historical events
Book ideas drawn from historical events are everywhere.
Example: Markus Zusak’s famous 2005 novel book thiefOn the power of writing (and reading) under an oppressive regime.
Real historical events give us more than just biblical insights. It gives us current characters to research, imagine and reinvent, along with settings, moods, and details that will bring your story to life.
As this article suggests on how to write historical novels, you could base a novel on Ernest Hemingway’s time in Paris in the 1930s, for example.
The historical event you’re using doesn’t have to be a major event or disaster either. It could be something as trivial as a short (invented, even) love affair between two important historical figures.
How does relying on historical events for book ideas differ from writing historical novels? You don’t have to recreate the exact era as it was. Instead, you can:
- Use story details from a historical event and modify the elements (places, names, dates) to create your own fantasy
- Make historical events important for your characters’ backstory But not the main focus of the story
3: Find book ideas in documentaries
Visual resources are especially useful for finding new story ideas.
Documentaries expand your knowledge of a topic. They can also make you think about how something worked, why something happened and lead to your own “what if” questions.
Ideas you can discover by watching documentaries on topics that interest you, you can include questions such as:
- “What if a vaccine against S. a dangerous disease has never been developed before?” (The idea of a historical fairy tale review)
- “And what if they were assaulted by a man filming and living among the bears?” (This is actually the introduction to Werner Herzog’s disturbing documentary grizzly man).
4: Find story ideas in magazines
Keeping a journal is an invaluable exercise for writers.
Besides helping you process and understand your thoughts and impressions, it helps you remember the little anecdotes and interesting anecdotes you hear throughout the day. Many eliminations can easily turn into bigger, more interesting stories.
Famous authors who have kept journals of their daily lives include Anis Nin, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, and many others. Wolf told Journalism and Creative Writing:
[T]The advantage of this method is that it accidentally sweeps up many stray matters which I should rule out if I hesitate, but diamonds are a pile of dust.
Virginia Woolf, citing Maria Popova in “Famous Writers About the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary”, brains selection.
If you don’t keep a diary yet, it’s easy to make this part of your day. Keep a journal by your bed and write 10 minutes each night before the lights go out. Write down any story ideas that come to mind in the process or as you read previous entries in the back of the book.
5. Use the story brainstorming tool
Rude Self-Promotion Time: The “Central Idea” section of the Now Novel dashboard is dedicated to finding a story idea of your interest and asking simple, step-by-step questions.
From here your outline grows organically as you add character profiles, scene outlines, drag and drop scene, and class structure to organize your story to write your draft.
Make a plan to finish
Create an organized chart that grows according to your ideas.
6: Preposition theme archives
The archival material themselves – primary documents – can be great sources of inspiration.
You might find an old character written in a script that inspires you with the idea of a fictional character writing romantic or comedic letters, for example.
Online digital archives include the British Library’s large online image collection (including newspapers dating back to the 17th century), the US Digital Public Library (which includes options to search for material by geographic location), and many more.
7: Go back to other stories
As advised by Stephen King and countless other authors, you need to read to become an author.
Other people’s stories show us a lot about how to plan, characterize, create fantasy worlds, and more.
Existing novels are also great sources for the idea for a book.
Examples of successful books inspired by other authors
Many famous books have been written in response to (or in dialogue with) previous stories.
Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize Winner hours (1998) adapted from Virginia Woolf’s modernist novel Mrs. Dalloway (1925).
Like Woolf’s novel, Cunningham’s book begins with a woman named Clarissa preparing to host a party, but who lives in contemporary New York rather than Victorian England.
Cunningham also weaves the author’s Wolf as a character, creating a complex fantasy world in which echoes of the famous author’s novel about love and madness coincide with the author’s struggles with mental health and their tragic consequences.
Another respected novel inspired by a famous work is Jane Rhys. The wide Sargasso sea (1966). It tells a story from the point of view of a minor character in Charlotte Bronte Jane Air (1847) “The Madman” in the Attic.
When inspired by a novel for your work, you can:
- Tell a new story based on the perspective of a silent or absent secondary character (as Jane Rhys)
- Retell the same story in a different time period with new events and mixing deviations from the record (often called “creative non-fiction”)
8: Try new experiences
Supposedly Benjamin Disraeli wrote:
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
What he actually wrote, in 1738 (according to the Quote Investigator) was similar:
If you will not forget
Once you die and rot,
Either you write things worth reading,
Or do things worth writing.
Benjamin Disraeli Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1738.
If you are finding it difficult to come up with a book idea, actively seek out new, unusual experiences.
You may have never visited a particular town close to yours. Or you’ve always wanted to learn a particular skill.
Pursue new experiences that broaden your perspective. Go to local conversations about topics of interest in your area. Becoming a great storyteller starts with intense curiosity about the world around you.
9: Use short stories to test ideas
Starting a novel is hard. Finishing a novel is hard, too. Both require commitment, dedication and constant work.
Writing a short story is a good way to test the idea of a book. Many famous literary works began as short stories that the authors used as practical work. The late Toni Morrison’s first book began as a short story, for example.
When writing a short story, ask yourself:
- Can I expand this idea into an entire novel?
- What are the reasons for making the story longer?
Find a reason to increase the length of your short story (eg your character is making an important decision – what will the outcome be?) This could be the guiding idea for your book.
10: Ask “what if” questions?
What if Germany and its allies won the Second World War? What if a cure for a large virus is found and drug companies refuse to produce it for fear of losing profits? What if a giant cockroach man woke up?
Often, simply asking “what if” questions is a productive creative exercise. That’s why it’s part of the Now Novel story that defines the dashboard.
“What if” questions are especially useful for creating ideas for science fiction or speculative books. Thinking about how a fictional world differs from ours will help you create a complex alternate reality.
11: Get inspired by music
The idea for the book doesn’t have to come from a visual or written source.
Try creating a playlist of different songs or music tracks and do some free writing while the music is playing in the background. Let the mood of the music transform into the mood and tone of your writing.
Listening to music while writing can be distracting. However, the atmosphere or emotions evoked by the music may draw you in interesting directions other than your current creative frame of mind.
12: Find new ideas in creative constraints
A French group of mathematicians and writers, OuLiPo (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle), wrote using “Limitations” to explore the creative possibilities of writing with random grammar.
One of the authors, Georges Peric, wrote an entire novel without using the letter “e” (most common in French). the novel disappearance He also uses the disappearance of the letter as a focal and ambiguous point in the plot.
Another famous author, Italo Calvino, wrote a book based on the premise that a man climbs trees and decides not to go down again.
Each of these ideas shows the magic that can happen when you allow yourself to play, imagine and explore the improbable or the possible.
Use the Now Novel dashboard to define your story and brainstorm, from first ideas to characters, plot, and setting.