Have you ever wanted to write a book, had an inkling of what it might be about, but never really been able to find the right ideas to fill in the gaps? Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to be a writer but you just have NO idea what you want to write about? let’s look at some techniques that might help you construct a list of potential ideas. It’s time to have some fun with your imagination!
My name is Christopher Sergi. I’m a novelist and a blogger going through the same journey you are: being a writer! Feel free to comment your thoughts below on the topics that come up in this tutorial, for not only do I want you to be a better writer, but I do too! We can learn and have fun together. Want to know more about me? Click here to read my bio, or follow me on Instagram to join me on my adventures. 😉
Make a List of What You Love
So it sounds easy right? But it isn’t really, is it! As an exercise, try making a list of 5 things you as an individual like in life. Start with the usual: who, what, where, when and why.
Just as examples, you can use the questions here or you can make up your own: Who makes you happy? Who do you aspire to be like? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? What makes you excited? Where do you want to go? Where have you been that you would love to go again? When were you at your happiest? When do you think you’ll make your dreams come true? Why do you like that certain thing?
By asking yourself questions like these, you can start to compile a list of things that you like. Things you like tend to be things you like to talk about, have a good knowledge of and can talk about easily and passionately with other people. It can be the perfect method for creating that ideas list.
Make a List of What You Hate
Pretty much the same as the above method, once again, use the who, what, where, when and why questions to create a list of the things you really don’t like. If like me you’re a bit of a chatter box when it comes to things that irritate you, then just like the things you like, you’ll be able to talk about your dislikes just as easily.
Who do you hate? What makes your blood boil? Where do you dislike going? When did you last have an argument? Why are you unhappy about certain things?
With this list of dislikes, you can start to combine these dislikes with your interests to stitch together your passion. Even things you dislike are still a passion in some way, and as such are perfect examples of ideas you can integrate into a novel, especially when it comes to writing about your antagonist.
Makle a List of What Excites You
Another list, but trust me, lists work fabulously with this type of exercise. This idea came to me when I was writing my latest novel Adam and the Goat, where I thought back to all the books and all the movies I’ve ever read and watched, and considered all the scenes I really found thrilling and exciting.
The cool thing about this is that you can list ANYTHING. For example, take an action scene you liked from a specific action movie, and evaluate what it was you enjoyed about it. Was it the explosions? Was it the car chase scenes? Or the sword fights? Maybe it was all three? Even everyday things you find exciting will work in this case, like concerts, sports cars, fireworks, even candy and ice cream!
Once you have a list of exciting things you feel you might like to use as ideas for your novel, you can then slide them into a timeline, then use your interests and dislikes to perhaps fill in the gaps.
Let’s Look at an Example.
I’m going to write down a simple list of things using the methods above. This is in no way an extensive list and has only a few examples but it’ll be worth seeing the process I go through.
- Who do you aspire to be like? – Indiana Jones, because although he’s fictional, I love his thirst for adventure, his attitude and his tenacity.
- What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? – I love photography because I love to capture the world and document my interests.
- Where do you want to go? – I would love to one day go to India because I’ve always loved the look of the culture and I love the food.
- When do you think you’ll make your dreams come true? – I want to do everything soon because I’m worried I’ll get to point in my life and regret what I didn’t do.
- Why do you think certain things happen to you? – Because I’m not in control of them and I wish I had more self control and power over my life.
- Who do you hate? – Bullies, because they are bad for everyone including themselves.
- What makes your blood boil? – Animal cruelty, because I’m a naturally sensitive person and I feel the pain of others when I witness it.
- Where do you dislike being made to go to? – Work, because it takes away precious time I could use to do what I love.
- When did you last have an argument? – Not long ago, I wish I could be less angry about certain things and get on better with people, especially family.
- Why are you unhappy about certain things? – I feel powerless towards them and I wish I could do more for those who need help.
- What excites you? – In movies, I live fast car chases, big explosions and scary monster scenes!
So with the examples above I’m going to choose a few ideas from the list and you’ll be able to see how I take what I’m passionate about and turn it into a novel idea.
“As a child growing up, James always wanted to be like his movie hero Indiana Jones! He watched all the movies and pledged to one day be just like the adventuring archaeologist exploring the world!
But now James is an adult, working a boring job in a boring office hating what he never accomplished, including his desires to travel the world, especially not visiting his favourite country India.
James knows if he were to go to India he could take some incredible photos and really immerse himself in the culture, but James has a problem. After a tormented childhood of bullying, James was left with zero confidence, no friends and no prospects of love.
Now james is worried he’ll never live his dream and may only end up working in a boring office for the rest of his adult life. But when James is suddenly made redundant from his job, he explodes in anger, gets in his car to race home, but crashes.
Though he’s left unharmed, he suddenly feels a sense of freedom and a dash of confidence. That’s it, he tells himself. No longer will he stay at home taking photos of his cats, he’ll go to India, live his life and maybe find love along the way.”
You may have noticed that the story example above contained only a few of the things I had on my list from before. This is okay. You don’t have to include everything you’re passionate about. You just have to select a few you’re drawn to most, jot them down and see where they take you.
You may also notice there were some ideas in the story example that were not on my list, and that’s because you’ll find ideas are contagious. You’ll always think of other ideas when you work on just one.
If you take James above for example and how he enjoys photography, you might start to think of the things he takes photos of. What if he has photos of a girl he really likes but he has no confidence to tell her how he feels, and when she finds out he’s been taking photos of her she then thinks he’s really creepy and threatens to report him? Again, you can go wild with the possibilities if you just put your mind to it.
I really hope this has helped you exercise your brain for those golden nuggets. But ideas can be two-a-penny. You have to stitch them together and polish them up for them to really shine, but when they do, trust me, you’ll have a story that works and is original. But if you’re still unsure about a few things, hit me up by messaging me if you need some more advice, or comment below to start a discussion, or better yet, sign up to my monthly newsletter to hear the latest.
3 responses to “I Want to be a Writer But I’m Stuck for Ideas”
Good post! Thank you!
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Hi Leighhecking. Glad it could be of use to you. You’re very welcome and thank you for commenting.
I saw a Hollywood writer talking about the ‘real story.’ For him the real story was what’s going on with a character; internal and invisible. The effort is to make that visible, For example in your list, I found the items of worry about future regrets and wishing for more control the most interesting, in terms of what might draw me in to a character who expressed those ideas.