Generating Story Ideas

Success You

Ep 06: Generating Story Ideas

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Where Do Story Ideas Come From?

Oh my stars…look around!

I mean literally everything you see, touch, smell, hear, and taste has the potential to be a story starter – the inspiration of a book. But, no matter where your story comes from, you must nurture that inspiration.

The simplest way to explain where story inspiration comes from is to think in terms of a harvest. We’ll use sweet corn because I’m from the Midwest, and we love our sweet corn.

Sweet corn comes from a kernel.

That kernel is planted in nutrient rich soil, watered, and given a lot of warm Midwest sun rays throughout the months of June, July and August. During the nurturing months, the kernel becomes a stalk and then ears of corn. The corn is eventually plucked and sold – and becomes a delish dinner dish on my table.

Story inspirations are the same.

You first have an idea, an inspiration. You must nurture that one inspirational idea, and this works in both fiction and non-fiction. It’s your roadmap of writing your story.

When I write fiction I use my surroundings, daily interactions, and events of my life to shape my characters, scenes and plots. I love to observe people. People excite me. I’ve been told I am a dialogue rich writer – because I observe real people doing and saying real stuff, not things I am trying to pull out of my buttocks.

My mind goes a mile a minute during events…like the time I was rushing out of a hospital because a tornado was sweeping across the city, had to stay and help move patients, only to find a 15 minute commute would take over an hour in torrential downpours, 50 mph winds, and limited street access.

Or that time when I got onto the Pink Cadillac tour bus…what a disgusting mess!
The idea of taking small ideas or observations and nurturing them into stories is what I call Author Story Starters. 

Start with Observation

Stop. Look high, low, and side to side. Inspiration and story starters are all around us. Embrace the sights, sounds, smells, tastes… . What is it you feel while the wind dances across your face, or the sun heats your skin from above? 

When I walk my dog, I choose different locations throughout the week. During this time I notice: 

  • Horses frolicking 

  • Smoke billowing from power plants

  • People biking: young to the older

  • A man recovering from back surgery

  • An aged dog enjoying her last years with her owners 

Is there anything particularly interesting about horses frolicking or smoke billowing from power plants? Probably not, however to a “storyteller” our minds go full speed thinking of what if…

Now, if you don’t consider yourself a storyteller, that’s cool. You can become one if you learn to ask the correct questions…

Ask the powerful “What if”

Let’s go back to our horse frolicking in the pasture example. I’m fortunate enough to see this daily, most will not. So let’s take a more common one, smoke billowing from power plants. I bet you see smoke coming from either a power plant or a building at least once per day…if not, just pretend for a moment. 

For me, I think of where is the smoke coming from, why is it billowing, how does it do that…then I go deeper and further into my storytelling parts of my brain. Being a romance writer in the fiction genre, I think of: 

What if a woman is looking out the window? 

What if a man is looking into the window? 

What if a frumpy looking woman is looking out the window…

What if a high-affluent dressed man is looking out the window…

What if neither are really looking at one another…

What if the billowing from the building is a fire…

What if the man is trying to see into the building…

 See how the what if question gets you thinking and jump starts your storytelling? 

Think of a child. Have you asked a child what if…

Oh my, the answer is a crazy, yet amazing story. I love children and their storytelling abilities. No, the stories don’t always make sense; they use the what if and just go with it, unlike adults who stop ourselves and try to be rational immediately. 

When you are doing the what if don’t limit yourself, you won’t have all the answers. The story will eventually come to you, through the process of continually asking yourself, what if. 

The End…

The process of finding inspiration and turning inspiration into a story is about asking what if and then answering that question. 

And repeat. 

You continue the process until you have a working outline, or a book in progress. 

If you’d prefer not observing your surroundings and events of the day, you can head to my website and pick up your copy of Author Story Starters, 500+ ideas that can help you start your first or next book. This is for those of you who just want to do, not think. 

So how do you generate story ideas? I’d love to hear about your process! 

Leave a comment and let’s talk about it.

That’s all for this episode and post. 

Remember this…You’re just one word away…

I appreciate each and every one of you for listening and reading the transcript or the blog post. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. You can always email me at and I will personally reply (generally depending on where I am with my current book or project). 

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