As any author can tell you, there’s no one way we get our ideas. In fact, we get our ideas from everything: stuff that goes on in our lives, the people we know, current events, books, TV shows, movies, video games, from a phrase, from a place, from something we like or something we hate, and from more things than I can list. It’s the actual spinning of the story that can be rather difficult. We have the start of an idea, but we need to build up the story around it. Who’s the protagonist, what’s going to happen, where and when is it going to happen, why is it happening, etc. And depending on the author, the idea, and where it came from or what it consists of, the story based on the idea can come either very quickly or take a while.

For me usually it doesn’t take too long to come up with a story once I have the idea. There’s one notable exception however, and that’s when the idea revolves around a character and nothing else. By this I mean a character pops into my head, maybe no more than just an image but still a character, and I want to write a story around that character. And it isn’t easy for me to come up with that idea.

Other inspirations don’t take that long. I saw the movie Schindler’s List and came up with a whole book series based around the idea of someone actually leading a rebellion against the Nazis. Remember when I went to the Sky Steele show a week back? I had an idea from something we talked about after the concert involving a supernatural crime story. And a creature featured in a fantasy TV series I watched last year inspired a story about how religion can actually kill you. All of this happened within minutes or hours of being inspired.

But starting out with an intriguing character and little to nothing else? It takes me days to come up with a story to match. In fact, of the last ten ideas for novels I’ve had, half of them were based around characters and took me days to actually come up with an idea I could write down on my list of feature-length ideas (I’m up to 145 of those, by the way. Unless I can become successful enough to write full-time, I’m not sure I’ll be able to write them all!). They all started with one or two characters, maybe a setting, but all of them took days to come up what they would be doing or what would happen to them. The most recent one, which I first started trying to brainstorm a story around on Tuesday, I finally got something today.

Sometimes, the gears in my head turn so loudly, you can hear them.

What happened was that I saw this Halloween-themed video (which I will have to post about when October rolls around) and I got a little scared by it. Not only that, but I also kind of fell in love with one of the characters in the video and decided to base an entire Halloween-based story around her. Just one question: what kind of story? Finally figured out today to base the story around ancient myths about Samhain, the holiday Halloween is based on, but up until then I could not think of a single thing to base the story around. Well I did, but none of them really worked for me. I couldn’t see myself writing something around those other story possibilities, let alone anything I thought would be good. I’m glad that I was able to finally come up with something though, or might have gone a little madder than usual.

You know, as much as I love getting ideas for stories, I hope that in the future these sort of ideas, the ones that take several days to form and usually start with a single character, pop into my head less often. And when they do, I hope it takes less time to come up with a story based around them.

What about you? What sort of ideas do you struggle to create stories around?

What do you do when you’re struggling with an idea and can’t think of anything?

  1. I’m barely writing anymore (fiction that is), but when I still used to, I often had the idea for a great start to a story and I had a vague idea of how it should end, but oh my, did I have difficulties getting there. Mostly, it helped to do something entirely different and to try and not think about it at all. Also, I always had a notebook beside my bed because I had the weirdest and sometimes greatest ideas when I was about to fall asleep.

    • I keep a notebook as well, which I jot down ideas in until I can get them on my flash drive. I’ve filled up almost half of it with little jottings here and there.

      Getting ideas can be easy, but getting stories from them can be extremely difficult. Thanks for sharing.

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