Writers shouldn’t wait for inspiration to hit in order to start writing. Writers write every day, even if it’s just a journal entry or a 100-word flash fiction piece. Somedays all a writer can manage to get on paper is a shopping list. But writers don’t wait around. Dan Poynter said it best: “If you wait for inspiration to write, you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.
So where can one find inspiration? Here are my answers to that question.
Yep, that’s right. Your best stories could be right under your nose! Did you have an unconventional childhood? Have you had an epic adventure that either went spectacularly well or horrifically wrong or a little of both? As an adult, are you taking care of your aging parents? All of us have stories to tell. You can go the memoir route, even if it’s just for the eyes of family and friends. But you can also give your fictional characters some of your experiences. We often give our characters some of our physical or emotional traits, so why not our experiences, be they good or bad? If you look back on the things you’ve been through, you’re sure to have a lot of material to draw on!
Your friends and family will also have many personal experiences different from yours, and that is a potential wealth of stories. If you decide to write about someone else’s experiences, please get their permission first! You probably don’t want to make others angry or get into any sort of trouble, so please ask beforehand. Be respectful if it’s not your story to tell!
But if you get the go-ahead, it can open up many possibilities to you!
This is a great one! If you go and sit at a coffeehouse for a while, you can see and hear some great things. You might hear a snippet of conversation so shocking or funny that it sparks a story idea. You might witness flirtations – either between two customers or between a barista and a customer. You might even have someone at the coffeehouse do something bold, like come up to you and ask you out! You never know, and that’s the beauty of it.
Even if story ideas aren’t sparked, coffeehouses are a wonderful place for character inspiration. It’s always a good idea to keep a running list of physical and emotional traits that we can give to future characters, but we can also make notes of mannerisms, speech patterns, and quirks. Then when you do get a story idea, you can look back at your list and have fun drawing up your characters!
I’m a big fan of retellings, and there is so much inspiration to draw on out there. In fact, I did do this! My book, A Sky Full Of Stars, is a retelling of Pretty In Pink, one of my favorite movies. I took the basic story but also made some changes to make it modern. Do you have a favorite book or movie that you’d like to put your own spin on?
Everything is getting the retelling treatment, from fairy tales to Shakespeare, so if there’s an older work out there that you absolutely love, why not try it? I know I will definitely do a retelling again in the future!
Photos are fantastic story starters! Sure, you may take a photo yourself that gives you an idea for a story, but if you’re not much of a shutterbug, there are several stock photo websites where you can browse and soak up inspiration. One of my favorites is https://unsplash.com/. You can search by topic or browse collections that are already curated. It can be a huge time suck, so be careful!
I should also mention http://www.100wordstory.org/. They have a different photo prompt each month, and you can submit your 100-word story inspired by that photo right there on the website. This can be not only fun, but it’s a great way to warm up for your writing session or to pull you out of writer’s block.
I use this one quite a bit, and there’s never a shortage of writing prompts out there! Online, just search “writing prompts” and you’ll have many hits. You can also do a search for a random word generator. These are so fun! Most random word generators will let you choose how many words you’d like to see, ranging from one to ten. So, you can get a list of three words, and make up a story using those words. If you’d like more of a challenge, you can get a longer list of words.
You can also search for #writingprompt on Twitter and Instagram for ideas. I do recommend keeping a list of writing prompts that you like – you never know when you might need one!
Again, you may not get an entire book idea out of a writing prompt, but you might get a short story idea or an interesting piece of flash fiction out of one. At the very least, you can use writing prompts to flex your writing muscles!
Lastly, I do want to say that although there are specific places you can look to for inspiration, always keep your eyes and ears open. You can come across inspiration virtually anywhere at any time. If you can’t carry a notebook with you for just such occasions, make a note on your phone or record a voice memo. You’ll most likely be glad for it!