Veteran writers have been known to come up with witty replies to the question: I get my ideas from the Idea Shop down the road, or I’m subscribed to the Daily Ideas mailing list, or There is an Ideas Box hidden deep in my basement where I withdraw to seek inspiration. There is definitely no informative or useful way to answer this question. However, ideas can be obtained by actively seeking and recognizing inspiration from your surroundings and from within yourself. Here are some methods through which I find interesting, relevant and original ideas:
Newspapers & Magazines: Staying updated on what’s going on in the world is a foolproof method for staying inspired. Political trends and important current events can provide the spark you need to build complex storylines. For example, I recently read an article about the hurdles of inter-religious marriage, and that sparked in me the idea for a story about a boy and girl from warring communities who fall in love with each other, and, in a tragic twist, ultimately end up dying for their love.
Novels, Short Stories & Poems: Reading other people’s works doesn’t only provide you with loads of inspiration for character, plot and setting, but it also helps you become a better writer and gauge what is fresh or relevant. For example, I’ve noticed that in most fiction, there is a goal or objective which the characters aspire to, and a series of obstacles to it that shape their journey. That sparked in me the idea of writing a story with a destination, like a lighthouse that represents something different for every character, as its focal point. As they say, all good writers were first good readers.
Daily Life: It is often recommended that writers carry around a journal with them and develop the habit of noting down interesting things in their environment. The everyday things happening around you can provide the seed for your next story. The music blaring from my neighbors’ party made me imagine a story where the main character throws big and lavish parties, secretly in the hopes that the girl he likes will wander into one.
Personal Experience: The most relatable and emotional fodder for writing usually comes from the ups and downs of your own life. And it doesn’t all have to be heartbreak and gloom. It can be as simple as the time my friend set me up on a terrible date, which inspired me to write a story about a girl who is a matchmaker and likes to set up all her friends, but is completely unaware of her own feelings.
Dreams: Which brings us to the final, undeniable ocean of inspiration for all writers. Don’t listen to any of those people who tell you that dreams aren’t helpful when it comes to writing fiction, or that they don’t translate well to reality. How else would I have come up with the idea for my story about a school where kids learn magic and fight an evil lord to save the world?
Written by Sanvitti S.
April is the cruelest month, breeding/ Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/ Memory and desire, stirring/ Dull roots with spring rain.
-T. S. Eliot
R2: The Rice Review
Rice University's undergraduate literary magazine. Here you can find event updates, monthly writing contest winners, and opinions by the R2 staff on what's new, interesting, or subject to discussion in the literary and arts world.