How to brainstorm story ideas

where to get ideas?

Six Suggestions to Beat the Block.

Silvia Li SamBy Silvia Li Sam

Silvia Li Sam is a storyteller, blogger, writer, and marketing expert. She has built communities of millions of people in education, tech, and non-profit. You can see some of her storytelling credentials on Medium at, or connect with her on her LinkedIn


What’s worse for an aspiring writer than to sit in front of their laptop with every intention of writing a great story, only to discover you can’t think of a single idea?

Don’t worry: we’ve all been there. All you need is a dash of inspiration, and you’ll be penning that story – or that novel! – in no time. 

But how can you brainstorm great ideas? In this article, we’ll give you a few tips to battle writer’s block and never lose to it again!

1. Write down everything that comes to mind!

You might be asking yourself, “What am I supposed to write about? I don’t have any ideas!”

Don’t worry, the objective here isn’t writing anything exceptional, it’s just getting rid of the white page sitting in front of you. So type into your computer (or write down if you still use a pen and papers) anything you can think of. 

Most writers have a mental filter in their minds that tells them “this idea is terrible” before it ever sees the light of day. The important part of this exercise is to try to turn that filter off. For this exercise, the goal is to come up with a lot of ideas no matter how bad!

It doesn’t matter if all you scribble down is: I don’t have any ideas! That can be enough to help untangle the knot in your mind and get your creative juices running. Keep on writing random thoughts until you get a hint of an idea that might be useful, and then run with it.

It might not work the first time around, but stick to this method: Eventually, you’ll find the seed that’ll germinate into a fantastic story. Persistence is important with this one.  

2. Get yourself an idea box

Sometimes you’ll get great ideas you have no use for. Don’t let it go to waste! Of course, this method can work just as well by scribbling different story prompts in a notebook or on your cellphone. Still, there is a great benefit to actually having a box:

Whenever you are running short of ideas, you can stick your hand in it and take out a piece of paper. Let fate choose what your next story will be about! You can also pick up another idea if it doesn’t work for you, but try not to throw any of them out, at least not without adding a new one to the box!

To add prompts that surprise you, ask your friends or family members to add ideas to your box as well whenever they come up with one! This can also be a really great way to crowdsource different ideas. Sometimes the most brilliant idea might come from a friend! 

3. Keep a scrapbook

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and this is also true when it comes to gathering inspiration. Why not save inspiring images and photos you discover through your everyday life? You never know when they can serve as inspiration for your next great story!

Your scrapbook doesn’t need to come in a physical form: You can do the same on your computer or online to take it with you wherever you go, saving pics and going back to them when you are running short on ideas.

4. Play word association games

This is a great solo brainstorming technique to get your creative juices flowing!

In order to play this game, simply write a list of ten or more words that you find would make for an exciting story. For instance, if you wanted to write romantic content, you could choose love, partners, secret, jealousy, conflict, etc.

After you have your list settled up, write down the first thing that comes to mind next to each one. Of course, it’s supposed to be a single word in return, but if you get inspired and write an entire sentence or more, don’t limit yourself! 

Try not to overthink your replies, as you’ll be surprised by what comes up during this little game. The idea is to find hidden gems you might not initially have thought about.

If this technique doesn’t work for you, there are plenty of word banks online that you can check. Or you might just leaf through a dictionary in book form. You might be surprised how a single word can become the starting point for a great tale.

5. Read Fanfiction

This one is counterintuitive. How can reading fanfiction lead to new ideas, you ask? Fanfiction works tend to examine a wide variety of plots, twists, and ideas given its wide breadth of creators. For example, I tend to read Harry Potter fanfiction on the site Commaful, specifically focused on Hermione stories to get inspiration. The fans take Hermione on all types of interesting adventures, putting her in love triangles, having her face unique challenges. The sheer weirdness of some of these stories inspires me with new ideas I normally wouldn’t come up with. 

6. Start with the characters instead of the plot

Sometimes, it’s harder to think of a plot than actually coming up with a few great characters

Even if you don’t know who they are yet or what they do, if a character is in your mind, it won’t take you too long to come up with a great story concept!

Why not focus on a few interesting traits you’d like your story’s protagonist to have? How do they react in the face of adversity? What kind of world do they inhabit? What happens to disturb this setting, and what do they do as a consequence? This might be the starting point for creating a wonderful story! 


Of course, once you’ve got a vague idea, you’ll want to get it into shape. Whether you start with a character or some great plot twist occured to you, is a perfect place to organise and structure your ideas into a coherent and emotionally resonant narrative

Photo by Mark Fletcher-Brown on Unsplash 

Start jotting down your story ideas. You’ll be surprised how much fun it is to get them into shape! 

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