1. Start with a question.
This could mean one of two types of questions.
a. A conceptual question you truly want the answer to.
This is how Francine Rivers, New York Times best-selling author says she starts writing a novel. In the writing book A Novel Idea, Rivers says:
“I usually have something going on in my own life, something that is eating at me, nudging me. I use writing to try to figure it out. … For the book I am currently writing, the theme is “Love one another.” But when we say that, it sounds like a bumper sticker. So I’m exploring “How do you show that? How do you live that out?”
b. An exploratory what-if question.
A “what if” question is magic in fiction writing. Here, anything goes. If you can think it, write it. What if someone’s dreams (or nightmares) came true? This is where my Dreams Come True and the ensuing story series came from.
2. Use prompting tools.
a. Pinterest. Use writing prompts on Pinterest boards. Find pictures of an intriguing setting or character and create a story around it.
b. Non-Pinterest Journaling Exercises: Free write using one word as a starting point. There are plenty of story idea generators (sites that generate a phrase, a name, a setting, etc.) for use free of charge. Google will be your best friend when looking for these resources. 🙂 With a little work, one of these things just may spark a story.
I’ve heard people say that using writing prompts is cheating. I say not using them is cheating. There are countless story ideas that you may never find without a certain prompt.
Tip: Don’t rule anything out. Don’t limit yourself, saying “I could never write that kind of story.” Inspiration can come from unlikely sources, and it will come when you least expect it.