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Ideas and Inspiration for Writers

Updated on February 18, 2017
Ideas and Inspiration for Writers
Ideas and Inspiration for Writers | Source


Whether you’re writing fiction, non-fiction, children’s stories, screenplays, short stories, poems or even informational articles, it’s sometimes hard to come up with a topic or story idea. Some writers are blessed enough to have great ideas pop into their heads out of the blue or in connection to something they’ve seen or heard. Others find story-building more perspiration and less inspiration.

For those who find themselves stranded without a muse, here are a few tactics that can help get the creative juices flowing.


Dreams can be a great source of inspiration for stories. They’re filled with raw human emotion that can make you laugh, cry, cower and blush. One can use a nightmare as the basis for an entire horror story or frightening incident inside of a bigger tale. The quirky characters and strange environments encountered in dreams can add depth and fascinating detail to a novel.

Keeping a dream journal is a good way to keep a record of ideas for future reference. For those who cannot readily recall their dreams, keeping a dream journal will help. Over time, this practice will allow for more and more details to be remembered. Record images, feelings, statements and characters; anything and everything that can be recalled. Sometimes a single image or phrase from a dream can inspire one to write a powerful scene from which a whole story can flow.

A dream journal can be kept in a variety of forms; in a notebook, as daily files on the computer, as a series of sketches. By making a habit of recording dreams, one can open the door to creativity.

Fairy Tales & Classics

Some of the best loved modern novels and movies have their roots firmly planted in fairy tales and classic stories. They can be creative recreations like Anne Rice’s The Mummy; Ramses the Damned, tales with a dark twist like Tanith Lee’s Red as Blood or fun impersonations such as 10 Things I Hate About You, starring Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles.

Alice In Wonderland illustration by Mabel Lucie Attwell
Alice In Wonderland illustration by Mabel Lucie Attwell

Charlotte Brönte and Jane Austen stories remade in film or released in print continue to draw fresh audiences. These stories never go out of fashion because they resonate with their audience. People can identify with the characters and situations. At the heart of women worldwide, there is a resilient Snow White struggling with a wicked queen trying to keep her down or a faithful Jane Eyre longing for her secret love. In the subconscious of men, the clever Sherlock Holmes is analysing and deducing or Cyrano fumbling for the right words to woo his beloved.

By finding the relatable elements in fairy tales or classic stories, a writer can fashion his or her own narrative that resonates with audiences everywhere.

The “What If” Game

We play the notorious “What If” Game every day. What if my boyfriend meets a prettier girl at his conference? What if the boss doesn't like my proposal? What if I met Mr. or Ms. Right on the day I got lost in a foreign country? What if gas prices continue to get higher? What if I won on a game show? What if ...? What if ...? A person could spend their whole life helplessly trapped in the “What If” Game.

A clever writer could make good use of all those What If’s by turning them into stories or articles. An article that explores an employees options when the boss doesn’t like their proposal would find an eager audience. A romance writer could make good use of the boyfriend finding a prettier gal at the conference. Whether he stays faithful or strays, both What If scenarios will find an audience.

By making a list of What If’s to contemplate, good or bad, one can compile a list of potential ideas for stories, articles or opinion pieces.

Courtesy of NASA
Courtesy of NASA

Popular Press

The media world has every type of information a writer could ever want; finances, science, psychology, sports … Magazine articles and new releases about discoveries new or old can provide infinite inspiration. An article about the rings of Saturn can lead to a science-fiction story about a space family on vacation. An explanation of subliminal messages can spark a delicious drama. The more one knows, the more he or she has to draw on for inspiration.

Picture It

A picture is worth a thousand words, so finding a picture you can write about is a good starting point. Art books and sites, coffee table and photo books, photography magazines, photo albums and stock websites can all provide mental stimulation.

Find photos or artwork that inspire and make up stories or poems to accompany them. Take it one step further and create a story that connects multiple pictures.

The Power of a Song

Music has the power to move us. It can evoke emotions and shape images in the mind’s eye. By sitting back with eyes closed and listening to music (preferably without lyrics), a writer can find inspiration for imaginative stories.

Stranger Than Fiction

Actual events sometimes provide the best amusement, as demonstrated by the popularity of reality television shows and true-crime novels. Fictionalize or memorialize events from the past or present. The day one was late for school because of a frightening neighbourhood dog or perhaps the Christmas that Great-grandma used Ajax instead of baking soda in her pies may be old news to the author, but if told properly these events can be endlessly entertaining for others.

OPL (Other People’s Lives)

Parks, food courts, bus terminals and waiting rooms hold tragedies, comedy, romance and oodles of drama. Sit in a place where other people congregate and just listen. If one sits quietly among others, their stories will unfold. One of these true life events can spark the imagination. By weaving key elements with fiction or supporting it with a bit of research, a writer can have the bones of a novel, screenplay, poem or article.

Helpful Exercises

Exercise 1

Select one photo from the choices below and write a short story about it.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Exercise 2

Keep a dream journal for 5 days, writing down the story line, description of characters, emotions and impressions of the environment (or as much as you can remember). On day 6, review the journal, select elements from one or more of the dreams and write a short story or poem.

Exercise 3

Pick your favourite fairy tale and write a modernized version of it in short story format.


Important Note: These strategies are to help you come up with your own ideas. Never “borrow” the lives, work or identities of others for your writing without written permission.

© 2011 Rosa Marchisella


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    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 3 years ago from Canada

      So glad this was of use to you, Ria! Dreams are a wonderful hidden world of magic, mystery and adventure :-D

    • ria-majumdar profile image

      ria-majumdar 3 years ago from Manipal

      Dreams are where I harvest all my story ideas from. This was a really great article and very helpful too. Thank you. :)

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 6 years ago from Canada

      Thank you for sharing your feedback and thoughts, amithak50 :-)

    • amithak50 profile image

      amithak50 6 years ago from India

      Well,I agree with your points would be very helpful if you write something that you are interested in..Do your work and have a patience ,It will give you success

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 6 years ago from Canada

      Thanks so much, Glenn! You're absolutely right - everything around us in our daily lives can be used for or writing. It's up to us to chance how we view things and take advantage of what the world has to offer.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 6 years ago from Long Island, NY

      These are really great Ideas to help with writer's block. We all have so much going on in our lives and around us that we can use as inspiration for writing. Your hub is very useful. Votes up.

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 6 years ago from Canada

      Thank you, Enlydia - and thank you for becoming a follower!

    • Enlydia Listener profile image

      Enlydia Listener 6 years ago from trailer in the country

      I really liked your suggestions. I especially like your reference to fairy tales, since that is a great place to start. Fairy tales are the foundation of children's writings. And they don't have to have fairies in them. But who doesn't love fairies?

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 6 years ago from Canada

      Very Cool, Christina! Best of luck writing your novel and thank you for becoming a follower!

    • ~Christina profile image

      ~Christina 6 years ago from Northern Virginia

      Great tips - and especially timely for me as I embark on NaNoWriMo today!

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 6 years ago from Canada

      Very cool, Zabbella! And, thank you for becoming a follower!

    • Zabbella profile image

      Zabbella 6 years ago from NJ-USA

      Thank you Rosa. Great advice. Music that moves you, was the source of inspiration for one of my hubs. I did one about dreams also, but on a psychological level.

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 6 years ago from Canada

      Hi Flora! Thank you for the welcome and the follow! I've found dreams (and nightmares) an excellent source of inspiration for my own writing. I think it's because they are so personal. If we smell it, feel and live it emotionally, it adds a deeper dimension to what we write.

      I hope the rest of my writing articles are just as useful to you :-)

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      Hi, Rosa.

      These are great tips. It is funny you should mention dreams. a nightmare was the basis of mary Shelly`s novel Frankenstein. I`ve bookmarked this and plan to read your other writing tip hubs a swell. But I will pace myself with them. Welcome to hubpages.

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 6 years ago from Canada

      Hey Ms. Dee! I'm so glad your found this useful!

    • msdee115 profile image

      msdee115 6 years ago from Stone Mountain, GA

      Hey Rosa, I really enjoyed your hub! The "What If" are what I use most but I will use the others from now on! Really good information!