Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas?


Where do writers come up with their story ideas? It’s one of the most common questions we are asked, and the answer is different for every writer. For me, the answer is also different for every story I write.

Many of my ideas come from reading and watching the news. Something will catch my attention and cause me to wonder “what’s that all about?” or ask “what if…?” The answer that develops inevitably becomes a magazine article, short story or novel premise. Other ideas come from real life experiences — events witnessed firsthand — that grip my mind so tightly I must write about them to expel them. A car accident perhaps, or a child bullied at school.

A few years ago, a bizarre nightmare led me to draft a short fiction piece that eventually won an award and publication in the literary journal River Styx. That was a first for me. Inspiration through dream hasn’t struck since, but I’m glad it did that once.  (If you’re curious, Download NightWindow.)

Much like their different origins, my stories also tend to have different voices. The thread that ties all my ideas and writing together is my goal to weave compelling stories and bring characters to life, whether short fiction, novel or nonfiction.

Where do you get your ideas? Do they vary depending on whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction? Share your thoughts!

6 thoughts on “Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas?

  1. I am definitely a “use real-life experiences” kind of gal when it comes to story ideas. My current WIP is something that had been simmering for about 4-5 years, based on my thoughts after attending a college reunion – plus my own medical drama. Then I learned of two other fascinating stories from people I knew — and parts of those stories (embellished and changed by me) inevitably became components of my WIP. Plus, the research that I began to conduct sparked further ideas.
    When I read your comment about something coming to you in a dream, I thought, “Wow… wouldn’t that be nice? That never happens to me.” But then I remembered – doh – that my MC’s occupation came to me the minute I awoke one morning. So, maybe I glean my ideas from all over the place, and not just personal experience… Because I’ve also had luck brainstorming with a writing partner as well… Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  2. Like you, I once had a dream that led to writing a story. It wasn’t a nightmare, though, but a dream about an ex-boyfriend that was very vivid. Story never got published, but its one of my favs. I get ideas from everything, the news, the internet, random comments, art…

  3. Jessica

    Thanks for stopping by, Charlotte, and for sharing your thoughts. Ideas really are all around us, if we only take the time to see and listen to them.

  4. Wow. I never thought about writing my dreams. The odd thing though is that I hardly ever remember my dreams. I don’t think I do dream. How do you remember your dreams anyway? Seems cool to be able to jot them down on paper.

What are your thoughts?