"Where do you come up with your ideas?" Writers hear this question all the time. Readers are constantly amazed at the way authors can create entire worlds every time they sit down to write a new novel, but the truth is that sometimes it's a difficult process. Unless you've got a whole book series mapped out like J K Rowling did with the Harry Potter series, you'll probably end up scrabbling for a book idea once in a while. Here are three different ways to stir the contents of your brain to come up with a creative new story idea.
First popularized in colleges in 1975, free writing proposes that if you write at least three pages of garbage, you'll find a little diamond somewhere in the pile. Get some lined paper and a pen or pencil (whichever is most comfortable for you). Sit where you won't be distracted by noises or other people. Begin with a question, such as What is my new female main character like? Start writing anything that comes to your mind. Even if all you can think to write is I can't think of what to write, this is stupid, I'm just writing nothing, let it flow out of your brain, through your hand, and onto the page. Never stop to edit, leave misspelled words and grammar slips alone. This is pure thought poured out onto the page. After you finish the three pages, leave it alone for at least one hour, then go back and read what you've read. Do this exercise every day for a week and you'll end up with a list of interesting story ideas from which to choose.
Start with a large sheet of paper. Open a book (any book) and randomly point to one word on a page. Write this word in the middle of your sheet of paper. Think of a word or idea this first word reminds you of, and write it next to the first word, under it, or around it somewhere. Draw a line from one word to another. Continue until you have a virtual circle of ideas around the first word. Next, do the same exercise with each new idea. Make a small circle of words around each one of these. Continue in this manner until you have a couple of dozen interconnected ideas. At least some of them should reveal themselves to be an interesting and unique idea for a story.
The internet is full of writing prompts, those interesting pictures or open-ended sentences designed to get your creativity flowing. Each prompt is the bare bones of an idea. You're supposed to fill in the details, turning it from a snapshot into an entire story. Writing prompts are everywhere. Do a search for them online, or create your own by choosing a random word and doing a Google search. Click on the button for images and scroll through the pictures you find. You might have to go through a page or two, but you'll eventually find an interesting photo worthy of a story. If you find a mother lode, start a file on your computer and save them for another day when you need inspiration in your plot development.
Keep the Faith and May the Force be with You!