How to come up with ideas for creative writing

Last Updated: March 25, 2021 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Grant Faulkner, MA. Grant Faulkner is the Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and the co-founder of 100 Word Story, a literary magazine. Grant has published two books on writing and has been published in The New York Times and Writer’s Digest. He co-hosts Write-minded, a weekly podcast on writing and publishing, and has a M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University.

There are 15 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 13 testimonials and 100% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.

This article has been viewed 129,500 times.

Writers of fiction, poetry, TV and movie scripts, song lyrics, and even advertisements rely on their ability to come up with ideas and put them into words. Consistently coming up with ideas for creative writing can be challenging, but there are ways to stimulate your creativity and avoid writer’s block. Try some of the following methods to get your creative juices flowing!

How to come up with ideas for creative writing

How to come up with ideas for creative writing

How to come up with ideas for creative writing

How to come up with ideas for creative writing

How to come up with ideas for creative writing

Grant Faulkner, MA
Professional Writer Expert Interview. 8 January 2019. Not only can you keep abreast of trends in your writing specialty and see examples of other writers’ styles, but you can also find story ideas from what you read, whether in newspapers, magazines, books, or online.

  • Other works of fiction can serve as inspiration for your stories, as well. Scholars have cited the influence of the Scandinavian legend of Amleth and the Roman tale of Brutus on Hamlet. [7] X Research source
  • You can also base a creative writing idea on a quote. The classic “Star Trek” episode “The Conscience of the King,” featuring the exposure of a former dictator, who had tried to atone for his past by leading an acting troupe, takes its title from a line in “Hamlet”: “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” [8] X Research source

Get Kids Writing— Encourage kids to stretch their imagination and go deeper into their creativity with these good writing ideas. Children who write consistently tend to have a strong sense of self-confidence in their ability to creatively express their thoughts, ideas, and opinions.

How to come up with ideas for creative writing

Even in our high-tech world, writing remains an essential and fundamental skill for students to master. When teaching kids how to write, interesting and good writing ideas help to engage a child’s interest in their writing practice. Below are various good writing ideas for kids which are sorted by topic. The topics include writing about yourself, prompts about animals, prompts about friends and writing ideas about using one’s imagination.

Moreover, a regular writing practice — such as daily journaling — gives children the chance to explore the world around them, to expand their imaginations, and to develop a deeper level of self-awareness.

Explore, savor, and enjoy this list of good writing prompts for young writers!

Good Writing Ideas for Students

Writing Ideas about “Yourself”

1. Write about an unforgettable experience in your life.

2. Write about your best school day EVER! Explain in detail what happened on that day.

3. Write about teaching someone something you are good at doing.

4. Write a story about your favorite pair of shoes.

5. Write about an embarrassing event that happened to you.

6. Write about a trip or a vacation you have taken or you want to take.

7. Write about your favorite summer vacation memory.

8. Write about Sundays and how you spend them?

9. Write about a thing that you are scared of and why it frightens you.

Writing Ideas about “Animals”

10. Write about your very favorite animal in the whole wide world!

11. Your pet suddenly turns into a cartoon character. Write about the adventures you two go on together.

12. “If I was an animal, I would be _____ and I would_____.”

13. What would you do if you had a dinosaur as a pet?

14. imagine a new animal that no one has ever seen before. Explain how it looks, what it eats and what does in the world.

15. What are the responsibilities of having a pet?

16. You are a bird that can fly. Write a story about what you see.

17. Which animal frightens you the most? Write about the animal and why it scares you.

18. Write a story about your dream pet.

19. Write a story about two animal friends, such as a giraffe and a whale or a duck and a pig.

20. While walking through a forest, you stumbled upon a huge egg. What do you do and what happens next?

Writing Prompts about “Friends”

21. Write all about your best friend.

22. Write a letter to your oldest friend. Tell her what you miss about her and share some memories and stories.

23. What qualities do you look for in your friends and why?

24. Did you ever fight with your friend? How did you solve it?

25. Write about going on a trip with your friend.

26. Write about the nicest thing you have done for your friends.

27. What does friendship means to you?

28. Write a poem about the qualities or habits of your friend(s).

29. Have you ever lost a friend? How did you feel?

30. Write a story about you and your friend encountering a dragon.

31. How would you celebrate friendship day with your friend?
How to come up with ideas for creative writing

Writing Ideas about “Imagination”

32. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

33. What would you do if you were the President of your country?

34. You found a pot of gold in your backyard…

35. What would you do for the day if you could do anything in the whole wide world?

36. Describe what you would do if you got the chance to live on the moon for a whole year!

37. You wake up and find a purple giant living in your home…

38. “I walked into the closet and came out in another world called _____”. Continue this story.

39. My life as a pirate or a detective is so interesting because…

40. I went inside the Egyptian pyramid and discovered…

41. You are about to begin your very own business, what is it?

42. How would you make this world a better place?

43. You find out that you are a prince/princess to the throne…

44. Your bicycle runs away from your home. How are you going to find it?

We hope you put these good writing ideas for kids to use in your classroom!

Until next time, write on…

If you enjoyed these Good Writing Ideas for Students,
please share them on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest.
I appreciate it!

Last Updated: March 25, 2021 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Grant Faulkner, MA. Grant Faulkner is the Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and the co-founder of 100 Word Story, a literary magazine. Grant has published two books on writing and has been published in The New York Times and Writer’s Digest. He co-hosts Write-minded, a weekly podcast on writing and publishing, and has a M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University.

There are 15 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 13 testimonials and 100% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.

This article has been viewed 129,500 times.

Writers of fiction, poetry, TV and movie scripts, song lyrics, and even advertisements rely on their ability to come up with ideas and put them into words. Consistently coming up with ideas for creative writing can be challenging, but there are ways to stimulate your creativity and avoid writer’s block. Try some of the following methods to get your creative juices flowing!

How to come up with ideas for creative writing

How to come up with ideas for creative writing

How to come up with ideas for creative writing

How to come up with ideas for creative writing

How to come up with ideas for creative writing

Grant Faulkner, MA
Professional Writer Expert Interview. 8 January 2019. Not only can you keep abreast of trends in your writing specialty and see examples of other writers’ styles, but you can also find story ideas from what you read, whether in newspapers, magazines, books, or online.

  • Other works of fiction can serve as inspiration for your stories, as well. Scholars have cited the influence of the Scandinavian legend of Amleth and the Roman tale of Brutus on Hamlet. [7] X Research source
  • You can also base a creative writing idea on a quote. The classic “Star Trek” episode “The Conscience of the King,” featuring the exposure of a former dictator, who had tried to atone for his past by leading an acting troupe, takes its title from a line in “Hamlet”: “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” [8] X Research source

We all have a million excellent ideas for stories, but, without fail, they magically disappear the minute we sit down to write. It seems impossible, but it happens constantly. Hours are wasted staring at a blank page. And, no matter how many cups of coffee are in our systems, we still can’t find the energy to kick our muses into gear and develop story ideas.

Have no fear: I have five ways that will help pump up your creativity muscle and build story ideas that will keep you writing for hours on end. Here they are.

How to come up with ideas for creative writing

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

1. Reinvent a scene from a book.

Take a very small, seemingly non-important scene from one of your favorite books and consider what it’d be like if that were the opening scene to your novel. Change the characters of course, and add one or more unique elements to that scene. The key is to give you a starting point and then let your imagination run wild. While there are many ways to stay inspired, this challenge really takes something that you love (an old book) and gives it new life.

2. Use junk mail as inspiration.

Take the next two pieces of spam mail you receive (either snail mail or e-mail) and use it to determine the profession on your protagonist and your protagonist’s love interest. I get this type of mail all of the time, particularly from politicians, credit card companies and auto dealerships—and that’s just what’s delivered by the United States Postal Service! When I add in the junk sent to my e-mail inbox, I get “foreign ambassadors from Nigeria” looking for million dollar loans and women begging me to click through to get “erotic” pictures of them. Any one of these jobs will lead to many fun and unusual situations—and will give you plenty of fodder to write about.

3. Invent a history for someone with whom you’ve lost touch.

We have all had friends in our lives from grade school, high school or college that we knew quite well back then, but haven’t seen much (if at all) since. In fact, most of their lives are a mystery to us. Pick one of those old friends and write about the life they’ve been leading ever since you lost touch. What happened in his or her family life? What career path did he or she choose? Was he or she involved in something that led them to a life of crime? The possibilities are endless, which should drive you to be as creative as possible.

4. Eavesdrop on a conversation.

Just because you’re stuck in a bit of a funk when it comes to ideas doesn’t mean that other people are. Take your notepad or laptop out of the house, sit down somewhere and observe the scenery around you—and listen to any and every conversation within earshot. You can do this at a park, restaurant, coffee shop or, my personal favorite, a bar (people who have a few drinks in them tend to share the best stories). Remember, jot down all the stories you hear but be sure to give them a twist to make them your own.

5. Find a writing prompt and run with it.

Sometimes the best cure for writer’s block is to let someone else start your story for you. You can search the web and find a number of sites that offer them, or check out our database of creative writing prompts that gets updated every Tuesday. And who knows: The idea you get from a writing prompt may be just the inspiration you need to spark your creativity and write a short story or novel that sells.

Creative block is the number one enemy of writers. It’s especially frustrating for younger students as it plants a seed of self-pity, sometimes self-loathing, at not knowing what to write about. As early as now, your students should know that writing is a process and that it doesn’t just happen. Part of the writing process is idea generation. While you can always feed students writing prompts to address the ‘I have nothing to write’ frustration, if you really want to train them to be good writers, you have to help them come up with ideas on their own, young as they are. At that, here are the pre-writing strategies you can teach pupils:

Brainstorming

This is the most popular writing warm-up routine. The goal of brainstorming is to link one idea after another. There are two ways to do this: individually or by group. In the case of the former, encourage your students to scribble freely on a piece of paper—make sure to attach that rough draft with their final write-up later. Brainstorming drafts help children see their flow of thought and appreciate better the writing process as they’re able to compare the initial, rough plan and the output. At the same time, the drafts are troves of many more ideas for the next writing sessions. If you’re doing the brainstorming as a group, though, make sure that every kid in the team contributes. Introverts may find it uneasy to participate in such settings, so you will have to have some sort of icebreakers to make children more comfortable.

Drawing

How to come up with ideas for creative writing

Idea generation doesn’t have to involve words always. Your young visual learners can come up with writing ideas with pictures or doodles. Hence, let them draw whatever pops into their head. To align with the writing session you’ll have later, tell the children the topic that they will have to write about. From there, they can materialize their ideas through drawings. For instance, your writing lesson is fairy tales. Let them do sketches of what they think about princesses and unicorns. This exercise will help stretch their creativity and hopefully make it easier for them to think of imaginative plots later. Moreover, you can let them use their illustrations when they write their stories. This will do wonders for their self-confidence. You can use writing tools from excellent websites, such as Studentreasures Publishing, which can also help you introduce publishing books for kids to your students.

Talking

People are natural storytellers. Children love to share narratives, whether that be how they got into the wrong school bus or where they spent their weekend. It’s a skill to organize thoughts and bring a logical sequence to stories, which is a very crucial strength writers need to develop. Therefore, it would be a very good writer training for students to talk. Divide them into groups and pose a thought-provoking question that will make them tell a story. Some fun examples are:

  • What would you do if you find a treasure chest in the middle of a forest?
  • How would you use the three genie-given wishes?
  • When was the last time you felt happy?

Young as they are, students will have to learn how to come up with their own ideas for writing. Teach them the strategies mentioned above and hopefully, you will never have to hear a single “I don’t know what to write, Teacher!”

How to come up with ideas for creative writing

Creative writing exercises: Moral dilemmas.

Today’s creative writing exercise comes from 101 Creative Writing Exercises, a book I wrote on the craft of writing.

This book takes you on an adventure through creative writing. You’ll explore different forms and genres of writing, including freewriting, journaling, memoir, fiction, storytelling, poetry, and article or blog writing.

101 Creative Writing Exercises imparts proven writing techniques while providing writing practice and creative inspiration.

Today, I’d like to share an exercise from “Chapter 9: Philosophy, Critical Thinking, and Problem Solving.” This exercise is titled “Moral Dilemmas.” Enjoy!

Moral Dilemmas

We each have our own personal philosophies and values. Our values come from our families, religions, and cultures. They shape our morals and the decisions we make.

People are complex. What we believe is right or wrong changes when we find ourselves in real situations. Consider an honorable character who believes that one’s highest loyalty is to his or her family. Then that character learns his brother is a serial killer. Does he turn him in? Testify against him? Stories get interesting when characters’ morals are put to the test.

We all know the knight in shining armor should risk his life to save the damsel in distress. If he doesn’t, then he loses his status as hero and becomes a coward. What if the knight is forced to make a more difficult decision? What if his true love and his beloved sister are both in distress but he only has time to save one of them?

The Exercise

For this exercise, you will put a character’s morals to the test. Below, you’ll find a short list of moral dilemmas. Write a scene in which a character faces one of these moral dilemmas and has to make an agonizing decision.

  • In the novel Sophie’s Choice, a young Polish mother and her two children are taken to a concentration camp. Upon arrival, she is forced to choose one child to live and one to die. If she doesn’t choose, they both die. Write a scene in which your character must choose between the lives of two loved ones.
  • A single woman is close friends with the couple next door and has secret romantic feelings for the husband. She discovers that his wife is having an affair. Normally, this woman minds her own business but now she sees an opportunity to get closer to the man she wants.
  • Some countries have strict laws regarding drug possession. A family has traveled to one such country for vacation. Upon arrival (or departure), one of the teenagers’ bags is sniffed out by a dog. The bag is opened, the drugs are identified, and the guard asks whose bag it is. Both parents are considering claiming ownership. Everyone in the family knows the sentence would be death.
  • Your character gets to travel through time and face this classic moral dilemma: the character finds himself or herself holding a loaded gun, alone in a room, with a two-year-old baby Hitler.
  • A plane crashes into the sea. Most of the passengers escape with inflatable lifeboats but they do not board them correctly. Your character ends up on a lifeboat that holds eight people but there are twelve people on it, and it’s sinking. Your character can either throw four people overboard and eight will survive or they will all die except your character, who will get rescued after the others drown.

During the scene, the character should agonize over the decision and reveal his or her reasons for the choice that he or she makes.

Tips: Search online for “lists of moral dilemmas” to get more scenarios.

Variations: If you don’t want to write a scene, challenge yourself to come up with a few moral dilemmas of your own.

Applications: These moral dilemmas also work as story prompts. They force you to put your characters in situations that are deeply distressing, thus creating conflict and tension.

In creative writing, ideas are everything. No matter how good a writer you might be, without ideas you will have nothing to create.

You are actually already bursting with great ideas, whether you know it or not.

Trust me, you have enough raw material inside you right now for more novels than you could ever hope to complete, no matter what age you are or how uninteresting you believe your life might have been.

All you need is a foolproof method for discovering these novel ideas, and you will find it right here.

First, though, a warning…

Do you remember at school how your teachers told you to spend the first ten minutes of an examination reading the questions? Well, it’s the same thing with writing.

In creative writing, ideas might be plentiful but that doesn’t make them all valuable. In fact, settling on the first idea that drifts into your head could be costly if it later turns out to be the wrong idea. You could face months or even years of wasted work – and I should know because I’ve done it.

So, don’t rush into a decision. As this section shows, writing ideas are actually simple to find, and not that time-consuming to find, either – unlike writing the novel, which will most likely take you years.

It makes sense, therefore, to wait for the right idea to come along (you’ll know when it does), and not to settle on second best for the sake of another day’s or another week’s searching.

Of course, there is another potential problem here: being so cautious that you never commit to anything

  • Yes, you’ll know when the right idea comes along (the infinite possibilities it contains will keep you awake at night with excitement).
  • But you still need to make that decision to go with it – to dedicate a significant chunk of your life to it, effectively. And that takes courage.

Okay, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get down to the nitty-gritty of finding some ideas. Winning ideas might seem elusive if you have already racked your brains and come up with – well, not much. But if you go about it calmly and logically there is really nothing to it.

An Introduction to Ideas and Inspiration

How to come up with ideas for creative writing

What Are Novel Ideas?

The first thing you will want to know is what it is you are searching for, exactly. This article reveals all.

Where Do Novel Ideas Come From?

And while we are dealing with the basics, you might be wondering where all these creative writing ideas you’re about to magically discover are hiding.

Writing Autobiographical Fiction

All fiction is autobiographical to an extent. We have only ever lived one life (our own), and so we cannot help but write about it. The danger is being too autobiographical, as this article explains. I also look at…

  • How to “write what you know.” One piece of advice you hear a lot as a novel writing beginner is to write about what you know. But how does this square-up with the advice to NOT write purely autobiographical fiction?
  • The power of the imagination. In this detailed look at novel ideas and where they come from, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that you can create much of your novel right inside your head!

How to Find & Test Creative Writing Ideas

Finding Writing Ideas In 2 Easy Steps

My two-step process for finding ideas for fiction is simplicity itself, but also magical in its results…

  • In Step One, you learn how to brainstorm in a highly-focussed and highly-productive way.
  • And in Step Two of the process, you learn how to take all those brainstormed notes and play around with them, trying out different combinations, until you find the perfect writing idea for you.

Finally, this is the perfect point at which to name your baby – or give your novel a title. You’ll find some help and guidance on finding novel titles here.

Caveat: One Novel, One Idea!

This final piece of advice particularly applies if you’re writing your first (or perhaps your only) novel.

Writing a first novel is exciting, thrilling and probably the biggest creative challenge you will ever face. You have most likely been thinking about it for years…

Ideas have been building up inside you all that time – consciously or subconsciously – and all of a sudden you have the opportunity to set them free in a work of fiction.

There are few better feelings than that in life!

Now, the temptation is to let all these ideas come flooding out and somehow find a place for them in your novel. But it is something you must resist, at least if you want your first novel to be successful.

I see it all the time when folks just starting out in creative writing run their ideas past me…

  • They want to write a coming-of-age-novel about the effects divorce has on a child (because as a child they went through this experience themselves).
  • The novel is also about how people with mental disabilities are treated by society (because they have been on the receiving end of some prejudice in their time).
  • Oh, and they’ve got plenty to say about the power of friendship, too, so they are going to try to work that in somewhere.
  • The novel is basically a drama, but they’ve always loved crime fiction so they are going to work in a murder as a subplot.
  • And although the novel will mainly be set in their hometown of Sydney, they also want to try to include a section set in the Brazilian rainforest.

Yes, I’m exaggerating – but not by much. The temptation to do something like this really can be overwhelming when, for the first time in your life, you are faced with a blank canvas. But you must resist it.

A coming-of-age story about the effects a divorce has on a child sounds like a great starting point for a novel. Also making it about mental disability might work, particularly if the disability was triggered or worsened by the divorce. But throw in the friendship theme on top, as well as the murder and the section set in the rainforest, and it starts to sound like not one novel but several.

If you try to pour everything you have into your first novel, you will have two problems:

  1. The book will be a mess and very probably unpublishable.
  2. Even if you do achieve the near-impossible and get your novel published, you will have nothing left to say in your second book.

Like I said, writing a first novel (or any novel) is an exciting time, but you must be restrained. If ideas come to you which have no place in the book you are currently working on, get them down on paper but then file them away for later.

Take it one novel, and one idea, at a time.

You Are Here: Home > Finding Writing Ideas

All stories start with an idea. That idea then grows and becomes a setting, a plot, and characters. But if you don’t have the initial spark then you don’t have a story.

This can be quite frustrating when you really want to write something. Your mind is gearing itself up to create, but it doesn’t have anything to create from.

So how can you come up with ideas? Here are 5 ways:

All you need to do this is 1 word to start off.

This word could be a theme that interests you, the genre of your favorite book, a pretty color. It doesn’t matter what the word is, as long as you have somewhere to start.

I had started a novel a couple of years ago, but I forgot what the plot was, who the characters were, etc. Now that I’m continuing to work on it, I only remember one thing for sure. That it was inspired by a game about time travel.

So I decided to create a list of words (it ended being 100 words long) that I thought of when thinking about the game that originally inspired me, the previous words on the list, and what little I remember of the novel itself.

Here are the first 15 words in my list:

  1. Time
  2. Sand
  3. Fall
  4. Flow
  5. Web
  6. Circle
  7. Dimensions
  8. Ghost
  9. Astral
  10. Projection
  11. Plane
  12. Manipulate
  13. Autumn
  14. Darkness
  15. Cold

When doing this exercise, be careful not to inhibit yourself. Don’t overthink things, just write the words that come into your mind, until there are no more words left.

After you’re finished you may find that the words give you ideas for the characters, plot, themes, and motifs of a story.

Here’s a fun exercise: Doodle some characters and then give them personalities and backstories!

Grab a pencil and some paper and start making some marks. Don’t worry if you’re not artistically inclined, the point of this exercise is to have some rough character sketches, not fully rendered designs.

Play around with the shapes you use (try building things out of squares, circles, and triangles) as well as the gestures. You can use different colors, and play around with their costumes and poses.

Then choose the characters that intrigue you the most and give them:

  1. Personality traits
  2. Goals
  3. Backstories
  4. Fears
  5. Motivations

Take those characters and visualize what kind of person they are. Then redraw them, making their designs more cohesive with their personality.

Keep doing this until you have a character you would like to write about.

Going for a walk will always send my brain buzzing, even when I’m completely drained of ideas.

I like to put on a pair of comfortable shoes, and go when the weather is in my favorite state. A light rain on a mild day suits me best, but the weather doesn’t always cooperate, unfortunately.

Then I walk until I find a place where I feel a connection to the energy around me. There’s a little river that runs just a few minutes from my house. I can sit on an outcrop beside the bridge, and watch the water. No one will bother me.

Then I just sit and let my mind wander. I don’t try and force myself to think about anything, I just sit back and watch my thoughts play out, like watching a TV show.

After some amount of time doing that, my mind starts to focus on creative ideas.

If you’re out of ideas, try going for a walk and letting your mind wander.

You can’t create without some fuel, and one of the best creative fuels is inspiration.

What’s a fun way to get inspiration? Have a movie marathon!

Take out your calendar and block off as much consecutive time as you can. A whole day would be best (though I can understand and relate if you don’t have that much time).

Grab a blanket, some pillows, and remember to stay hydrated and fueled with your favorite beverages and snacks.

Then watch movies for as long as you can.

They can be movies you’ve already seen before, new movies, your personal favorites, good movies, bad movies. Just watch whatever you feel like. If you want, you can even invite friends and family to join you.

Whatever you do, don’t feel guilty about taking the time to gain some inspiration. Feeling guilty will just kill the mood and make it more difficult to come up with ideas.

Like I said, you need inspiration, and looking at artwork is a great way to gain some inspiration.

Fortunately we live in an age where you don’t need to go to a gallery to look at art. Just open up your preferred social media app and start searching for art to look at.

Do you want a recommendation? Go on Twitter and look at the work under #VisibleWomen. You’ll find lots of skilled artists who are girls, which is great since art tends to be a male dominated field.

A fun activity is to create a mood board.

You don’t need a specific idea to start one, just begin by gathering images that you find aesthetically pleasing. After awhile, you’ll find a cohesive aesthetic start to form, which can be the basis for the themes, motifs, characters, or setting of a story.

I used a mood board to help solidify the visuals and motifs of two of my current work in progress stories, and it helped me out of a creative rut.

There are several ways to come up with ideas for your stories. Try using these techniques when you get stuck, and see what you come up with.

Remember, getting too caught up on originality or perfection will hinder the flow of thoughts and ideas. Just relax and let your thoughts flow.

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a like or share it with someone who would enjoy it. I blog about writing every Wednesday, so check back next week for some new content.