The Ideas Generator


I’ve posted previously on when inspiration comes to me and how I turn it into an idea for what to write about. But I know some writers still struggle when it comes to brainstorming for the next great story.

As I was trying to sleep one night (which is when almost all good ideas strike), I had an idea for how to generate ideas. It’s a seven-step process that can be applied to a lot of stories already out there, which is why I think it will work for developing new stories.

Here’s how it works in a nutshell. You pick a genre. You pick a main character. You give them a past traumatic incident. You pick a second main character or a secondary character for the main character to interact with. You give the main character a profession. You introduce a trigger to add drama. And then you add an ending.

Sounds simple, right? To make it even easier, I’ve come up with options for each of the steps.

Literary, Crime, Romance, Mystery, Alternative history, Historical, Thriller, Adventure, Action, Drama, Horror, Paranormal,
Science fiction, Young adult, Dystopian, Speculative

Main Character Gender & Relationship Identifier
Mother, Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Father, Son, Brother, Uncle, Girlfriend, Wife, Grandmother, Bachelorette, Boyfriend, Husband, Grandfather, Bachelor, Friend, Co-worker, Neighbour, Stranger

Traumatic Past Incident
Rape, Phobia, Car accident, Childhood abuse, Death of a parent, Death of a sibling, Death of a child, Death of a wife, Death of a husband, Death of a friend, Death of a pet, Bullying, Humiliation, Kidnapping, Responsibility for accidental death, Scars, Witness to a crime, Witness to a death, War, Failure in school, Failure in business, Runaway, Unrequited love, Adoption

Second Main Character/Secondary Character Gender & Relationship Identifier
Mother, Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Father, Son, Brother, Uncle, Girlfriend, Wife, Grandmother, Bachelorette, Boyfriend, Husband, Grandfather, Bachelor, Friend, Co-worker, Neighbour, Stranger

Doctor, Lawyer, Police officer, Nurse, Farmer, Scientist, Student, Judge, Politician, Soldier, Writer, Actor, Teacher, Inventor, Photographer, Journalist, Hacker, Coroner, Prostitute, Car salesperson, Spy, Secretary, Businessperson, Musician

Opportunity for personal gain, Mistaken/stolen identity, Scientific breakthrough, Mid-life crisis, Sacked from job, Promoted to new job, Revenge, Affair, Injury, Sex, Greed, Pregnancy, Boy meets girl, Girl meets boy, Medical condition, Revolution, Rebellion, Framed, Accused of a crime, Ultimatum, Terrorist attack, Natural disaster, Victim of a crime, Epidemic

Happy ending, Scooby Do ending, Poetic ending, Poetic justice ending, Twist ending, Sad ending, Uplifting ending, Change ending, Sudden ending, Success ending, Failure ending, Marriage ending, Death ending, Winning ending, Losing ending, That’s life ending, Setting up the sequel ending, Back to the beginning ending, Waking up from a dream ending, Learning a lesson ending

If it’s not obvious how it’s supposed to work, here’s an example I came up with (but won’t be using – it’s not my kind of story). The genre is drama. A mother who was raped had a daughter as a result. The mother is also a judge. As she presides over her latest case, she realises the accused is the man who raped her but was never caught all those years ago. In a poetic ending, she is able to convict and sentence her rapist.

Here’s another example from an existing story. Let’s see how quickly it can be recognised. The genre is romance. A daughter who loves her father very much is left in the care of her mother (step-mother in this case). The daughter becomes a servant in her step-mother’s household. She meets a man and they fall in love, although it seems like it can never be because he is a prince. But eventually the prince sees past her status as a servant and rescues her from her step-mother in a fairy tale happy ending. Of course, it’s Cinderella.

Obviously, the categories aren’t exhaustive and you can add to them as you like. Traumatic past incidents and triggers are reasonably interchangeable. And there are some stories that resist all attempts at categorisation, meaning this system will never be the way to discover them. But for those struggling to come up with an idea, hopefully there is some help to be found in this method. Happy writing!


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