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How to Brainstorm Story Ideas: 7 Brainstorming Tips

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jan 13, 2020 • 3 min read

It’s not easy to think of the next new book that will captivate readers and have the potential to become a bestseller. Even the brainstorming process requires a lot of creative thinking. If your goal is to write a great novel, but you’re short on story ideas, there are many different brainstorming methods you can try to help you generate novel ideas and get your writing process started.



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7 Tips for Brainstorming Book Ideas

Brainstorming ideas can be more than just sitting and thinking about what you want to write. Sometimes, you need to try various brainstorming techniques in order to inspire your creative mind. The following brainstorm ideas can help you discover new avenues to explore and fuel your creative writing:

  1. Write what you know. Start with something you’re fairly knowledgeable about or with an area of interest. Did you grow up sailing? Did you have a job working at your family’s auto repair shop? Is there a familiar location where a story could take place? Certain memories or experiences can trigger the emergence of other ideas to help you focus on what your concept will be. You could always try subverting an old trope or cliché and forcing yourself to go in the opposite direction to what would be expected. At the very least, these methods may give you a solid starting point to build on top of.
  2. Use writing prompts. Writing about something related to the topic you want to write—or sometimes, far out of your comfort zone, like science fiction or fantasy—can inspire different ideas. Maybe you’ve never thought about writing a book about an evil monarchy or a war story set under the sea, but by exposing yourself to writing exercises that can expand the range of your thinking can greatly improve both the quality and quantity of ideas that come to you, and generate new stories for subplots or possibilities for plot twists.
  3. Try freewriting. Freewriting is an exercise that can benefit first-time and professional writers alike. Putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and emptying out your mind is always a useful exercise when trying to make room for new ideas. Just start writing and let the ideas flow. It doesn’t matter what—just start putting words down and see where your brain takes you. This can sometimes lead to surprising areas you didn’t even realize were on your mind. Even if these ideas end up being dead ends, figuring out what you don’t want to write is just as useful as figuring out what you do.
  4. Create a mind map. A mind map uses visuals to form connections between different thoughts and information. It may be more helpful to see how your ideas might relate to one another with diagrams or images rather than just text. You can do this manually on a sheet of paper or use any mind mapping software tools online.
  5. Borrow from other artists. Never steal, but use existing plot ideas, good character development, or familiar settings to ignite your own brainstorming sessions and inspire new perspectives. Is there another spin you can put on an old fairytale? What would George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series look like if it took place in the current year? Your first idea likely won’t be your best idea, but strip away any components you don’t like and fill in with ones you do in order to create your own story.
  6. Try people watching. Going to a public place to people watch is great for idea generation. Keep an eye out for fascinating characters and unique dialogue. Interesting main characters can help drive a premise, so if you’re suffering from writer’s block or feel like you can’t think of anything fresh, watch real people interact in the real world. See how they are with their families, the things they do when they think no one is looking, or the conversations they have with each other—any of these things can contribute to your pool of ideas.
  7. Follow a thread. Even bad ideas can lead to better ideas. Track where your thoughts go and pay attention to what spurred them on, then follow up on which direction they’re heading in. It’s okay if these initial ideas feel out there; there are no limitations to where your mind can go when you’re fueling your creative processes.

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