How do you come up with story ideas?


I have flirted with the idea of writing a story. Time constraints have made sure that I do not dedicate any time to it though. I get the feeling that a good amount of writers here have never written a story before (myself included). I think a major hurdle for new writers is generating idea’s for potential stories.

I am under the impression that generating story ideas are more of a process than some flash of inspiration. I am interested in knowing what processes others use to generate these ideas. Feel free to post how you generate ideas for a story!


Are ideas truly difficult to come up with? I’m drowning in the weight of ideas, which is oh so wonderful, since I did have a dearth of them for years.

For me the difficulty is in trying to choose just one idea and develop it enough to turn it into an actual game. The ideas are the easy bit, the tough bit is the implementing them.


For me, it’s more of a flash of inspiration, but I’d also be interested to hear from anyone who has a process for story idea generation…


I did a quick search on Google about how to generate ideas and multiple pages popped up with tips. I think it is more common than you think. This is likely true for first time writers who are trying to get their first story idea fleshed out. I am curious to know what writers here do rather than looking at a random website.

Perhaps my background in business hurts me when it comes to generating ideas as well. To me, it isn’t enough to just come up with an idea. I have to gauge whether something will be popular with the target demographic among other things.


I have a little pill, I take one a day and thanks to it I have ideas and I can now write again. Which is weirdly true, and in itself a fascinating idea for a sci-fi story I think, but not very helpful to anyone else. I feel like Charlie from the story, Flowers for Algernon, which is probably a reference only I’ll get. It is good to live in the future.

My process is:

I keep a dream journal next to my bed. If I have story-dreams, which I have a lot of nowadays, I will write down as much as I remember. I find it best to write down every single idea as soon as I have it, otherwise I might forget. So I have another notepad filled with ideas. I have a vast amount of brightly coloured gel pens beside my notepad because there’s something about plain black ink that just gets me down and gets in the way of the creativity.

I get ideas from the oddest of places. A throw away comment on the forums, about if someone wrote a story about Julius Caesar, would I also expect them to write a lesbian Julia Caesar, inspired me to create Julia Caesar and the Fire of Rome. It was filled with a lot of silliness. I just brainstormed as many ridiculous things as I could for Julia to do, writing down a huge list of them, playing with puns (I love puns) and words people could easily get mixed up. History was also a huge inspiration, I read a lot of wikipedia, I followed links, I did a search on deviantart because I like looking at the pictures. I spoke to people and they had some interesting ideas too that I used. And I just kept playing with the idea, writing, rewriting things, then ditching it all and going with another idea. I’ve a longer description of the creative process that I wrote for @LordIrishDas a while ago.

For PSI, I said to myself, I want to write a game where the entire point is the romances. I loved reading Point Horror, Christopher Pike, RL Stine and a bunch of those type of books in my teens. The school library was filled with them and I could devour them in a couple of hours so I just chewed my way through every single book of that type I could get my hands on. I read a lot of urban fantasy before it was ever called urban fantasy. I’m also an avid White Wolf roleplayer, I’ve tabletopped, played online, LARPed. There’s been a recent flare of interest thanks to Twilight in those sort of things and I wanted to write an urban-fantasy story, where the main character was a normal person who could romance werewolves, vampires and wizards.

I wrote down a list of what romance interests I’d need. I said well I’ll need one good girl, one bad girl, one good boy, one bad boy. There, all the types are now covered, something for everyone. :slight_smile: And then I started thinking and poking at the idea, trying to work out who my hero was. Well the whole idea of being normal went out the window, it just didn’t work. The romances are still intended to be integral to the storyline, but evne if they’re not pursued there will be strong friendships.

I actually have a lot of PSI planned out and written down in notebooks. I’ve been lazy when it comes to stringing things together though. I ask myself a lot of questions. I poke at my ideas. I go for walks and turn the ideas over in my head trying to make them take shape and it’s the whole idea creation that I love most of all. It’s the stage where I’m filled with creativity and I’m planning things out before I have to do the hard work of actually writing. It’s where I can work out plots and characters and how they’ll all fit together and have twists and turns reveal themselves to me. I love the whole idea process.


I actually think taking a business approach to generating ideas is a very smart, sensible approach. I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t work, and work well.

What would be popular?

I’d be interested in statistics in the current Choice of Games about which games are most popular and sell best. I’d also be interested in why that is. I’d want to know what it is that people like best about Choice games and see if I could somehow recreate that while having a unique story of my own.

I’d have a look at and read all of the comments and see what appeals to people most. I’d also look at movies, books and casual games to see what the recent trends are. What’s popular story-wise? Who is your target demographic?


I’ve been writing for years, though more along the lines of stories rather than through choicescript. I come to my ideas in many different ways, but for the most part, I just fantasize. Sometimes I have a dream that I use as a basis, but for the most part, I put whatever character I like at the moment into some situation or another and just go from there. Yes, usually I think more toward the romantic side of things, but so far people have liked what I wrote, so I just keep going. Though, more often than not I write stories that have to do with what’s popular. A few years ago it was vampires, and now it’s going more into zombies and werewolves.


Not to derail, but maybe to open a tangent-

FairyGodfeather: “For me the difficulty is in trying to choose just one idea and develop it enough to turn it into an actual game. The ideas are the easy bit, the tough bit is the implementing them.”

Does anyone have any tips on staying focused on your game? I haven’t done anything in weeks, because frankly, I find the entirety just a bit too daunting.


@Caddmuss - you just have to grind it out basically. What I do, is plan things in ‘stages’ or chapters. So, I write my story and I don’t write anything until that particular chapter or stage is complete.
I keep a separate ideas book to juggle ideas, concepts and storylines that can be adapted into the story I’m writing, or could be a future concept, but everytime my mind wanders onto a new idea that has no bearing on my current project, I nip it in the bud. Otherwise I know I’ll just run with it.

If you break the work down to manageable sizes you should find you’ll make excellent progress.

@GameOver - Generating ideas is fine, and I don’t think your business angle is a drawback. For me, I can create a ton of ideas but, those ideas lack substance. They usually would never become a full story in their own right unless massaged like a nice pizza dough… hmm.

The thing is though, is there’s a ton of ‘ideas’ people dream up that don’t make interesting stories anyway. Some people come up with interesting concepts but never execute it well. The trick for me is really to let your imagination go and see if you can construct it. A good way to practice this is to watch movies, or play RPGs with a heavy storyline, I’m thinking political-worldview RPGs like Suikoden or Vandal Hearts (old school here…) and with every twist and turn in the plot, wonder what would happen if the twist was the polar opposite of what you just saw.

You don’t need to actually write the story itself, just twist things, question it and direct in the opposite direction of what you’ve been shown and what you know. That, for me anyway, gets me thinking deeper into a storyline and gets me coming up with ideas.

But really, that works for me. I honestly think you need to find your own inspiration for letting your mind go and getting the creative juices flowing. :slight_smile:


Just sit down and write something… Hell, I don’t even plan. Whatever the characters may do next, or what obstacle I want to throw in their way, happens, and I don’t know what it is until it does, or what will happen after, save when the tide of ideas outpaces my fingers (often). Usually, the issue’s more inertia than a lack of ideas; force yourself to start.


I have a very similar process to ADNox. I don’t really plan anything ever. I just sit down, type, and let my ideas flow. It is a much slower process when making a choice game, but generally I still don’t know what I want to happen after each choice until I have begun to write it.

Other than that, what actually starts me on writing those things that just come to me on their own is ALWAYS simply a flash of inspiration, often just one small segment of an event or a character or two that just pops into my head for whom I cannot resist making up a story.

@FairyGodfeather LOL! I’ve read “Flowers for Algernon!!” I can’t decide if I liked it or not- it’s a very interesting mix of emotions for me, and it makes it impossible to decide if I enjoyed the story or a hated it!


Plan, plan, plan, plan. Which is entirely different from how I used to write.

Back when I did write I’d just sit down and write. I’d write my huge stories and I wouldn’t have a clue what was going to happen until I hit the end. I’d write short stories and again the writing would be a revelation to me, the plot as much a surprised.

I can’t do that with Choice Games since I get bogged down the moment I hit a choice. I get overwhelmed by the possibilities. I need a structure and I need to at least know the beginning and the end. I don’t generally know the middle, but I need an end point I’m aiming for to keep it all under control. The plot does still surprise me but it’s more structured than it was. And I’m always willing to ditch the plan once I get going if something else is more interesting to write.

@Galador Aha! It’s not an obscure reference then. I hated it when I read it but I did it at school with a teacher who sucked the enjoyment out of any story at all. If it wasn’t destroy your soul depressing then it wasn’t worth reading. Flowers for Algernon fitted right in. However, now it feels like my life.

@Caddmus Break it up into manageable chunks. Of course I’m a hypocrite since I’ve taken a break from my main choicescript game just now to work on another project. Set yourself achievable goals. Write. Write anything. As long as you’re writing that’s what’s important. Keep on writing. Don’t edit your previous stuff, just keep writing and push on. Don’t tackle it as one huge project, tackle it as a series of smaller goals. It’s why I plan my game in chapters. If the worst comes to the worst and you get stuck ask for help. I’m finding it far, far easier to write on a project I’m working on with someone else, than I do writing on my own. But then I need to learn discipline.


Aw shucks - here I was, hoping one of you had some brilliant secret.

  1. Think of a story idea I would like to read.
  2. Keep focused on writing said story from beginning to end.
  3. ???
  4. PROFIT!


3= edit, cut, rewrite, check facts


Don’t forget, chop, change, scrap, re-invent, frustrate, drink self into drunken supor, come up with better idea in drunken haze, scrap it when sober. :slight_smile:


In my opinion, great ideas never come to your mind; great ideas are generally already out there, existing, and its just up to you to channel them into a form that is recognizable in the physical world.

Sometimes, you might have already felt that idea brush against you, but your mind insists that it is far too silly to take seriously. If you want to write something but don’t know what to write about, its usually because your mind is blocked by social norms that make it impossible for you to take the ideas you had seriously.

At these times, I simply sit down and relax and don’t do anything. I meditate, or daydream, so that I won’t have my brain blocking creative ideas through adhesion to social norms. Then, as soon as the barrier is down, I get a lot of ideas in a torrent all at once.

The key to doing this, I think, is to never reject an idea. If Tolkien had thought, “An idea about hairy footed little men trying to throw a ring into a hole in the ground is stupid.”, we would never have a series like Lord of the Rings.

An example to prove this point is the child-mind. A child does not understand what is expected of it. Therefore, they may sometimes do some things we consider embarrassing. However, a child is far more capable of imagination than most adults. Is it because the child is more intelligent? No. It is simply because a child embraces any idea that happens to catch its fancy.

What I think you’re doing, is blocking out ideas because you think they are not good enough. Remember, all ideas can be worked with as long as you believe in them. Lord of the Rings sounded pretty stupid in the above context; but because we are able to believe in it, it is hailed as one of the greatest pieces of storytelling in our time.

You have already been contacting ideas; that is the usual explanation for the urge to create. It is just that your adhesion to social norms makes your brain automatically block what it considers frivolous and embarrassing.

So, don’t reject any idea. Just open your mind and accept them. Consider them all, and I think you will find that you have already had many ideas, all of them good. Good luck with channelling them to us, and I look forward to seeing what you have written.


Thanks for the tips everyone. I appreciate it. I actually had some free time tonight and started working on something officially after jotting down a bunch of notes. We’ll see how it goes.


I always come up with storys by listening to music


I wrote an article ages ago about how I came up with my idea for Julia Caesar and for my writing process while working on it. I’ve no idea if the article even makes sense but this thread inspired me to actually upload it. I would have posted it on the forums but it’s too long for several posts.