The most common question asked of writers is, “Where do you get your inspiration?” This is a tough question. What sparks a story can be as simple as, “I was walking home from the store one day, saw a stray cat, and wondered where they came from.” Or as complicated as, “It’s based partly off something that happened to me, partly off a feeling I got from a TV show I watched, and partly on the life of a friend of a friend who told me a story on the subway.” No, really. Inspiration can hit anywhere. It can come on slow and in pieces or hit all at once when you least expect it. But if you’re sitting down and you’re ready to write, but you’re not sure what your story is about, there are a few things you can do to attempt to get inspiration. Here are some ideas:
Take in stories.
This seems like an obvious one, but it’s one that often gets forgotten or seen as a waste of time. All artists are inspired by other artists. It’s what makes this whole thing work. So, if you’re having a hard time deciding what kind of story you want to tell, look at what stories other people are telling. Watch a movie, read a book, listen to music, visit an art gallery. Make lists of what attracts you to your favorite pieces or characters and use that to build your own story.
Inside every story is a piece of the author, big or small. Not every story is a memoir, but every story has something the author went through, even if it’s a high fantasy story with elves and dragons. It’s human nature to write about our experiences and it even happens unintentionally sometimes. Write about some hard times in your life or some emotions you have right now. Use those things in a story.
Spend some time at the park people-watching. Go to the grocery store. Visit with your friends. The people around you are fascinating. They all have stories and lives that are worth writing about. Take some time to watch and talk to these people, build stories off of the things you can’t stop thinking about.
Rewrite an old story.
Retellings are a huge success because our society loves our old classics but wants to see them with modern values. If you have a favorite classic, take the story and give it a twist. Write Anna Karenina as a vampire story, write Romeo and Juliet in the age of cell phones and Instagram. Take an old story and make it your own. The author won’t mind.
Change the ending.
This concept is similar to a retelling but not quite. If you’ve ever read a story and fallen in love with a character but didn’t like the way the story ended for that character, take that character and drop them into a more satisfying story. Don’t like that Boba Fett died in that pit? Cool. Write about a masked bounty hunter who doesn’t die but is actually the hero of the story. Just make sure you don’t use a Star Wars settings unless your intention is to write fanfiction (which is fine!).
These are just a few ways to get an idea on how to start a story. And once you’ve started, your mind may take the story in a completely new direction. But you don’t know until you get there.