The Origin of a Story

This past semester, I took a screenwriting class that taught me a lot about stories and what they involve--the three act structure and all that. But one of the biggest things it helped me realize was where my best ideas for stories usually come from.

Ideas come from a lot of places. Some, you get from watching people and listening to, or participating in, conversations. Some come from daydreaming or reading and asking the question, "What if?" Some fall out of the sky, out of nowhere, slamming into your head and causing a minor concussion.

Ideas can come from wandering through random locations. For example, you're on a night-time adventure with your buddies and you come upon a haunted warehouse. Creaking floors, cobwebs, eerie noises. You think to yourself, "Hey! This would be a cool place for a story!"

For me, wherever the idea originates from, when I sit down to write the story, the plot tends to spring from an image.

Here are the images that led to my three completed novels:

1. a farmhouse in the rain

The actual farmhouse, minus the rain.

This image led to an alternate history novel about a family dealing with hardships during a rainy season in the Civil War era.

2. a flaming sword

This image led to a fantasy novel about a sword forged by demons.

3. a poisonous moon

This image led to a science fiction novel about (go figure) a poisonous moon and a girl who lives on the planet it orbits.

I recently came up with another science fiction novel that stems directly from this image:

4. a wave that steals children

Wave by Jon Sullivan

So, what's the point of all this?

If you're struggling to come up with a new idea for a novel, try starting with an image. Something that makes you ooh and awe and ask "what if?" Something that you can create a story around.

Happy writing!

How do you come up with story ideas? Share your thoughts in the comments!


  1. I loved this, Stephanie. =) It's always fun to read about how other people come up with ideas and what inspires them.

  2. I come up with story ideas pretty much the same way as you, through images. Often a single image is enough to send an entire story rolling through my mind.

    I'm currently working on a romance novel. The idea or the novel started with a single image of a savage, but somehow magnetic man crouched in front of a woman who is being held prisoner. All I knew was that he was dressed in animal pelts and had super strength and speed, and the most intense eyes I'd ever seen. And, he needed to rescue the woman in front of him. The man was just so intriguing that I HAD to find out everything I could about his story, and write it.

    It's amazing what a single image can do to a writer who is willing to explore the possibilities. :D

    Also, love the idea of a wave that steals children!