100 ways to generate a story idea

In late October 2019, I desperately scoured the NaNoWriMo forums searching for creative inspiration ahead of November’s big writing event.[1] At some point, I decided to write down as many ways to generate a story as I could think of. This was the result, which I just rediscovered in my notes.

  1. Steal the plot of another story
  2. Adopt a plot on the NaNo forums
  3. Combine a fairy tale with a different genre or time period
  4. Use the titles of an album or playlist as plot points/chapter titles
  5. Snowflake method
  6. Free write
  7. Fanfiction
  8. Based on real events
  9. Based on an interesting person you know in real life
  10. Use an alternative history
  11. Use a list of random words as plot points
  12. Write a sequel to an existing story
  13. Write a Coen brothers-esque story
  14. Take inspiration from a particular time period
  15. Take an existing story and change its style or genre
  16. Take an existing conflict from current events and switch up its details/style/genre
  17. Ask a series of what if questions
  18. Write a prequel or origin story to an existing story
  19. Use characters and events from previous, unfinished stories
  20. Write what you know
  21. Write what you don’t know
  22. Write what you wish you knew
  23. Based on a board game
  24. Based on D&D
  25. Use a writing prompt
  26. Make a list of 100 plot ideas
  27. Rewrite an existing story (original or otherwise)
  28. Write a Stanley Kubrick-esque story
  29. Write from the perspective of a dead historical figure
  30. Write about a character who’s traveling through different existing stories like the Energizer bunny
  31. Use the Writer Emergency Pack
  32. Use story dice (or whatever they’re called)
  33. Make up some different characters and then see how you can relate them to each other
  34. Turn a movie or TV show into a novel
  35. Write an original story story that takes place in an existing story’s world
  36. Look through old plot idea notes
  37. Turn your friends into characters in a story
  38. Turn a poem into a full story
  39. Turn a short film (like the ones from Dust on YT) into a story
  40. Based on a video game
  41. Based on an obscure/odd profession
  42. Based on a fictional profession
  43. Based on a fictional sport
  44. Imagine the villain is suing the hero or vice-versa
  45. Make up one-sentence story ideas
  46. Ask someone else what kind of story they would like to read
  47. Based on a particular aesthetic
  48. Based on Biblical stories or characters
  49. Write a fictional religious text
  50. Write a manifesto
  51. Write non-fiction
  52. Based on a comic book
  53. Based on a TV show
  54. Take the problems of one historical character and have a different historical character experience them
  55. Based on a web comic (eg, xkcd)
  56. Based on characters from popular toy franchises (eg, GI Joe)
  57. Write from the perspective of a journalist chasing a story
  58. Interview with hero
  59. Interview with the villain
  60. Based on a rare medical condition
  61. Based on a major catastrophe
  62. Take the villain (or hero) from one story and insert them into another
  63. Write about Donald Trump if he were in a different profession (eg, private investigator)
  64. Turn a Greek epic into a contemporary story
  65. Use a plot generator
  66. Use a character generator
  67. Draw a storyboard
  68. Pick different stock photos and relate them together
  69. What if a fact or assumption everyone agreed on turned out to be wrong?
  70. Write about an industry as if it were a different industry (eg, what if Apple and Microsoft were hospitals?)
  71. Use a selection of tropes as storytelling mechanisms
  72. Write about a weird or scary time in your own life
  73. Build a world first, then add the characters
  74. Build a detailed character first and then develop the plot
  75. Write about online communities as if they were IRL institutions (eg, Redditors Guild)
  76. Start with a visceral scene or concept and work outward from there
  77. Start with the ending and work backward
  78. Write some dialog between two characters with opposing wants and see if an idea is born out of that
  79. Start with a main idea/character/setting and mindmap out from there
  80. Use the life of an animal as inspiration for a story (eg, ants are like militant colonists)
  81. Start with a question and ask more questions
  82. Write about something you wish would happen
  83. Based on song lyrics
  84. Based on a sidekick to a popular hero
  85. Write about possible near-future events
  86. Write a short story first, then turn it into a novel
  87. Turn a play into a novel
  88. Create a story from a mad-lib-style template
  89. Create random characters from a generator and try to make a story with them
  90. Roll a D&D character (or two) and make a story out of them
  91. Write a story based on a published D&D adventure
  92. Write the plot of a Western into a modern day story
  93. Take the plot of a sci-fi and turn it into a Western
  94. Sit outside and see where your mind takes you
  95. Create a magic system or game mechanic and then build a story out of it
  96. Write a story where each chapter is based on a joke
  97. Create a character that has an obscure phobia
  98. What’s the scariest thing you can possibly imagine? Create a story about that
  99. Create a story that’s preachy about a particular religious or political point
  100. Create a series of short stories that are tied together by theme or setting or something else (eg, they all take place in the same world)

  1. NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month) is a writing event that happens every November. Writers all over the world scramble to write a 50k-word novel by the end of the month. ↩︎