I always have ideas for new writing projects—especially when I’m up to my elbows rewriting. My brain would much rather be working on the next shiny thing than polishing up my works-in-progress.
How do I generate ideas?
Most of my fiction ideas come from wondering “what if. . .” Like, what if a teenager discovers a unicorn living in the woods behind her house? What if a woman recognizes a missing girl as someone she’d seen in a recurring dream? What if the new girl in school decides to make friends by running for class president?
Please don’t steal my ideas—I’m working on all of these right now.
Instead, think what if. . .
Sometimes it helps to start with random elements: a setting, a character, a situation. Make lists of these things. Mix them up and see what happens.
Or here. I’ll make it easy for you.
Pick one item from column one, one from column two, one from column three and one from column four and see what happens. You may have to finagle a little.
What if . . .
|a car||buys||a peanut||but it’s illegal.|
|a bear||spanks||a glove||and it catches fire.|
|a doctor||eats||an atom||but there’s an earthquake.|
|a garbage collector||makes||an unknown virus||and turns it into an empire.|
|a life guard||forms||a corporation||and becomes very popular.|
|an insurance salesman||follows||a hospital||but an evil twin ruins it.|
|a horse||breaks||a mermaid||and it turns into gold.|
|a dog||steals||a cellphone||and the same day keeps repeating.|
|a teacher||invents||a city||and starts a trend.|
|a computer programmer||cooks||a homeless person||but forgets where it is.|
|an astronaut||draws||a calendar||in the midst of a snowstorm.|
|a helicopter||pretends to be||an elevator||but there’s a snake in the basement.|
|a zombie||mortifies||gasoline||just as World War III begins.|
|a rabbi||loses||a jogger||and falls in love.|
|a pregnant woman||builds||money||and becomes the next internet sensation.|
|a teenaged boy||loves||books||and gets transported into a parallel universe.|
|my left shoe||finds||a rock band||and stumbles into a robbery in progress.|
|an army||sells||a clarinet||but the warranty expired.|
|an elephant||runs into||a backpack||while acting as a Russian spy.|
|the president||alienates||a nun||who turns out to be their birth mother.|
Now it’s your turn. Use this idea generator to come up with a story line. It doesn’t have to adhere strictly to the four items you chose; let your imagination take you where it will. Write a piece of flash fiction or a short story. Post it on your blog or on social media, and include a link below. Or, better yet, submit it to a contest from the Poets and Writers database and tell us about it. (Good luck!)