Where to Find Creative Writing Ideas

Below are some ways to find creative writing ideas for your novel or for any other kind of writing. Click here to read creativity tips contributed by our visitors -- and contribute your own!

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Tips for generating creative writing ideas


  • Keep a journal - Record your observations, things that happen to you and how they feel, stories you hear from your friends, curious events on the news, gossip, memories. Any of these can become the seed of a story, novel, or poem. And you can go back to your journal as you're writing to find the details and descriptions that will make your scenes seem real.

  • Eavesdrop - I know it's rude... but only if you get caught. Listen to conversations on the bus, at the coffeehouse or the supermarket. You'll catch fragments of people's lives that you can use in your creative writing. Imagine what each person speaking is actually thinking. Imagine what happened to cause the conversation and what might happen next.

  • People-watch - Writers tend to be interested in other people's lives. (This is a nice way of saying that writers are nosy.) So watch the couple at the restaurant table next to you and imagine their story. Is it a first date? Is one of them bored with the other one? Can you hear what they're talking about? How could you describe their appearance, their body language, their voices, and what do these details say about them? All of this is a gold mine of creative writing material. So put on your dark glasses and go sit in a crowded place.

  • Pick a name from the phone book - Picture a woman named Gertrude. Now picture a woman named Jen, a woman named Shoshana. Chances are, each of these names inspired a very different mental image. Names call up a complex set of associations, and you can use them as the starting point for a fictional character. Then invent a problem for the character, and you have the beginning of a plot. What about a Shoshana trapped inside the body and life of a Gertrude, or vice-versa?

    Read more ideas about inventing characters.

  • Watch the news - In addition to your own life and the lives of people you know, the news is an endless source of creative writing ideas. Take a local news story and imagine the event from the point of view of one of the people who was involved. What would he or she have felt? Imagine the event as a scene -- what would have been the sights, sounds, smells, sensations? What would have happened next?

    The children's book writer Linda Leopold Strauss got the idea for her novel Really, Truly, Everything's Fine from newspaper story about a man in her neighborhood who was accused of a white-collar crime. The story made her wonder if the man had a family, what conversation they would be having over their breakfast table that morning when the newspaper story came out, how the man's child might react to the news of her father's crime, how this would change her life. And so a novel was born.


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  • Re-imagine a real event - Start with something that happened to you, or someone you know, or someone in a news story, and ask yourself "What if..." What if your untalented friend had tried to pursue his dream of becoming a jazz musician. What if instead of getting a divorce, you had poisoned your husband's coffee? Create an interesting situation, imagine how it would play out it as realistically as you can, and then start writing.

  • Use story starters - Creative Writing Now has a huge variety of story starters and fiction writing prompts that you can use to get creative writing ideas. Also check out Bryan Cohen's new e-book, 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, which offers one thousand story starters covering a wide range of topics.

  • Try the CWN story idea machine - A fun and easy tool for generating ideas.

    Get the story machine (Excel file)


Where do YOU look for inspiration?

Share your creativity tip to inspire others, or scroll down to read other writers' tips.

Is there a special place that inspires you? Do you keep a dream journal, participate in a writer's group, or read poetry to get in the writing mood? Let us know!

Congratulations to the winner of our recent Creative Writing Ideas competition, Corrie Ann Gray, for her contribution "Pick-tionary."

Visitor contributions

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

The Most Creative Room in the House 
When I need a new inspiration I lock myself in the bathroom. Someone very close to me once told me that the most creative room in the house is the bathroom …

More Ways to Get Creative Writing Ideas 
There are times in life when we want so much more than what it has to offer. As a teen, I always wish there's so much more in life than me growing up, …

Titles 
Ever been stuck for a title? Ever been stuck for a story idea? A fantastic way of finding titles and ideas for stories is by keeping a book of titles you …

Dreams on Paper 
Sometimes people like me are more creative when they are asleep so I take parts of my dream that I like and remember and write it down on top of a piece …

Titles Suggest Stories 
Sometimes I know what the name of my story will be before I know what the story is about. If you have what you think is a brilliant title, then it can …

The Voice 
It starts with a voice. I've never had an accent, and voices come easier to me than most- though I daresay if you're a native of a country or region I'm …

Tweet Yourself 
I get creative ideas from what I read - fiction, newspapers, magazines - everything. I'm a working mother with a demanding day job and don't get to travel …

Real Whodunits 
They are in front of us all the time, TV, newspapers, Internet... unsolved crimes. I have found ideas from just listening to the news broadcasts. I always …

Friends and Family Members 
Listening to the daily stories and reminiscences of my children, hubby and friends usually provides me with excellent starting points for fiction, essay …

Listen to your subconscious 
Ideas are constantly bubbling out of your unconscious mind. You don't really need to brainstorm them. Whatever you do, experience, see, or feel automatically …

Pick-tionary 
Dictionaries are wonderful companions. Perusing the pages opens up a world of entertainment and inspiration. I grab one, take it somewhere I can allow …

Become Another Author 
I find a lot of my inspiration from my favorite authors, such as Thomas Gavin or Thomas Harris. What I usually do, if I'm in a rut, is open one of …

Live Life To Its Fullest 
I always look back at my past. In writing I have found that is where my future is to be!

Reflection 
I sit in a quiet place for about 20 minutes and reflect on the past 24 hours. I write about the thing that most affected me emotionally during that time …

Look at Cosmetic Name Colors...Ooo LaLa! 
I love make-up and everything associated with it! Lip gloss is my newest guilty pleasure and nail polish shades fascinate me. The names on the colors are …

Let Nature Lead the Way 
I'm sitting out in the early morning with my journal, listening to the birds sing their beautiful songs. Then I close my eyes and feel the sun on my cheeks, …

Mix and Match 
I have three boxes with snippets of paper in them. One contains male first names, the other, female and the third, surnames. If I ever hear a new name, …

From the Minds of Children 
My children have provided a wealth of ideas over the years because they are filled with curiosity. They provide endless questions to be answered about …

The Yellow Pages 
When I needed magazine/newspaper feature ideas to boil the pot, I would start leafing through the phone directory. There are businesses out there you …

The Internet is God's gift to writers! 
I love getting online and looking up obituaries taken from newspaper archives. Not modern day ones but the old ones from the 17 or 1800s when they were …

Shop Antiques Stores  
To get a feel for a character, I browse antiques stores and thrift shops. I ask myself what kind of person owns this object? Why did she discard it?

Back Roads and Small Towns 
My husband & I take road trips. When we drive the back roads & travel through small towns, I look at houses & stores & valleys. Who lives there? What is …

Write Five Sentences 
I write stories for children, but I have occasional mornings when I come to my writing time feeling empty of ideas, positive I will never write another …

Check out your library! 
You can look at the titles of books in the library (or bookstore) without opening the books. Then make up a story that fits one of the titles. When you've …

Click here to write your own.

Creative Writing Ideas from Music 
Is anyone else inspired to write by listening to music? Playing classical music just helps the ideas flow. And I always listen to Beethoven when I'm …

Using the unconscious for poem ideas 
The other day, I received an e-mail, and the title of the company that sent it to me kept running through my mind. A few hours later, I sat down and wrote …

Treasure in newspaper articles 
I've gotten ideas from newspaper articles, actual news articles. I just try to imagine my way into the situation described -- how would I feel if I were …

Buddy up for short story ideas 
Sometimes my sister and I brainstorm short story ideas together on the phone. One of us gets an idea, and then we talk about how the story might go. …

Creative Writing Ideas - page 4 
Sometimes I ask friends for just random words, or topics. They might say something like 'Viper' and I might come up with a nickname for a character--'The …

Creative Writing Ideas - page 3 
There are a lot of bad things, lies, broken hearts, broken families in my life. I look at my life for what I write about. I want to write a book on my …

Modern Myths or Famous Moments 
This is a guide that I mostly use for mysteries. Let's be honest, most crimes/mysteries you read in novels have a 'theme' so to speak. But the question …

Play the "What If?" Game 
Think of incredible scenarios that correspond to any normal thing you see or any regular person you come in contact with. Instead of focusing on the obvious, …

Shuffle 
Although I find almost everything in life inspires me, from books to movies to real-life experiences, one of my favourite ways to develop new creative …

Think about my past and what I am doing today 
I like to think about my past and then relate it to what I am doing today. For example, When I was little and my brother and I went to our grandfather's …

Pick One, Anyone! 
This technique can help you if you really don't know what to write. It can get you started and later on you'll have better ideas in your head to write. …

Find Inspiring Pictures 
I love finding photography websites and saving my favorite pictures. Find a good website with tons of photos and make an account. Bookmark any pictures …

Using Parts of Dreams You've Had 
Sometimes I use parts of dreams I've had. For example, one time I dreamed about being chased by a guy with a knife. When he was about to kill me I woke …

Reading and Listening to Song Lyrics from My Favorite Female Artists 
I love the words written by my favorite female artists. india.arie's words to her songs are truly inspiring. I become motivated and moved by her words. …

Conversations on the Bus/Tube 
Eavesdropping on public transport. Paper and pencil at the ready or your dictaphone. Work colleagues' coffee break stories. Visit to the Zoo. There's …

What Helps Me -- Sort of 
What helps me is joining a fun writer's group in my area. I learn a lot and these people have now become my friends. Also, I have so many books with …

Play Music 
Whenever I am need of a boost for creativity I'll listen to songs that remind me of what I am writing about. Right now, I'll listen to "Grenade" by Bruno …

Journaling, Not Just Ideas... 
Most people will tell you to keep a journal of all the ideas you have, and that's good, but don't forget all the other things! 1) Journal problems …

Pick an Image 
I have a strategy that I use for inspiration whenever I get writers' block, and it works very well. First, I get a magazine of choice (National Geographic, …

I like to walk at night 
It just clears my mind when everything is quiet but the bugs and owls and other night creatures.

Scrabble Dabble 
If you play Scrabble, make a list of all the words in the completed game, then use each word in a sentence which must relate to every other sentence so …

Translate Mishaps into Stories 
As much as most of us would like to have everything run smoothly - if not all the time, then at least most of the time - we also know that "things as usual" …

Junk shops and thrift stores 
Find an obscure item or a piece of clothing, and take a moment to think about when it was new. Who made it? Why was it bought? What was happening …

A Story Unframed 
When I'm at a loss for a story line I make a trip to a major art museum. All around you are incredible stories, lavishly framed and waiting for you to …

Click here to write your own.


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