Three Ways To Generate an Idea for Your Next Novel

The dreaded question for any writer – where do you get your ideas?

Neil Gaiman once said “Doctors, for example, are always being asked for free medical advice, lawyers are asked for legal information, morticians are told how interesting a profession that must be and then people change the subject fast. And writers are asked where we get our ideas from.”

Sometimes I feel stuck when trying to generate new ideas. But there are some practical things you can take away from these famous author’s answers to this dreaded question.


From History

Margaret Atwood blends perfectly history, current events, and a prophetic future into The Handmaid’s Tale. The idea, she says, came from looking at trends in the American socio-political landscape:

“America was not initially founded as an 18th-century enlightenment republic. It was initially a 17th-century theocracy. That tendency keeps bubbling up in America from time to time.”


From Current Events or Trends

In 2009, 500 Days of Summer came out. As did John Green’s novel Paper Towns. The “manic pixie dream girl” was having a moment. The term was on every film-lover’s lips and it spread like wildfire across popular culture.

From Green’s website:

“Paper Towns began with thinking about our fascination with manic pixie dream girls and our relentless misimagining of each other. Then little ideas will come along and link up to other little ideas and then in a few short years, I have a book. I would love to have a high-concept book idea fall out of the sky and hit me one day, but it hasn’t happened yet.”

Look at current trends and events happening. Maybe they say something about the world, or the particular time we’re living in that could tie into larger themes.


From Family

In Joe Hill’s case, this means literal family, but this applies to your diehard writing pals, or anyone whose judgement you trust. Joe Hill is of course the son of Stephen and Tabitha King, family time is often a creative writing workshop.

“We all share manuscripts and talk about what we’re working on, so it’s this big group where we can bounce ideas off each other and get concrete, page-by-page help.”



Want to read more about where writers get their ideas from? Here are a few articles I enjoy:

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