How to Contract the Too Many Ideas Syndrome

People often wonder where writers find their ideas. The fact is, ideas are everywhere. From snippets of conversation at the mall to news stories, once you tune your senses to the world around you, you’ll have more ideas than you can possibly use.

If you’re struggling for an idea, try one of these:

Sit on a bench at the mall. Observe the people around you and without calling attention to yourself, listen to their conversations. Combining bits and pieces of conversations can ignite ideas.

Read the newspaper. Day after day newspapers are filled with astounding stories. For example, last year several newspapers ran a story about a woman whose first husband committed suicide. His organs were donated and the man who ended up with the heart also ended up with the dead man’s wife. Some years later, the second husband committed suicide the same way as the first prompting people to wonder if the heart somehow remembered the first husband, or if the wife was really a murderer. Think of the possibilities for a novel just based on this one story in the newspaper.

Watch the TV news. Again, television news shows feature all kinds of stories. Some stories seem too outrageous to even be true. For instance, what about the woman who loved a chimpanzee so much she gave up her children to care for the chimp. Take a story, tweak it a bit, and see how many ideas come from that story.

What if? Think about a story you’ve heard or are familiar with and start asking, “What if?” What if the Prince didn’t fall in love with Cinderella, but loved her stepmother instead? What if Mr. Hyde wasn’t a monster, but was in fact a hero and it was Dr. Jekyll that was the evil one? What if Forrest Gump was a genius? What if the Titanic didn’t sink because it hit an iceberg, but actually sank because someone destroyed it in a fit of rage or revenge? The more questions you ask, the more unique your story will be.

Freewriting. Sometimes, writing whatever pops into your mind will give you ideas. Try setting aside an hour and writing about anything and everything. Your subconscious might share a few story ideas with you.

Family History. Talk to your relatives. Every family has a few scandals. Perhaps, there was a horse thief who rode with Jesse James. Take his story and fictionalize it. Read through family journals and diaries to find story ideas.

Personal Experience. Think about your own life. Everyone has had interesting experiences. Maybe one of yours could be the basis for a book.

Rewrite a Myth, Fable, or Fairy Tale. Plenty of story ideas have come from reinventing familiar myths, fables, or fairy tales. Rethink the hero or heroine and/or replace the villain in the story. Tell the story from another character’s point of view.

The possibilities are endless. Once you start exploring story ideas, you’ll find your next complaint will be that you suffer from the “Too Many Ideas Syndrome.”