5 Ways to Brainstorm Story Ideas



by Tonya R. Moore


Brainstorming is generally the first step of the writing process. When planning a story, brainstorming helps to spark creativity and helps us to come up with new and original ideas or maybe even put news twists on old ideas.

Here’s a list of 5 ways I generally go about brainstorming story ideas:


Pinterest/Inspiration Board

I keep an “inspiration” board on Pinterest. I also use Beenokle’s Inspiration Gallery to gather collections of inspiring pictures. I like to browse through these boards until I come across an image that just “speaks” to me. Then I move on to my next brainstorming method.


Random Words

I write down the first words that come to mind. If I use my inspiration board, I write down the first words that come to mind when I look at the image I selected. I write down random words until I come up with a concept, phrase, or even a single word that sticks out in my mind. Then I start bouncing ideas around.


Mind Mapping (or something like it)

I use Scapple, an application created by the awesome folks who brought us Scrivener to create mind maps of a sort when trying to come up with story ideas.

“It isn’t exactly mind-mapping software—it’s more like a freeform text editor that allows you to make notes anywhere on the page and to connect them using straight dotted lines or arrows. If you’ve ever scribbled down ideas all over a piece of paper and drawn lines between related thoughts, then you already know what Scapple does.” ~ Literature and Latte


Stream of Consciousness

Stream of conscious simply entails this: write. Write whatever comes to mind, even nonsense. Just keep writing until something coherent, something you can use begins to take shape.


Challenges and Prompts

Many blogs and websites give writing prompts. Litopia, a writing forum, has their Flash Club. Chuck Wendig regularly issues awesome prompts on his blog. There are even tools such as Random Story Title Generator 2.0 available. I attempt writing challenges/prompts every once in a while, just for the fun of it. I might not be able to use all of the pieces that I write in response to prompts but it gets me into the habit of brainstorming story ideas.

Sometimes ideas for stories just pop into my head without warning. Who doesn’t just love when that happens?

At other times, I have to put some effort into coming up with story ideas. This is where brainstorming comes into the picture.





Guest post contributed by Tonya R. Moore. Tonya is a Jamaican born, science fiction, horror, and urban fantasy writer from Bradenton, Florida. 

12 thoughts on “5 Ways to Brainstorm Story Ideas

  1. I enjoyed this article and walk away from it with a couple of useful strategies to consider using. I’ve consistently used stream of consciousness and mind mapping before. I’m definitely going to explore more visual cues like pinterest boards and random words. I have a recollection of using word lists for motivation poetry. Although, I don’t think that is the same thing as random words. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Useful post, Tonya… I like to use a technique called ‘what is, what if. ..?’ to really work with images that have grabbed my attention. The basic approach is to thoroughly note and make a list of ‘what is’ in the image, then play creatively with that image by imagining the changes you could create in the image’s narrative by changing one or more things; the ‘what if.. .’


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