Writing Wednesdays Guest Post: Alice Oseman - How to come up with story ideas

YA author of Solitaire and Radio Silence, Alice Oseman, shares her advice on how to come up with story ideas in this guest post.

This week’s Writing Wednesday in a month of posts by guest authors is Alice Oseman, with ‘How do I come up with ideas?’

Find Alice on Twitter and Tumblr, and check out her website.

You can get her debut YA novel Solitaire on Amazon, or if you’ve already read that, make sure to get your hands on the VERY BRAND NEW Solitaire novella, Nick and Charlie, which is released as an ebook on Thursday 16th July.

“How do I come up with ideas?” The question that appears most often in my ask box.

I get why it’s such a difficult question. Ideas seem to come out of nowhere and they feel impossible. Why this idea now? Why weren’t you able to think of it before? This is the best idea I’ve ever had. Wait- now I hate it. Now I love it again. Wait, what?

Am I right?

I’ve thought very hard about how exactly one comes up with ideas, and while I can’t give you a foolproof step-by-step guide, I can describe a few methods that really help me to come up with ideas for stories and characters.

1. What’s the story only YOU can tell? 

This is probably one of the most obvious ways to think of ideas. Do you feel that you have an unusual perspective on a particular topic? Do you have a fantasy world in full swing inside your brain? Everyone has something special and unique about them – everyone has something to say. You just need to get that down onto paper.

2. What would YOU want to read? 

What sorts of books do you love reading? It’s very likely that you would love writing them too. Is there a story that you really wish your favourite author would write? A story you just wish you could find in a bookshop? Why not write that yourself?

3. What hasn’t been written? 

This requires a lot of thought. Identifying a story that you desperately want to read but hasn’t been told by anyone yet is hard but absolutely worth it. It can give you the drive you need to finish a full book. This was definitely one of the most important things for me when writing my second novel, Radio Silence. 

4. Write down fictional characters and worlds you are particularly attached to

I have a file on my computer with a huge list of characters that I have fallen in love with. Reading the list helps me to identify the characteristics that I most enjoy reading, and therefore most enjoy writing, and helps me to think about and choose what sorts of characters I want to put into my stories.

5. Pay attention to the books you love the most. 

Look at your list of favourite books. Why do you love these ones, specifically? Do they all have similar themes? Characters? Story arcs? Plot twists? There are clearly some very particular things that you love reading in a book. Once you can identify what they are, you will know what to put into your own writing, and what you would love to write yourself. 

6. Start a visual inspiration blog. 

I did this for the first time for my second novel Radio Silence (girlheroes.tumblr.com). It helped enormously. Seeing the book gave me a really idea of what the mood of my book was going to be and what the imagery and motifs would be.

7. Word vomit. 

I do this every single time I start planning a new story. I vomit words onto a page (okay, not literally). I just write down anything that might be relevant – characteristics, names, settings, descriptive words, etc. In a similar way to the visual inspiration blog, it’s really just about getting the ideas out into the real world and trying to make sense of them.

8. Draw your characters. 

This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but even if you’re not a great artist, drawing your characters can help massively when visualising them. I’ve done it since I was very young and I still do it now – I just draw them over and over and over, making different expressions, in different scenes, wearing different clothes. I find that it makes them feel more real.

I really do understand the pain of wanting to write a story but not knowing what to write – I went through about a year of that after finishing Solitaire. But hopefully something here will help you out.
Good luck!

- Huge thanks to Alice for her amazing post! Don’t forget to order her (bound to be) super amazing novella, or get Solitaire for just 99p in the Kindle Summer Sale!

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