How to come up with a book idea: Try these 7 effective ways

How to come up with a book idea: Try these 7 effective ways

You’ve been sitting at your desk for two days, but a new book idea hasn’t come to your mind yet. Is this normal for a writer? Does it mean that you are not a real author?

We boldly declare: It’s absolutely normal. Sooner or later, every creator faces this block. Fortunately, there are various ways to remedy the situation. And today, we’ve prepared an effective instruction on how to come up with a book idea.

In the article, you’ll learn5 ways to develop a book plot as soon as possible and 2 methods to get the bottomless sources of book ideas for years. Let’s get on with it.

How to come up with a good book idea as soon as possible

If you can’t survive without writing for a single day, or there’s a literary competition on the horizon, you may need a book idea right now. Here’s how to come up with the book plot today. 

1. Take one of the eternal themes

The point is that there are no untouched themes. People have been writing stories for more than 9,000 years, and we don’t even speak about just telling the stories orally. So let’s be honest: You won’t invent a new topic no matter how hard you try. However, you can take one of the eternal themes and make it unique by adding extraordinary settings, characters, and events.

Thus, the first step is to choose the topic that echoes in your soul.

1) Good vs. Evil

This theme stretches even beyond Biblical times. It’s the classic battle between light and dark, a kind protagonist and cruel antagonist. And usually, good triumphs over evil.

Examples:

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

2) Fate vs. Free Will

In brief: There’s no escaping one’s destiny. The protagonist can do anything: run, fight, or cheat. But his fate is sealed.

Examples:

  • Macbeth by William Shakespeare
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

3) Human vs. Nature

Humanity is constantly developing and reaching new heights of civilization. But it is still nothing before the force of nature. 

Examples:

  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  • Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

4) Pursuit of Love

Whatever we say, love makes the world go round. Many people dream of finding true love, but it’s not always easy.

Examples: 

  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  • The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

5) Revenge

Revenge is a powerful feeling that gives strength to fight enemies. However, is it always worth it? Can revenge beget justice?

Examples:

  • Carrie by Stephen King
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

6) Survival

Such stories show the real human possibilities on the border with various dangers and even death. Sometimes the hero does not even know he can do such a thing.

Examples:

  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

7) War

Unfortunately, war has haunted people since the beginning of the world. It causes many dangerous trials and leaves fatal consequences.

Examples:

  • For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
  • Men At Arms by Evelyn Waugh

8) Loneliness

Sooner or later, everyone feels lonely. Such stories show how the heroes cope with this feeling and whether man can survive this disconnection from others.

Examples:

  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  • The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall

9) Family

A person can love their relatives endlessly, but it does not cancel the fact that sometimes difficulties and negative feelings arise. However, the family can overcome everything together.

Examples:

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  • Three Weeks with My Brother by Nicholas Sparks and Micah Sparks

10) Identity

At a specific moment in their life, the protagonist asks: Who am I? And events in the story help the hero find the answer.

Examples:

  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio

If you’ve chosen the theme, it’s time for the second step: Decide on a genre. It determines what settings to select and how your story will develop.

Finally, if you want to find out what to write about, try remembering some moments from your childhood, youth, or other period related to the theme. Memories will make your book vivid and realistic for the readers.

2. Steal like an artist

If you’ve read the book Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon, you know it’s pretty normal to snoop on other authors to boost your creativity. After all, you’re not going to steal their works literally, but just get inspired and create something unique.

So, here’s one more way to develop a book idea. First, you must make up a list of your favorite stories (books, movies, whatever). It can include 5, 10, 20, or more titles. Secondly, consider what you like about each story: Genre, character, plot, or theme. Finally, mix elements from the books to get a new unique concept.

Let’s see how it works in practice. For example, our list includes such books:

  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante 
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  • The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Now, we have to mix the elements of these stories:

  • Genre: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (novel)
  • Characters: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (intelligent and brave man)
  • Plot: The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner (Four generations of a family live and love on an enchanting Mediterranean island)
  • Theme: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (Good vs. Evil)        

It’s time to stir things up and see what concept we can get:

The protagonist was born in a city on an island ruled by an evil and cruel lord. Growing up, the hero meets the love of his life and gets married. However, the main character’s wife dies because of the ruthless lord. The hero vows to avenge her death and raise children with a sense of revenge in their hearts.

Thus, you invent more and more concepts using this method. 

3. Play with a random choice

It’s time to sit back and leave it to the fates: Play with a random choice. There are several ways to do it. 

Use an online generator

You can visit Random Plot Generator or Plot Generator, and also just google such a tool. For the best result, combine several random plot lines or press the generate button until you find a fantastic idea.

Ask friends

The best way is to gather a big company of friends. The first will tell you a genre; the second will choose a location; the third will name characters, and so on. And all you need is to make up a story using these elements.

Make a board game

Use our table below to come up with a book idea. Download and print it. Then you have to cut out elements and sort them according to their intent. Finally, draw a genre, protagonist, antagonist, location, and theme at random. For example, your new concept may sound like:

A horror story about a lonely old lady who got lost on an unexplored planet. Moreover, she has to defeat a serial killer there.

Indeed, you can use our table or make your own with more options. By the way, we have created a character-building template that will help you come up with a character description.

4. Use the ‘What if’ method

Imagine what will happen to someone if some events occur. The main thing here is to give your imagination as much freedom as possible. The craziest idea will help to write the best book. There are some examples for inspiration:

  • What if zombies invade an Imagine Dragons concert?
  • What if the dragon attacks the high-rise apartment house opposite?
  • What if my Venus flytrap mutates and eats my neighbors?
  • What if my cat starts talking?
  • What if I get amnesia while traveling in the mountains alone?

5. Switch a story element

Again, you don’t have to invent something entirely new. Take a well-known fairytale, ancient myth, or even historical event and rewrite it. Here, you can:

  • Change a point of view (for example, tell the story of Robinson Crusoe from Friday)
  • Refresh the theme (let Heracles fight a crime lord instead of the Nemean Lion)
  • Switch a story element (make Snow White be a detective, not a princess)
  • Add your own experience (imagine that Odyssey is a little boy that gets lost in a bustling city as you did in childhood).   

Honestly, there are many examples of famous books where writers used this method:

  • The Godfather by Mario Puzo
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  • The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge
  • The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
  • Foe by J.M. Coetzee.   

How to come up with the bottomless sources of book ideas for years

Well, we figured out how to quickly develop a terrific book idea. But what if we told you that you could create an endless source of plots for the future? In this way, you will not only have ideas for all occasions but also endless inspiration. Are you interested?

1. Create a compost heap

Neil Gaiman, a famous author, says that all writers must have a compost heap. In gardening, it means a place where you throw all of the garden and the kitchen rubbish. Then it rots down, and you receive excellent fertilization to grow lovely flowers and tasty vegetables.

Speaking about writing, the compost heap means collecting everything that inspires you to create stories. You should put such things in one place, for example, a notebook. Write down sudden plots that appear in your head, overheard dialogues, and extraordinary people you meet on the street. Maybe, now you don’t know what to do with these things. But let them rot, and you will find a way to come up with a great book idea in the future.

2. Keep a diary

Good writers should keep diaries. For example, the great English writer Virginia Woolf kept a diary from age 14 until four days before her suicide in 1941.

Writing a diary isn’t only an effective way to overcome writer’s block. The point is that real life and personal events are excellent sources for stories. You may forget how that lovely summer evening has felt and smelled, but the diary will not.

If you’ve been keeping a diary for many years, it’s exciting to see how you and your thoughts have changed. You can use this authentic experience to describe the character’s transformation and development. 

Summing up

Whew, what a tense, creative process we’ve just had! No matter what anyone says, inventing new book ideas is exciting and addictive.

The next time you come up with a book idea, don’t be afraid to refer to the works of other authors. Combine several stories into a new unique one. You can also always use one of the timeless literary themes. And if this does not help, remember such an effective tool as random choice (try an online plot generator or draw story elements at venture using our table).

As an author, you should capture everything that inspires and makes you think. To do this, always carry a notebook and keep a diary. Who knows, maybe an accidentally overheard conversation will become the basis for a new bestseller.

And what method of coming up with a book idea did you like the most? Please share with us in the comments.

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