How to Develop an Original Story for a Fiction When You're Out of Inspiration ...

A lot of amateur writers decide to write a fiction because they already have a story or a concept in mind.

However, there are some other peoples who would like to write, but who don't know what to write. They have the motivation, but not yet the inspiration.

This tutorial is for them.

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Step 1: The Seed ...

Exactly like giant trees grow out of a little seed, your fiction needs something to start from.

This seed could be a simple sentence, a simple idea involving someone, a concept.

If even for the seed you're out of inspiration, just pick a name, a verb, and an complement.

For instance :

"John found a tiny medallion."
"It's a man who's very exhausted."
"Jacky has lost her cat."
"Mike got fired."
"Martin fell in love."
"Paola wakes up."
"Marina answers to the phone."

You don't need more. That's your seed.

Step 2: The Sprout ...

Now that you have your seed(s), you must help it(them) to sprout by asking questions : Why ? How ? When ? Where ? etc ...

You'll find that some seeds will sprout more easily than some others.
When you have a good seed, it will "grow" very quickly.
On the other hand, if some of them don't sprout at all, and unless you like challenges, just try an other seed. It does not matter.

For instance :

"John found a tiny medallion."
becomes :
"John found a tiny medallion in the secret drawer of an old furniture he inherited from his old aunt."

"It's a man who's very exhausted."
becomes :
"It's a man who's very exhausted because he has a cancer."

"Jacky has lost her cat."
becomes :
"Jacky's boyfriend did not closed the window of their apartment, and her tiny cat escaped."

"Mike got fired."
becomes :
"Mike got fired because he did a mistake."

"Martin fell in love."
becomes :
"Martin fell in love with the sculpture of an angel in a museum."

"Paola wakes up."
becomes :
"Paola wakes up in her kitchen."

"Marina answers to the phone."
becomes :
"Marina answered to the phone and discovered she has a twin sister who was looking for her for years."


Step 3: The Growth ...

Good seeds grow very quickly, and if you find one, you'll probably be already writing your story ...
However, your sprout may need some more work.

Again, just ask questions : why ? who ? how ? when ? where ? what's the context ? what could happen ? ...

You must ask those questions again and again till your idea is developed enough to make your imagination like a fidget.

Your goal is to reach your first crossroads : a point where your "sprout" will fork in several different directions.
From a single seed, you could build any story of any kind of style : comedy, drama, thriller, fantasy, parody, horror, satire, etc.

For instance :

"John found a tiny medallion in the secret drawer of an old furniture he inherited from his old aunt. Some peoples said the old woman died in mysterious conditions. Few days after the burial ceremony, a strange man rang at the door, pretending being a friend of the defunct ... "
Is this really a friend ? Has the old woman been murdered ? If so, who's the murderer, and why ? What's the secret of this medallion ? etc ...

"It's a man who's very exhausted because he has a cancer. His doctor announced he only has few month to live. One year at the great maximum. The man becomes conscious that he did nothing interesting in his life, that no one will miss him, that he will have left no trace ..."
Is he going to try as much things as possible before he dies ? Will he try to enter the History books by any mean ? Will he do bad things and finally discover his doctor was wrong ?

"Jacky's boyfriend did not closed the window of their apartment, and her tiny cat escaped. She's convinced that her boyfriend did it intentionally, because he never liked her cat. She'll tell him that if he doesn't bring her little cat back to home, she will leave him ..."
Was it really intentional ? Will he try his best to find the little cat ? Will he/she fall from the roof trying to catch the little animal and will end up at the hospital ? Has the little cat actually escaped through the window ?

"Mike got fired because he did a mistake. In fact, that's what pretends his superior. Someone must pay for that mistake, and Mike seems to be the perfect candidate for this unfair purpose ..."
Will Mike find a mean to prove he is wrongfully accused ? Will he lose everything ? Will he look for revenge ?


All the questions you can ask when you're at a crossroads are the same questions your eventual readers will ask to themselves when they'll read your fiction.
And that's exactly what you're supposed to play with if you want to intrigue and catch your readers. Always keep that in mind.

Step 4: First Coppice ...

Exactly like you'd need to select which forks of your young baby tree (bush ?) you 'd keep, once you reached the first crossroads of your story, you have to chose which one of the roads you're going to follow ...

You could select your way according to your taste or feeling. However, if you don't want to be accused of plagiarism by your eventual future readers, you may want to select the most original path.

So far, you don't really know where your story is going to lead you, neither how it will progress.
Just try to get rid of the clichés and of the too classical beginning.

Try to be original.

Step 5: Further Development ...

Once you've selected the "entry point" of your story, you have to develop it again.

Here again, if ideas don't come by themselves, ask questions, and develop your story.

However, keep in mind that your goal is not to write your book right now.
Your goal is to write TWO summaries of your story : a short summary (the essential), and a long summary (more details).

Sometimes, the long summary will come first because you'll have plenty ideas that you'll write. But I highly recommend that you don't neglect to write the short summary !

The short summary will help you to draw the main structure of your story. It will contain the main plot.

The long summary will contain more details, the details that will make your story more interesting : mini suspense, mini mystery, mini intrigue, etc.

You will use those two summary as a "map", as a reference.
They will help you to write your fiction without losing your path.

While you'll be developing your story, you'll frequently reach new crossroads. For each of them, you'll ask many questions (the same questions your reader may ask to themselves) and you'll have to make choices. You'll preferably select the most original ones.

However, keep in mind that the most original paths are not necessarily the most surprising ones.
Readers are excited by surprises as long as the story remains coherent. You must use surprises very carefully, because too much surprises may disappoint or bore your readers ...

"Originality" makes your story unique, new and unexplored.
"Surprise" is mainly a tool used to give a second breath to your story.

At some point in the development of your story, you'll probably feel lost or will fail to find an exit. Some paths actually lead to dead-ends. And in this case, the best thing to do is probably to "come back" and to try an other path.

short summary sample :
John found a tiny medallion in the secret drawer of an old furniture he inherited from his old aunt. Some peoples said the old woman died in mysterious conditions. Few days after the burial ceremony, a strange man rang at the door, pretending being a friend of the defunct ...
The strange and mysterious man will show a great interest in the medallion.
Suspicious, John will not tell him he found it.
His home and his aunt's house will be burgled, and the strange man will come back several times.
John will be victim of an aggression and the life of his family will be threatened. Afraid, he will give the medallion to the strange man, but the harassment and blackmails will not end for all that. One of his kid will be kidnapped.
Someone else definitively want this medallion ... and the strange man vanished with it.

The short summary must show the full story and its solution.
It is rarely more than one page long.
If it's going to be be two page long, then, you're probably writing your long summary, or a very very very very long fiction.
When you're writing it, you must drop useless details. You must focus on the main plot.

long summary sample :
John found a tiny medallion in the secret drawer of an old furniture he inherited from his old aunt. Some peoples said the old woman died in mysterious conditions. Few days after the burial ceremony, a strange man rang at the door, pretending being a friend of the defunct.
He said that he lent an object to Edna, and that he wanted to get it back. This object was a medallion, a medallion whose description perfectly matched with the one John found.
Very suspicious, the young man just replied that he would call him when he would find it. But the strange man, refusing to give a phone number, just left and said that he would come back the next week."
If this man actually lent the medallion to Aunt Edna, why did she hide it in a secret drawer ?
John decided to show it to a jeweler. As soon as the man saw it, he became nervous, and claimed this object had absolutely no valor, that John should better get rid of it ...

When you're developing your long summary, be careful not to write your first chapter. Your long summary will be 2 or 3 pages long. Rarely more than 5 pages (unless you're writing an encyclopedia).
In your long summary, you can write important questions. Those questions will be those you would like your readers mainly ask to themselves. You'll, thus, have to "lead" your readers toward these questions.
Your long summary must contain all of your great ideas about how to keep your fiction interesting and exciting.

Step 6: The First Chapter ...

Once you've drawn your maps (the two summaries), you're ready to start to write your first chapter.

Your goal is to tell the same story you summarized twice, with more details, and eventually with some dialogs.

I'm not going to tell you how to write your first chapter, because it's not the purpose of this instructable, and because English is not my first language ... You probably know more about how are written novels in English than I do myself.

The only thing I can tell you is that it's not going to be "easy" all the time.
Sometimes, you'll have to fight with your phrases, your words and your inspiration.

If it's your first long writing, your style will probably evolve all along your chapters.
Keep in mind your first book is just a training ... give yourself the time you need to find your style.

When you're blocked in the middle of a chapter, just do a pause few hours, one night, few days. Your inspiration will come back later.

Step 7: Final Notes :

Well ... So is my main method for developing a story out of nothing.

Now, it's time for my IMNSHO* list :
(*IMNSHO == In My Not So Humble Opinions)

- One should not write with the hope to be published or with the hope of being the new Stephen King, the new J2R Tolkien, or the new Thomas Clancy.
One should write just for the pleasure of creating a universe, for the pleasure of telling a story. (Don't run after illusions. Create them !)

- Keep in mind it is a hobby, a hobby shared by thousands amateur in your country, and millions around the world ...
Keep in mind it's exactly like the thousands American Idol candidates every years : most of them are convinced to be great artists, to be the "one", but only few of them actually has the required talent (or the required connections) to achieve their ambitions ......

- Keep in mind that most friendly persons (mainly friends and relatives) are afraid to hurt you by telling you the truth : so, it's not because they'll tell you they liked it that it means you're a great writer.
I you really want to hear the truth, find as many neutral persons as possible ; publish some chapters on a blog or a public forum where you're not used to chat and make friends.

- If you're really looking for honest advices about your eventual talent, then, you must accept bad critiques when they come. If you're not ready for them, don't ask for honest opinions.

- Write in proper English (or whatever is your language) : avoid texting, misspelling, syntax errors and other irritating mistakes, even more if you're writing in your mother-tongue.

- Unless you're writing a play or a script, avoid too long dialogs : most of the time it's boring.

- A good mean to have a better idea of how good or how bad is your writing is to leave it in a corner for several months (at least 3) and to read it again.


Good luck !

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    42 Discussions

    That's a very nice hobby =o)
    Do you have a webpage or a blog where you display them ?

    Also, did you ever try to write "interactive stories" ?
    (you know, that's fictions where you have a choice to make at the end of each page or paragrah :
    - if you choose to break the window to enter in the old house, go to page 12
    - if you choose to knock at the door, go to page 10)

    Naa i tried once but it's really tedious i might try again another time but for now i stick to poems and short stories. And no i don't have a webpage (for my work) i give to my mates to read to and stuff and just enjoy it myself. I might put some of my (simpler) poems on here that i write for little kids at my school.

    I'd be curious to read some of your short stories and poems =o)
    You could make a blog here or here to share them.

    I've read your instructable. I find that kids poems are not that easy to write ...

    Hey, thanks to your website, I've discovered the history of Taekwen-do ! =o)

    About your foundation ... what a pun ! lol


    4 years ago on Introduction

    i read the first one in your IMNSHO list and you're right coz even i was floating in an imaginary castle about my book being published when i started it!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome! Nice place to start for my fiction novel. It was pending for a long time.

    Lithium Rain

    11 years ago on Introduction

    Nice instructable. I am writing a novel/book, so this method is nice to get the creative juices flowing when I'm stuck. 5/5 stars.

    4 replies

    As long as you don't show it to anyone else! I would welcome constructive criticism, but you have to promise not to actually mock me, it's pretty rough right now...:)

    You know, I can be as much serious and reliable that I can be childish and funny. And I'm totally able to act appropriately.

    So you have no worries to have about confidentiality and "constructivity".

    However, keep in mind that English is not my first language. So I may not be able to appreciate the quality of your writing as it would deserve ... =o/

    So if you want, you can send me some samples by PM, or I can give you my email address. =o)