#NiaDiaries No. 9: Brainstorming Story Ideas

Honey, trying to decide an idea for NaNoWriMo is exhausting. After hours of brainstorming, I’ve finally found the idea I’m going to use for NaNoWriMo (hopefully!) Before we get into how that idea came to be, let’s dive into the many brainstorming methods I tried out. It’s time to tackle brainstorming story ideas!

The Many Brainstorming Methods I Tried

1. Looking through old ideas

I am constantly scribbling down random ideas for everything from blog posts to screenplays. Sadly, when you’re trying to pick an idea for a whole novel, it isn’t as easy as scrolling through your trusty Notes app. The idea has to:

  1. Intrigue me
  2. Be actionable
  3. Be scalable

Although I found many ideas that will work well in the future, nothing sparked the creative magic I need to get through NaNoWriMo. 

2. Watching new movies/TV shows

I figured that introducing myself to new stories would inspire me to write my own…right?

Not exactly, especially when you’re dealing with Netflix.

Netflix is a quantity over quality queen. Last weekend, I started three different movies in a day. I turned each of them off before the 20-minute mark because they were all so boring.

Although, I recently watched The Devil All the Time on Netflix and was amazed by how much I liked it. It had the trifecta of things I rarely enjoy in TV/movies: an all-white cast, historical drama, and a church setting. This film beat the odds and had me glued from about ten minutes in until the credits of its over 2 hour-long run time. I don’t remember the last time my attention has been captured like that. 10 out of 10!

3. Writing journal entries/doodling/being “bored” 

After learning about WNYC’s Bored and Brilliant challenge from a book, I proclaimed (to myself) that I would spend more time being “bored”. For example, I’ve been taking long walks around my neighborhood without the company of books or podcasts.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been getting into journaling. I bought writer Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist journal and its prompts have been steering my mind down some colorful, imaginative paths. It even led me to a story idea!

I was doodling in the journal and drew something that vaguely resembled Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine. That led me to the idea of solving a mystery that led me to a story that naturally poured from my mind to the page. I came up with an entire Save the Cat! beat sheet in like 30 minutes. The idea is a bit too dark for current me, but I know future me is going to eat it up!

How I Actually Came Up With My NaNo Idea

I was reading a Repeller article about platonic sleepovers as adults and then poof — the premise came to me randomly. All that time I spent trying to come up with the “right” idea and it just slapped me in the face when I was least expecting it. Ideas are funny like that.

There is no rhyme or reason for brainstorming story ideas or finding the right one. Chances are the idea will come when you least expect it, like when you’re watching 90 Day Fiance or taking a shower or eating leftover soup.

I’d highly recommend the four brainstorming methods I mentioned: looking through old notes (brainstorming sessions, lists, poems, unfinished pieces, etc.), watching new TV shows and movies, writing journal entries, or doodling. They didn’t lead me to THE idea, but most of them led me to potential ideas that could be the bridge I need to lead me to my next story epiphany.

How do you tackle brainstorming story ideas? What’s your favorite method? Let’s gush about storytelling in the comments below!

If you would like to read more about my writing journey, I’d recommend my posts about my Camp NaNo project, music I listen to while writing, or my September writing goals!

Follow me on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, or Pinterest for more insight into my journey as a freelance writer and author.

2 thoughts on “#NiaDiaries No. 9: Brainstorming Story Ideas

    1. Lit! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. These methods are definitely the ones I turn to when I’m dealing with an idea drought.

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