Novel ideas: An easy exercise for finding them

Nabokov quote for finding novel ideas

[Today’s guest post is by Janice Hardy of Romance University. When you’re finished reading, find a novel idea using our central idea finder]

Finding fresh novel ideas is a daunting process, even when you know exactly the kind of story you want to tell. But sometimes you dont know what you want to write. That’s when an exercise for coming up with novel ideas is useful.  Not knowing what you want to write can frustrate you, or cause you to jump into a novel that’s not yet ready. That plan of action often results in hitting a wall a few chapters in.

If you’re stuck on what to write or where to go with your idea, try answer these questions:

What are the genres or novel types that most interest you? Think about your favorite books or movies. The types of stories that stay with you long after you put down the book or turn off the TV. The genres that get you excited are good places to start for your own novel.

What are the types of plots you most enjoy? If you read a lot of the same types of plots, there’s a good chance this plot will come easy to you. You’re familiar with the tropes and clichés of that concept and will be able to bring fresh ideas to it.

Look at your bookshelf–is it filled with murder mysteries? People overcoming their demons? Grand adventures into the unknown?

What are the types of characters you’re most drawn to? Think about your favorite characters. Maybe they’re heroes who always do the right thing, or troubled souls in search of redemption. This type of character could make a great protagonist for your story. Perhaps pick your favorite trait from multiple characters.

The_Shifter_72 What are the themes that appear most often in the stories you enjoy? If you pick up every book you see on forbidden love, that’s a good hint that writing a forbidden romance could be for you.

Do you have a shelf of novels about overcoming personal fears? Perhaps that’s the direction you should go. What are the settings you’d most like to write about? Do you find yourself flipping through travel magazines dreaming about Hawaii? Or passing a rundown farmhouse on the way to work that starts the creative wheels turning? Places you can’t get out of your head could be the perfect location to set your novel.

Honing your novel ideas:

Once you have your favorites listed, pick:

■ One genre or novel type that most interests you (for example, fantasy)

■ One type of plot you most enjoy (for example, heist)

■ One type of character you’re most drawn to (for example, the dark hero)

■ One theme that appears most often in the stories you enjoy (for example, personal sacrifice)

■ One setting you’d most like to write about (for example, the Arctic) And put it all together:

■ A fantasy heist plot, set in an arctic environment, with a dark hero who will have to make a personal sacrifice

Now you have this basic idea formed, look at each piece closer and start fleshing it out. Take the dark hero and turn him into the perfect protagonist, figure out what sacrifice will have to be made and how that fits into the plot. Explore the possible problems a heist set in the Arctic might entail? Keep brainstorming under the novel takes shape and you feel ready to dive in and start writing.

Happy writing!

Janice Hardy RGB 72Looking for more on planning your novel? Check out my newest book Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a series of self-guided workshops that help you turn your idea into a novel. Janice Hardy is the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, including The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. Find out more about writing at her site, Fiction University, or find her on Twitter @Janice_Hardy.

(Image from here)

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