Aspiring writers often ask, “How do I find book ideas?” The answers are simple, but can get lost in the details of studying writing craft. So let’s look at how to jumpstart your search and turn your idea into a novel.
Potential Sources of Book ideas
The initial idea can come from many sources. If you’re short on ideas, take comfort knowing for centuries, storytellers have freshened up basic ideas to entertain, inform, and inspire.
I’ll prime your research pump by offering eleven ways to find book ideas.
1. Let Your Favorite Genre Be Your Muse
I love mysteries and thrillers, so my story ideas often launch from the crime genre.
The genre approach offers the bonus of identifying your audience’s expectations, including obligatory scenes, conventions, tropes, and archetypal characters.
For an in-depth analysis of genres, read Shawn Coyne’s Genres of Writing: What are they? Why do they matter?
2. Get Ideas from Books, News, and Articles
You can’t copyright ideas, so capture potential concepts from an engaging novel, an intriguing headline, or a sensational article. If a book or article lacks depth but has a great premise, use that as a jumping off point to turn a lackluster story into exceptional novel. Then, make the idea yours, giving it a unique twist or fresh perspective.
3. Start with an Intriguing Character
A flawed character with a checkered past offers your audience tantalizing glimpses into life. That’s one reason I develop characters using Enneagram Personality Types.
A character’s backstory offers many tangents, each with the potential for a unique plot trajectory. If you plan on writing a series, one of the supporting cast members in your current draft could become the star of your next novel.
4. Consider Potential Conflicts
Story plots are a series of events that complicate characters’ lives, giving them ample reasons to act and react. With that in mind, sift through potential power struggles, failures, mistakes, relationships (e.g., family, friends, co-workers), responsibilities, dilemmas, and sins.
Come up with fresh approaches to these conflicts. For example, mix external, internal, and philosophical conflicts to set your novel apart from others.
- External: The positive or negative consequences of a story-wide problem (e.g., Justice vs. Injustice).
- Internal: The main character’s feeling about an emotional issue (e.g., Heed Calling vs. Ignore Calling).
- Philosophical: The universal truth of conflicting values (e.g., Selfishness vs. Selflessness).
5. Borrow from Life Experiences
Look within and around to find book ideas. Your life experiences and those you know offer opportunities to mine for characters and events that can be the foundation of a page turner.
6. Turn Frustrations into Engaging Stories
We all have things that nudge us into action, and that means some of those frustrations are universal. Imagine a character who can turn that frustration into action, giving readers the satisfaction of overcoming the challenge.
7. Search for Underdog Stories
We love come-from-behind stories, but in the news feeds, only the latest catastrophes get top billing. So dig deep for the story of an underdog who faced overwhelming odds but came out on top.
8. Identify Your Life’s Heroes
Most of us can identify a parent, teacher, friend, boss, or co-worker who gave a boost at just the right time, influencing the trajectory of our lives. Use how a person changed your life as the basis of a story.
9. Use a Setting as the Seed Idea
Think of pivotal locations in books and films (e.g., Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, James A. Michener’s Hawaii). Settings can emulate character traits, and audiences crave to learn more. Either from your travels or through research, find (or create) locations that can serve as the center point of your story.
10. Hunt for Unsolved Mysteries
Readers love puzzles, and unsolved mysteries offer book ideas where you create a fictionalized resolution of whatever had frustrated investigators. Also, look for the little known moments in history that have the potential to intrigue your readers.
11. Ask “What if You Changed This or That?”
Stay curious. Look for how you can change a lukewarm notion into an exemplary idea. A few quick twists of a current or historical event, or the tweaking of an individual’s behavioral traits can generate endless book ideas.
Validate Your Best Book Ideas
Here’s how I test book ideas before writing:
- Keyword Searches: See how many readers search for books like the one you plan to write.
- Competitive Opportunity: Determine if there’s enough room in the market for your book to compete.
- Commercial Viability: Check out how many people actually buy books based on premises, like your idea.
- Your Passion: Make sure the idea excites you and avoid merely writing to satisfy market expectations.
If any of the four points don’t line up, I search for more ideas. Here’s why:
Book ideas are a dime-a-dozen, but when you find one that’s desired by readers, discoverable on Amazon, and regarded as profitable—now, that’s priceless! Above all, passion fuels the writer’s creative engine.
To learn how you can validate book ideas, check out Publisher Rocket.