Story Concept Brainstorming - Help Develop my next writing Project

Almost a year ago, I wrote about the concept of a story. In simple terms, a story can start as a concept, framed in the form of a what if question. The answer to the question, to your concept, becomes the story. The concept is the platform from which the story can enfold. Let me give an example of a story concept. What if a boy didn’t know he was a wizard?

The what if question above is the concept for the Harry Potter series. I use the what if questions to help me map out story ideas and outlines. And right now, I'm in the midst of figuring out what my next writing project will be and would love your feedback as I flesh them out.

Below I have a few story concepts (what if questions). Your task is to give a possible answer to the what if question - to tell me how the story will enfold from the concept. Or you can ask a follow up question or give me a completely new story idea. There are no wrong answers, so have fun with it! Just leave your feedback in the comments. Here you go.

What if it didn't stop raining for 40 days?

What if a teenage boy's mother passed away during his senior year of high school?

What if every part of the world below 1,000 feet above sea level was underwater?

What if a teenage girl learned her father was cheating on her mother?

What if a 4 year old Boston Terrier named Daisy moved in with Zelda the Pug (Of the Adventures of Zelda series)?

A Creative's Dilemma: Sorting through the Idea Pile

Asking What If questions is a great exercise to develop story ideas. In an earlier post, the concept of your story, I explain the what if questions and how to use what if questions to brainstorm story ideas. Story ideas also pop into my brain at odd times. When a new story concept appears, I write the idea in Evernote so I don't forget it. But, at some point, I need to sort through the idea pile and decide what is a feasible story concept for me to write. Unfortunately, I am not at the point in my writing where I need lots of new ideas simply because it takes me a while to finish my current projects. So, my current idea list seems never-ending. But, when I do finish a project and need to start a new short story or novel, I sort through my list of story ideas.

My process is not very scientific or organized, but I go through the list and categorize the ideas as yes, no, or maybe. As I go through the list, I have a few questions in mind:

  • How much research will I need to do for this story idea?
  • Could I start writing this story today?
  • What characters are in this story?
  • Where does the story take place? What time period?

I use those questions to decide whether the story is something I want to write. For my first novel, the story resonated in my brain for several months before I actually started writing. My Zelda series, on the other hand, came off a whim one day. I had the idea and started writing one of the stories the next day or so.

After going through my list, the no ideas are deleted from the list. The yes and maybe ideas are left on the list and I pick a story idea to start.

For my writer friends, how do you come up with new story ideas?

And how do you sort through your idea pile?