So you want to write a story, but you don’t know what to write about. What should you write about when you don’t know what to write? Should you just sit around and wait for a story idea?  Boooooring.

There are all kinds of ways to find writing prompts, or things to get you started writing.  However, it’s not so easy to come up with ideas for stories.  How do you turn a journal idea about staying at your grandparents’ house into a story?

Here’s one way:

  1. Find out if you have any rules for writing the story, like “Write a ghost story” or “Write a story of 500 words” or whatever.  These can be rules set by your teacher, your parents, or even you, like “I want to write a romantic story about zombies.”
  2. Think if there’s anything you have been very interested in, upset about, or that has been bothering you lately.   Start a list of these things and write down a bunch of them, at least ten.
  3. Find some random ideas: a writing prompt, something someone at school said, something from a TV show or song, a holiday, whatever.  Spy on other people’s conversations and take ideas from them:  “My mom said I had to clean my room or I wouldn’t be able to watch the special on dinosaurs…” Dinosaurs it is.  Start a list of random ideas, at least ten.
  4. Combine your two lists; you should have a lot of ideas on it.  Go through and pick the two that are the best together.  You will  know which ones are the best together because they start giving you story ideas, or they make you feel a strong emotion, like happiness, sadness, worry, or laughter.  (If none of them work like that, just pick any two.)  It doesn’t matter which list the ideas came from.
  5. Start a list of story ideas, no matter how smart or stupid, no matter whether they fit the rules you set out in #1, no matter if you think nobody will like them.  The story ideas have to include both the ideas from your lists.  For example, the ideas “dinosaurs” and “grandmother’s house” together might give you ideas like: dinosaurs attack grandmother, grandmother raises tiny dinosaurs in her basement, grandmother has a recipe book full of dinosaur recipes, the whole world was suddenly covered in dinosaurs while you were visiting grandmother’s house and you can’t get back home, etc.  Make a list of 20 ideas.
  6. Pick the best idea.  If you have to, change it a little so it fits inside the rules you set in #1.

The reason you should come up with so many things on your lists and so many story ideas is that it’s usually pretty easy to think up the first idea that you come up with, so pretty much anybody can think of the same idea.  It’s like getting teased: everybody thinks it’s so funny to tease you, but you’ve probably heard it all before, right?  The same thing with stories.  The story “zombies come and kill everybody, the end” is something that anybody could come up with.  But if you write down a lot of ideas, then you will probably come up with something that nobody else could think of somewhere in that list.

And don’t worry about breaking the rules. The important thing is to have that story idea when you want it. So if you come up with something totally different, use that instead!