Finding Great Story Ideas in Everyday Life Experiences

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Ever read a book or watched a movie with a fantastic story line and wondered how writers come up with such great ideas? This month the writers at the Insecure Writer’s Support Group are wondering that same thing and sharing suggestions out of their own writing journey. Check out what the authors are saying at the blog hop (link below) and let us know where you get your story ideas.

I’ve previously shared ideas for finding the inspiration to write, as well as refueling your creative energy. In this article, I’ll dive a bit deeper into sources for actual story ideas.

Life Experiences

Nothing will ever replace the way real life experiences shape our ideas, imagination, and our world view. A few specific life experiences that have helped offer me story (or specific scene) ideas include:

A blue and a red toy dragon facing each other on a beige background representing the fantasy fiction genre. The red dragon has golden wings.
  • Places I’ve Lived:
    • My long list of homes has included living on the East Coast, in the Midwest, the Southwest, and even Mexico City. I’ve seen beachy oceans, lived in the 125 degree desert, gone to school in Mexico, and run in sub-zero degree Chicago snowstorms (never, ever again). In each of these places, the people I met and the cultures I’ve experienced have offered me a variety of story ideas. (It’s not hard to see the parallel between a scene where my MC rides a dragon through burning hot Hell and my last 110 degree bike ride in the Phoenix desert).
A chocolate-filled croissant and a peach filled pastry sitting next to an espresso with a foamed milk decoration on top.
  • Places I’ve Visited:
    • I’m thankful I’ve been able to travel over my lifetime. I’ve seen poverty and desperation on mission trips to help build houses for poor neighborhoods in other countries. I’ve visited the Parthenon, seen Paris from the top of the Eifel tower, and walked the entire perimeter of Stonehenge. More recently, I traveled to Ironman Austria and immersed myself in cafes, drank mélange, ate a few too many chocolate-filled croissants, and devoured wurst sausage dinners. As I walked along the river banks cheering on the Ironman athletes, I was taking notes on the influx of story ideas to pen at a later date. Each place has offered incredibly unique story ideas.
  • Loss and tragic life experiences:
    • These are truly life changing. For good or bad, they shape our world view and later (much later, after years of healing) can offer an insight for writing, character development, and an understanding of human nature. And they offer great story ideas.

People Watching:

Athlete sitting on the ground changing gear during triathlon transition next to a rack of triathlon bikes.

I’m not a real shopping mall person, but when it comes to people watching, malls are hard to beat. But their real value isn’t in looking for character inspiration, but delving into possible stories. Why is that woman buying a new dress? Why is that teen walking aimlessly through the food court? My favorite place for story ideas, though, are triathlon events (shocker, I know). So many athletes have incredible backstories that bring them to the event-some driven by inner demons, others by personal tragedy, some by lifelong goals. Even the cheering families and crews of volunteers offer a wide array of story ideas.

News Headlines

The daily news contains a wealth of story or scene ideas. My book The Grim Reader, coming out in January 2024, in part taps into real events to offer creative ways to create dangerous scenes or develop rich, gritty backstories for characters involving drugs: the survivor of addiction who lives his life helping others avoid his same mistakes, the near-fatal overdose of a character that got fentanyl-tainted marijuana.

Movies and books

Immersing yourself into a story can trigger other ideas. You don’t even need to restrict your reading to your own genre. Personally, I garner scene ideas from a wide array of genres, including spy, suspense, murder, sci-fi, dystopian, and even Shakespeare. My current fantasy manuscript draws from all these, with elements that include a tragic love story, power plays, deceit, escape from danger, hope, and sacrifice.

What about you? Where do you get your story ideas?

Add to the comments below, then bounce on over to see what’s happening on the blog hop, meet other writers, and find a supportive community. A big thanks to our co-hosts for this month’s blog hop: PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, Gwen Gardner, Pat Garcia, and Natalie Aguirre!

Happy Writing!!


    1. Wow, Alex! I don’t know how I missed this comment coming in. I stumbled across IWSG a couple of years ago. I can’t even remember how now. But love the concept and meeting other authors. I’ve been so busy with the edits, etc of The Grim Reader that I fell off the blog hop band wagon for a month or two, but glad to have things back together now! Hope all is well in your world!

  1. I realize that this is an older post, but these comments about where and how to find inspiration seem to address the Oct. question about AI, in a way! We write from our deep lived experience–something AI can never have.

    1. Absolutely loved Stonehenge. The sky was spitting rain at us, and it felt surreal with the cloudy sky. And thank you! I am so excited to get my book out there into the world. It has been a long road but a lot of fun.

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