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How to Find Strong Ideas for Your Novel Featured

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You dream of writing a novel, but wonder if the ideas for your story will be good enough. Chances are you have already got a wealth of ideas just waiting to be used in your novel. The following are examples and suggestions to help you use these ideas and dream up characters, sub-plots and settings for your novel.

Where to Find Strong Ideas?

The best place to find strong ideas for your story is to look at your own life: look into your past to find people – from friends and relatives to total strangers and people in the news – who have tales of hardship, triumph and tragedy [How to Write Your Life Story in Ten Easy Steps by Sophie King]. Then, become a keen observer and listen to what people say and how they say it. Sometimes, a poignant remark is made with a turn of the head or a particular inflection in the voice. Such observations, when added to the text of your novel, will make the story resonate with readers that much more.

For example, say your friend lost her father recently, but was not able to make it to his funeral. What you should have observed is this: what was it in her voice that made you aware that, in addition to her obvious sadness, she was feeling guilty that she did not attend the funeral? What aspect of her demeanour showed you that her grief and sorrow was deep? Such details will make your story even more plausible when you come to write it.

Putting a Spin on a Classic Tale

Another tactic that many people use is to put a spin on a classic tale. For example, ‘Bride and Prejudice’ is an Indian movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic tale, ‘Pride and Prejudice’. In the movie, Mrs. Bakshi is desperate to find suitable husbands for her four unmarried daughters – Jaya, Lalita, Lakhi and Maya. The whole family has high hopes that their daughters will marry one of the two rich and single gentlemen – Balraj and Darcy – come to visit. The story takes many twists and turns which all threaten any possibility of romance succeeding. You know you’ve succeeded in using this method when your readers can see age-old characters in new light.

Are Your Ideas Strong Enough for Your Story?

It is important to consider if the ideas you have for your story are strong enough. Remember that the average length of a novel is between 75,000 and 90,000 words. Many aspiring authors find a whole set of ideas and start to write their novel only to find that they are struggling to make these ideas fill twenty chapters. This typically happens when aspiring novelists cannot tell the difference between a plot-line that works and a basic ‘set-up’. A ‘set-up’ is the germ of the idea for your story. It is the basic dramatic situation you have identified. The plot-line is the series of events that happens before or after this basic ‘set-up’.

For example, the basic ‘set-up’ of your story can be that the airplane carrying two rivals in business crashes into the sea. The rivals are stranded on a remote island somewhere in the tropics. Despite their grievances, they know that to survive, they will need to depend on each other. The plot-line happens after this and can include mishaps, dramatic events and a possible romance.

Ideas for your story, if dramatic enough, will make your novel that much more appealing to readers. Use the suggestions made above to locate suitable ideas and then develop them so that they fit into a plot-line that makes sense. Such care and attention to detail will make sure that when the time comes, your novel will be irresistible to a publisher.


Bride and Prejudice. Dir. Gurinder Chada. Perfs. Martin Henderson, Aishwarya Rai, Nadira Babbar, Anupam Kher, Naveen Andrews. 2005. Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DVD, Widescreen, NTSC. Miramax Home Entertainment

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Tribeca Books (February 11, 2011)

King, Sophie. How to Write Your Life Story in Ten Easy Steps. How To Books Ltd (October 21, 2010)

By Aneeta Sundararaj

This article was first published on Suite.101:

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