Strong Foundations

Lesson 5: Conceptualizing. Generating Fresh Ideas

Today we are going to introduce The Folder.

The Folder is something I will be referring to off and on throughout my posts. In short, it is your writing bible. It contains all your ideas, inspiration, networking contacts, goals, financial projections and budgets, and basically everything else you need to keep you organized and producing/selling/distributing content.

Everyone’s Folder is going to look a little different depending on your goals. Mine for example includes raw ideas & inspiration, story premises ready for development, future blog post ideas (and everything else related to my blog), schedules & deadlines, industry contacts,  financial budgets & projections, and research, sources and contacts.

We will be going over the different parts of these in the next few weeks, but today we will be quickly discussing raw ideas.

This will not be a particularly long post. Ideas are everywhere, and us creative types are more likely to be overloaded by ideas than lacking in them.

But as this is a series focused on career development, I thought I would reiterate the importance of writing down and organizing all ideas rather than letting them float around in your head.

If you read the last post on brainstorming, then you are aware that the ideas kept in our heads tend to block and overshadow others. They stay on the forefront of the brain until we physically purge them (i.e. write them down). By doing this we are able to mentally “let go” of them and create new ideas.

Another reason to keep ideas is to have easy access to them. If you want to be a writer full time, then you need to be producing as much content (good content) as possible. It pays to work your ideas into an assembly line so that as soon as one project is done you are already on your way to completing the next.

Your raw ideas folder is the start of this assembly line. And if you have been keeping at it, then there will always be plenty ready to start developing.

Next week will be discussing the second stage of this assembly line: Fleshing out production ready premises. That stage is considerably more involved than this one.

The key to idea generation is to simply be doing it all the time. Consciously and unconsciously searching out inspiration wherever it can be found. Set aside time every week to go out and find things that interest you and might become something worth writing about.

There are basically endless ways to generate ideas. Some of them we have already discussed in regards to skill building like writing prompts and journaling.

Others I use on a regular basis are . . .

  • Random generators. Plot, character, and other such generators are great. Not to use as is, but to get inspiration for unique ideas. Much of the time they produce something silly or boring, but other times they hit on something that gives you an Aha! moment.
  • History. This is the best one out there! The web is packed with some really cool stories throughout history, that haven’t been, but NEED to be told. These can really inspire plot twists and characters that will wow readers. Spend some time just searching through the history of any country and see what you can find.
  • Ancestry. An off shoot of history is too look up personal accounts of people’s ancestry. provides plenty of these, although the down side is you need to have a subscription to access them. But Googling works too. Or—even better—are there any of your own family stories you can use?
  • Browse art on or other artist websites. There is some great artwork out there, and much of it may inspire you on its own. However, I like to turn it into a game. Find a painting or other piece of digital artwork and ask yourself, “What is happening here?” Spend some time and come up with a little story to go with the picture and see what happens.
  • Turn scientific theory into magic. Pick a subject and do a quick search for theories in that subject. For instance, the Holonomic brain theory in biology. Get a general overview of the theory and try to turn it into a coherent magic system.
  • Turn a social theory into a Universe. The same idea as above, find a social science theory and try to base a world off of it. For instance, did you know The Matrix was based on the work of postmodern theorist Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation?
  • Pick a random country on a map and familiarize yourself with their basic customs and practices. You may find something fun on which to base a unique culture of your own.
  • Play the ‘Meets’ game. Take any two concepts, books, movies, people and put them together. Write a little summary of what it might look like were those two things to combine. For example, Better Call Saul MEETS 15th Century Vietnam. What on earth would that fantasy book look like? Mood? Characters?
  • Play the ‘What If . . .’ game. Take any sort of event that has happened in history and ask “What if?” For instance, what if the dinosaurs never actually died out? (Dinotopia).
  • Reimagine a classic. This is actually very popular in the genre right now. Many agents are looking for new takes on classic stories so take advantage of it. Try picking a classic, whether a fairy tale, play, literature, or myth and see if you can create something completely unique. Maybe add this with any of the other methods above and see where it takes you.

The point is to get as many ideas as you can. I mean pages and pages of ideas. Do this regularly and eventually you’ll have so many you wont know what to do with them.

Well, actually, I’m going to tell you what to do with them next week. We must keep the assembly line moving!

Comment below and tell us how you develop unique ideas.



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