Beginning writers often wonder where to get ideas for stories. You can always turn to your own real life happenings (read Fiction Story Ideas: True Stories). But if you want to look further afield for ideas, open your newspaper and check out current events.

Story ideas from headlines

Without reading the full newspaper article, what does the headline make you think of? An apartment fire might make you wonder if it was arson or accidental, someone sleeping with a cigarette or faulty wiring from a landlord’s neglect, if children or elderly needed to be rescued, where they would go now, how it would affect a family financially, etc.

Election results might trigger thoughts about the last big push of the campaign, the giddy feeling of success, how the loser is coping with the news, or how the newly-elected person will help with a particular neighborhood problem.

Create a character who has to deal with one of the problems you’ve thought of, or use the situation as a complication for a character in a story you’ve already started.

Story ideas from full articles

After reading a news article and getting the full story, let your mind wander and create fiction from it. Pick one or two facts and ask yourself “What if something were different?”

What if the robber actually shot the teller? What if the driver in an accident was your babysitter with your children in the back seat? What if the volunteer couldn’t accept the award because she was helping someone else? What if the terrorist was your son-in-law?

In these questions, the only real news facts are the robbery, the car accident, the volunteer award, and the terrorist. What you do with a beginning fact, and the story it turns into, is up to you.

Create story ideas from questions

The trick to taking a current news event and turning it into a fictional story is to ask deeper questions. Go beyond the examples above and ask yourself:

  • What emotion is the main person / affected person / bystander feeling?
  • What if he/she didn’t respond that way? Why would a person not be afraid during a robbery or fire?
  • How might a tense person react? A spiritual person? A guilty person? A risk-taker?
  • How else might the event have ended?
  • What might happen next?
  • How did this problem evolve? What might have triggered this particular event?
  • How might interpersonal relationships have been before the event? How would they change after?
  • How would a person’s self-image change? How would relationships change as a result?

The more you write, the more you’ll find ideas wherever you look. The trick is to imagine a character, ask questions about what happens (plot) and how people react (character), and then go forward with the story that will be uniquely yours.