Post: Where do authors get their ideas for fiction novels?


The answer might surprise you. In fact, there isn’t really “one” answer to the question. Most people get random ideas on occasion. However, what makes most people different from best-selling authors is that most people don’t typically make note of or remember their ideas. Their ideas come, then go. An entrepreneur, however, might be more like an author.

Entrepreneurs thrive on ideas. When they have one that stands out in their minds, they roll with it. Authors are the same. Many of them keep notebooks or journals that are full of random ideas. Occasionally, they keep returning to a specific one, which compels them to develop it further—sometimes into a best-selling novel. But where do the ideas come from to start? You’re about to find out.

Famous authors talk about fiction novels and creative ideas

Every writer is unique. Some of them have peculiar routines or rituals they go through when writing a story. For example, there are authors who keep trinkets or “good luck charms” on their desk or wear a particular hat while writing. As different as one author’s routines might be from another’s, so too are the ways they get ideas for fiction novels. Here’s what several of the Prolific Greats have to say about the topic:

  • Stephen King says his best fiction novels often come from ideas he gets while taking a shower. 
  • J.R.R. Tolkien credits the entire Hobbit/Lord of the Rings series to a random sentence he wrote while he was grading papers. He was bored out of his mind and jotted down a random sentence to entertain himself. 
  • J.K. Rowling always carries fine-tip markers in her pockets and says ideas for fiction novels often come to her when she is delayed. The idea for Harry Potter (which continues to bring her $50 to $100 million in royalties each year) came to her while she was stuck on a delayed train for several hours.

Many authors say they get ideas for fiction novels while traveling to new and unfamiliar places. Others say their best ideas come from people-watching in a park or restaurant, mall or other ordinary location. 

Ideas will never be more if you don’t remember them

You can have the best ideas in the world, but they won’t become fiction novels if you don’t remember them. The most successful authors in the world say it doesn’t matter if you write your ideas in a notebook or scribble them on a napkin, if you document them to revisit them later. 

Assuming you’re going to remember your creative ideas is a big mistake. Often, you think you’ll remember an idea because it’s fresh in your mind at the time. Three weeks later, however, you probably won’t even remember having it, or at least won’t remember it in enough detail to build it into a story. Where do you get your best ideas?