Wednesday, February 4, 2015

55 juicy story starters to light up your story the campfire way


Stuck for inspiration?  Try writing your story the campfire way.

Have you ever built a campfire?

Maybe you know the trick already:  you don’t start by taking huge logs and setting them ablaze.  That would never work. 

You start with tinder, small fluffy things that are nothing like the fire you want to create.  From tinder, you work your way up to kindling - bigger things that also catch fire easily.  Once you’ve got some momentum going, THEN (and only then) can you start burning the real stuff:  twigs, and eventually, small branches, and only then… are you ready to set fire to some logs.

That’s how stories work, too.  Even if you want to write a HUGE story, you have to start small.

There are so many big ideas out there, waiting to be written down, that it can seem overwhelming.  So don’t set out to write about the BIG ideas.  Small ideas – whether from your own imagination or from story starters like these – are the tinder that will set your story ablaze. 

That’s where these 55 story starters listed here come in.  These 55 small ideas can help you set fire to millions of stories… if you let them.

Read through the lists.  If one or two don’t click, just move on.  If you get to the end of the list and you haven’t found one… I’ll give you a list of random generators for millions more ideas that just might inspire you instead.


Let’s get sparking those stories!


Animal stories are more popular than ever.  But forget the usual dogs, bears, or bunnies.  Think anteaters, meerkats and tarantulas to create a story that’s a little off the beaten path.

  1. Your character finds an animal (is it sick?  hurt? lost?).
  2. She falls in love with an animal that nobody loves.  How can she convince everyone to open their hearts?
  3. Someone has to train an animal or it will be sent away.
  4. He’s afraid of this animal – until the day his parents bring one home to pet-sit.
  5. Your character wants a pet – but her baby brother is allergic.


Demons and goblins and witches, oh, my!  But don’t forget that you’re writing for today’s kids.  Try to woo them with magic and chances are their eyes will start rolling in their heads.  Give your fairies a little attitude or you may find even the youngest readers yawning in disbelief.

  1. Fairies’ lives and habitats are threatened and they turn to your character for help.
  2. A mythical creature (you pick) is about to go extinct because nobody believes in it anymore.
  3. A careless creature leaves a map lying around and your character finds it.
  4. Something ordinary comes to life in a strange, magical way.
  5. When wishes begin to come true for your character, she finds herself wishing they’d stop.


Your story doesn’t need to be knees-knockingly terrifying to become a kid’s favourite… it just has to create the right mix of creepy and everyday life to win a place in their heart.

  1. Your character is turning into a monster!
  2. Creepy things are happening in the attic – could it be a ghost?
  3. His best friend (or teacher, or brother) starts acting weird… what’s going on?
  4. Your character wonders if the neighbourhood garbage man isn’t what he seems…
  5. Is it her imagination, or is the neighbour’s cat watching her…?


Who doesn’t love food?  Any kid can relate to stories based on food.  Food also offers great illustration potential.  Just remember, use specific, sensory words when you describe it so we can taste exactly what’s on offer.

  1. A chef creates wacky dishes that nobody wants to taste.
  2. A cafeteria lady cooks up “surprise” dishes that are completely inedible.
  3. Food comes to life and starts misbehaving.
  4. Your character wants to eat something so, so badly, but isn’t allowed to have it.
  5. Creating a rather unusual meal – that turns out to be delicious!


Before you start yawning yourself, geography just means any book that’s focused on a particular interesting place – its sights, it sounds.  It could be somewhere real, or a place that’s completely made up.

  1. Show us all the details of the town where you live, its sights, sounds, its music, through a unique character who lives there (is it you?).
  2. Is there a place you’d love to see someday?  Find out about the details and bring them to life.
  3. Introduce us to someone who lives in another country – make it fun and avoid cliches!
  4. Hop on a plane and show us a new part of the world.
  5. Your character sets out for an adventure in interesting terrain (desert, glacier, rainforest).

Ordinary Life

Sometimes, stories set in the ordinary world can be the most fascinating kind of stories.  Give us a great character and we’ll follow her anywhere, even if it is just into her own living room (or backyard, or treehouse, or wherever she leads us).

  1. Write about the most precious thing your character owns.
  2. What’s special about the house where your character lives (and why she’d never move, ever)?
  3. There’s a room in the school that nobody knows about… until he discovers it one day.
  4. Your character’s pretty sure her teacher is hiding a secret.
  5. Nobody understands him like his best friend does.


  1. Helpers in the community (fire, police, ambulance) are missing something they need to do their job!
  2. A scientist makes a startling discovery that could change everything.
  3. None of the adults can go to work – until a kid fixes the problem and saves the day.
  4. A doctor (vet, nurse) hurries to solve a problem, before it’s too late.
  5. A dancer (or singer, or actor) is suddenly overwhelmed with stage fright.


  1. Mistaken identity – he’s whisked off to somewhere he doesn’t belong.
  2. Your character is lost – how will she get back?
  3. Out of the blue, his parents announce that they’re going camping.  Yuck!  (or yay!)
  4. Nobody understands him!  (Or, nobody pays attention to him!)
  5. Your character has an unusual career goal or aspiration.  How will she attain it?


  1. Your character tries something new and exciting – and fails.
  2. Someone who’s good at sports befriends someone who isn’t.
  3. A beloved activity is suddenly boring.
  4. A new coach (or gym teacher) changes all the rules.
  5. The competition is coming up – but she’s disqualified in the early rounds (or her parents say she can’t go).


  1. Pick a Biblical character, and find out something you didn’t know.  Share it in a story.
  2. Every villain has a good side… find it for a well-known villain in your faith, and tell us about it.
  3. The moment before… (any famous moment in your faith) (remember – it’s darkest before the dawn)
  4. Every hero has a bad side… find it, and show us how he/she overcame it.
  5. What does your faith say about… (slander, waste, laziness, or anything else that’s bad)?  Show it in a way kids can enjoy!


  1. Your character discovers the (biggest, tallest, loudest, oldest, most expensive) _____ ever.
  2. It’s not enough to be fast… he wants to be fastest!
  3. Everybody wants what your character has.
  4. When he swallows the candy from the mysterious stranger, he blows up to ten times his normal size.
  5. Her parents made her move from the biggest city to a teeny, tiny small, small, town.

See something you loved?  I hope so. 

If not, one of these random generators just might inspire you:

If you’re like me, you already know that you can have all the discipline you want, set up a perfect writing schedule, get your screen, keyboard, mouse, all positioned exactly right, then sit down only to ask yourself… what are you going to write about?

We all have days when our firewood’s all soggy and nothing seems to want to light.  Just remember – don’t start out trying to set fire to giant logs. 

Start with a small idea.  That’s your tinder.  Make sure it’s fluffy; not too substantial.

Just grab hold of an idea that inspires you and start writing.  With the right start, you can light a fire that will take off in your imagination, creating a glowing finished book you’ll be proud of. 

Did any of these ideas inspire you?  Let me know in the Comments!


Post a Comment

As always, I love to hear from you.