Writing Ideas at the flip of a card

As an author I understand what it means to be in need of writing ideas. Sometimes I end up in a staring competition with a blank page and the blank page kicks my ass. It happens to us all. Which is why I created this little tool to help writers have a better chance of winning that battle and finding something to write about. Here’s an example of the tool. (If it doesn’t look right – or you’d prefer a cleaner version – there’s a button at the bottom of the page to open it in your browser). 

How to use the Writing Ideas Tool

The tool is really simple. It gives you a person, an action, a place and a thing. Some of these suggestions are more fantasy than reality. But the collision of four prompts is designed to nudge your mind – and your narrative – in new directions. Here are a few ways you could use the tool.

To spark an entirely new story

I’ve just been given the prompts of ‘Barista’, ‘Racing’, ‘Public toilet’ and ‘Wallet’. And right away it’s given me the idea for a story about a pair of evil coffee-makers who have been trying out laxatives in their lattes. They time how long it takes for their customers to sprint for the toilet. The winner at the end of the week gets the contents of the tip jar. That uses all the cards to create a tale which I will title “The Crappuccino”. I’m never a fan of just picking the first idea, so I’d then go again at the same prompts to try and generate a different scenario. I’d then repeat the exercise with more prompts. That would ensure I can choose the story with the most potential from a list of options.

To take a storyline in a new direction

It’s easy to write yourself into a corner and not be able to see an easy way out. When that happens you can use the tool to light up the emergency exit and open up new possibilities. For this, you may find it better to select the most useful cards rather than trying to use all four. You may discover a new character you can add. Or a new scenario you can put your existing character in. Or an action they can take. Use it flexibly with an open mind and see where it takes your story. 

An advertising concept generator

In recent years, we’ve been seeing more bizarre TV ads on our screens. Like an office worker who keeps getting beaten up because he looks like a piñata. And a moonwalking pony on the top of a cliff. If you want some help getting to these bizarre scenarios, this tool may just do the job. It will certainly open you up to ideas you wouldn’t normally have.

To come up with product ideas

You can use the four cards to come up with a scenario. Then work out what product would help the character in this situation. This may just help you come up with an idea for a new product you’ve not previously considered.

To develop an existing product

Use the cards to come up with a scenario again. Now look at how your own product could fit into the situation – or how you could adapt it to do so. This exercise is about helping you see your own familiar product from different perspectives. Cartoon and fantasy scenarios can be just as useful as the realistic-sounding ones.

As you can see, there’s no shortage of ways you can use these cards. If you come up with other methods that work for you, let me know and I can add them to the page.

When to use this Writing Ideas tool

  • As a regular creative exercise to develop your storytelling abilities 
  • As a writing tool to nudge you out of a rut
  • As an advertising concept generator
  • As a scenario generator for creating or developing products
  • As a game to play with kids to develop their communication skills
  • As a drinking game (because all my tools can be used with alcohol)

More help with creative ideas 

Check out my book, How To Get To Great Ideas, which has lots more advice, tools and techniques.

You can also find a bunch of other tools I’ve created to help develop your creative abilities and push your thinking in new directions. I keep adding to them whenever I find the time to do a bit of coding, so it’s probably best to keep an eye on my newsletter to see when I release new things.