50+ Book Ideas (and 10 Ways to Find Even More!)
All the best books start life as great book ideas. For some, inspiration strikes during a morning shower. For others, creative writing is a more deliberate process. Even some of the most experienced authors write their best stories from writing prompts — or use other writers’ tried-and-true strategies to gather book ideas from the world around them.
The bottom line is: there’s no right way to get inspired. If you’re ready to kick writer’s block to the curb and start writing your novel, here are 50 fresh book ideas ripe and ready for writing — and 10 ways to come up with even more!
Try a story randomizer
If you’re searching for book ideas to get started with creative writing, there’s no better place to start than with Reedsy’s plot generator. It asks only that you choose your genre, then randomly supplies a protagonist, a secondary character, a plot, and a twist! For example, if you generate a plot for a romance novel, it might look something like this:
You can lock in any elements you like and keep regenerating the rest until you hit upon the perfect combination. Here are a few more amazing plot ideas courtesy of our generator:
- It's a literary story about confronting reality. It kicks off at a temple with the end of a relationship.
- It’s a dying earth fantasy about change versus tradition. It kicks off before a great set of gates with a prophecy.
- It’s a thriller about confronting reality. It kicks off at a McDonald’s drive-through with the disappearance of a backpacker.
- It’s a contemporary romance about empowerment. It kicks off in Scotland with someone loudly saying “I object” at a wedding.
- It’s a post-apocalyptic story about the definition of evolution. It kicks off on a dead star with a conspiracy being uncovered.
With all the major elements sorted, you can then use a story structure like “The Hero’s Journey” or “Save the Cat” to outline your entire book. At that point, there’ll be nothing stopping you from plowing ahead!
Allow a short story to blossom
Many esteemed authors, including Sylvia Plath and Stephen King, began their careers by writing short stories before eventually “graduating” to novels. But this evolution needn’t take years. Sometimes, a character leaps off the page, you suddenly begin in the thick of rising action, or a denouement leaves you craving more, and what started as a short story unfolds into 50,000 words or more.
Need a jumping-off point? We’ve got you covered with our lovingly curated list of over 200 short story ideas. Here are a few to whet your appetite:
- "Say cheese!" You push the camera button, hear the click, and... that's when all hell breaks loose.
- A person wakes up in bed, drenched in salty ocean water.
- You're sitting in a coffee shop watching someone type on their computer. They type the words, "It begins raining outside," and it instantly starts raining.
- A plane takes off with 81 passengers. It lands with 82.
- A person dictates who they will date based on quantitative measures, such as horoscopes, how they perform on a test, etc.
With so many book ideas at your fingertips, the difficulty often lies in picking one to run with (and sticking with it). The indecisive author needs something to spur them on — and that’s where Reedsy’s weekly writing contest comes in.
Give yourself a ticking clock
Each week, five nuggets of inspiration are delivered straight to your inbox. If a prompt takes your fancy, you have a week to write a short story, which you then pass under the noses of your fellow authors and Reedsy’s panel of judges. So not only are you getting your creative juices flowing, but you’re also taking those ideas for a test run with a ready-made pool of beta readers.
Our “Snow Day” themed prompts were particularly popular:
- Write about two people going sledding for the first time in many years.
- Start your story with someone looking out at the snow, and end it with them stepping tentatively onto a frozen surface.
- Write about someone who gets stuck in their workplace during a blizzard and decides to explore rooms they aren’t normally allowed in.
- Write a story set in the summer, when suddenly it starts to snow.
- Set your story in a remote winter cabin with no electricity, internet, or phone service.
Of course, if you’d rather choose from an all-you-can-eat buffet of book ideas, then you can fill your plate from prompts contests past.
Explore (and exploit) the public domain
Many of us are wary of mining our reading material for book ideas, in case we stumble into the black pit of plagiarism. But lots of authors have found success working with other people’s material — no strings attached.
One way to do this is to revive stories in the public domain. Whether you turn to Greco-Roman myth, Shakespearean tragedies, or a modern classic like Mrs Dalloway, books that have fallen out of copyright contain hundreds of vivid characters and rich plots — all of them up for grabs and ripe for rewriting. Here are a few ideas to chew on:
- A retelling of The Great Gatsby, set during the new “Roaring Twenties” of this century.
- A modern-day version of The Picture of Dorian Gray in which the “picture” is the main character’s social media feed.
- A gender-swapped retelling of a story with very gendered roles, like Dracula or Macbeth.
- A loose retelling of A Tale of Two Cities, in the context of a totally different revolution.
- A version of Don Quixote in which the main character travels across the United States instead of Spain.
Revitalize a trope
On top of reading widely, reading the giants of your genre to familiarize yourself with common tropes is another important part of ‘author training.’ Authors of certain genres, such as romance and fantasy, who fail to include a single trope in their novel chance losing readers who have come to expect specific conventions. Too many tropes, and you risk reader déjà vu.
You can strike the right balance by acquainting yourself with popular tropes, then learning how to revitalize them to make an original book idea. Simple twists like these might be all you need to find a fresh angle on the kind of stories you love to read:
- Fool readers into thinking your silver-haired authority figure is a wise, benevolent mentor, only to reveal that they’re cowardly and selfish.
- Write about a “chosen one” with a very large family.
- Deconstruct the “friends to lovers” trope by having one character base their actions and decisions on the hope that their friendship will become something more.
- Lead readers to expect a dramatic, “final moments” rescue that never shows up.
- Set up a love triangle in first person POV, then gradually reveal that one of the love interests never felt that way about your protagonist.
Let your protagonist lead the way
Once you have a character in mind, digging into who they really are is a great way to develop your book idea. If you aren’t familiar with character profiles, check out this guide to learn more. But in a nutshell, a character profile helps you build a holistic picture of your character, including their physical appearance, backstory, and psychology. Once you know all that, figuring out what they might do in a novel should be a piece of cake.
Here are a few character-related questions that may be especially useful in terms of finding a strong book idea:
- If your character won the lottery, what would they do with the money?
- Who was the first person to break your character’s heart?
- Has your character ever done anything illegal?
- What childhood memory still makes your character cringe?
- Describe your character’s bucket list at the ages of 10, 20, 30, and 40.
Take inspiration from a muse
Many bestselling authors have found inspiration in works of art. Tracy Chevalier, for example, built her brand around historical novels that take a behind-the-scenes peek at iconic paintings. Of course, your book idea doesn’t need to feature a work of art or its artist: musing over a painting by asking, “who is that person, and what are they doing there?” can also be a fun way to generate book ideas.
Alternatively, if paintings aren’t successful at coaxing out your muse, why not immerse yourself in music, watch a beautiful dance, admire your city’s architecture, or even soak up the mood, setting, and visuals of a film. Let’s take a look at a few examples to get the ball rolling:
- Write a story from the perspective of Delilah in Hey There, Delilah by the Plain White T’s.
- Set your story in a self-sufficient floating city.
- Set your story in Edward Hopper’s diner, the night something terrible happens.
- Write a story inspired by the aesthetics (not the plot!) of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom.
- Write a historical novel about one of the characters in Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party.
Check out this list of creative writing examples for more inspiration!
Get creative with journaling
Armed with all the books, music, and art in the world, you may still find that your staunchest ally when it comes to inspiration is yourself. The notion of writing in a journal usually conjures up visions of high schoolers twirling fluffing pencils and scribbling, “Dear Diary.” Still, studies have shown that journaling is a great way to nurture your creativity.
There’s no one way to journal, so try to think outside the box. Here are a few examples that should set a-whirring the right cogs in your brain:
- Write your day out of chronological order.
Opening with an event from the middle or end of your day challenges you to think creatively about structure — an often overlooked element of storytelling that might just hold the key to your next great book idea.
- Write dialogue inspired by real life.
If you wanted to get something off your chest or initiate a conversation with a stranger, but you didn’t have the courage, then put it to paper and see where your imagination takes you — hopefully to your next book idea!
- Write about your day from the perspective of your favorite fictional character.
Add a fictional twist to your journaling and look at it as a form of narrative storytelling rather than a laundry list of events. This will make it much easier to find inspiration in the mundane.
- Ask yourself the 36 questions that lead to love.
Get to know yourself better with questions like, “Do I have a secret hunch about how I’ll die?” or “What would constitute my perfect day?”. These might unearth a creative gem you didn’t know you had within you.
- Bring a photograph to life.
Photographs have an unmatched ability to unearth buried memories — perhaps even those faded, vintage memories that contain the settings, characters, events, or emotions of your next book idea.
Ask the cards
Is your present-day life remarkably uninspiring? Why not take a peek into your future? Using either a deck of tarot cards or a tarot app, draw three cards at random and weave them into a story. You can research traditional tarot symbolism if you like but it’s also fine to make your own associations, drawing on how the images make you feel. You don’t need to be a fortune-teller to use tarot cards, just a storyteller!
- A literary fiction story about personal growth (Three of Pentacles): the protagonist withdraws from daily life (The Hermit) and embarks on a new adventure (The Fool).
- A romance about a love triangle (Two of Swords): the protagonist is hurt by the return of an old flame (The Emperor) but eventually chooses inner strength and independence (Four of Swords).
- An adventure story about a group of drifters looking for the cup of eternal youth (Nine of Cups). The group falls apart (Five of Swords), and there’s great betrayal and loss (Ten of Swords).
- A suspense story about a character who’s wracked with guilt (The Hierophant): they withdraw from society (Eight of Cups), then discover a secret that changes things completely (Ace of Cups).
- A young adult romance about a character who discovers a love of painting (Eight of Pentacles) and the love of their life (The Lovers) during the summer before college (The Sun).
Be a fly on the wall
When you’re on the hunt for a book idea, society gives you a free pass to indulge in a bit of eavesdropping — and if you pay close enough attention, you’re bound to find the seed of an idea. But if you’ve been keeping your ears peeled and only tuning in to boring conversations, then it might be time to head to TED.com, where some of the most interesting people in the world speak on everything and anything from business, to activism, to personal growth. Here are few book ideas inspired by our favorite TED talks:
- A sci-fi novel about a community trying to live in harmony with Mother Nature. Inspired by The ancient, earth-friendly wisdom of Mongolian Nomads (Khulan Batkhuyang).
- A comic novel about a chronic procrastinator who realizes he’s letting life pass him by. Inspired by Inside the mind of a master procrastinator (Tim Urban).
- A heartbreaking YA novel about a girl who gives up everything when she’s scouted by a modeling agency. Inspired by Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model. (Cameron Russell).
- A thriller that follows a psychopathic liar and the detective trying to figure him out. Inspired by How to spot a liar (Pamela Meyer).
- A magical realism novel about someone who gradually learns that they can do incredible things. Inspired by How I held my breath for seventeen minutes (David Blaine).
Looking for something a little less high brow? Try listening to a chatty podcast, or ‘eavesdropping’ on an agony aunt. You’ll find more lurid, heartbreaking, and dramatic material in the pages of Dear Prudence and Ask Polly than you’ll know what to do with.
For a true window into the lives of others, you can’t do much better than Craigslist.com: the infamous classified advertisements site. If you browse through its sprawling pages for long enough, it’s hard not to come across something intriguing that would work as a plot point or the setting of a story.
You really have to see the site for yourself to appreciate its potential, but here are a few examples to give you a flavor:
- Seeking a Valentine’s date for my best friend.
- Haunted doll for sale.
- Looking for someone to pretend to be my friend so he thinks he’s been replaced.
- Selling my soul for money to buy holiday gifts.
- Looking to flat swap: Hong Kong for London.
Whatever you’re in the market for, from mysteries to social commentary to meet-cutes, Craigslist has got you covered.
Once you’ve found your idea, take just one more step before diving headlong into your novel and check out this guide to planning. Yes, discovery writers too! No matter how you write, you’ll find many universal tips in that post that will help you form a solid foundation for your next writing endeavor. Good luck!