Read Time: 4 minutes

The thrilling yet challenging journey of a fiction writer, screenwriter, or creative storyteller often involves the relentless pursuit of new, original ideas.

We frequently grapple with dilemmas such as:

  • “How can I consistently generate new ideas?”
  • “Are my ideas good enough to stand out?”
  • “How can I turn my ideas into a gripping plot?”

Developing worthy and captivating story ideas is no easy task. Yet, master storytellers have been doing it for decades, making the process of writing immersive stories appear almost effortless.

After 14 years of studying these bestselling novelists and blockbuster screenwriters, I’ve distilled their idea generation processes into a simple 2-step system to ensure you’re always flowing with fresh narratives.

And I’ve adapted them to take advantage of your new creative edge, the power of AI—specifically, ChatGPT.

Ready to dive in?

Let’s explore the process step-by-step.

Step 1: Identifying Your Intentions, Audience, and Their Aspirations

Before putting pen to paper, ask yourself:

  • WHY am I writing my story?
  • WHO am I writing for?
  • WHAT do they desire or aspire to see in my story?

Many storytellers attempt to generate ideas around broad, vague ideas, such as “I want to write a thought-provoking sci-fi thriller” or “I want to create a unique fantasy drama.”

While ambitious, these broad goals can be overwhelming and drown your progress. Try completing these two steps to start clarifying your ideas.

1. Figure out your WHY

First, think about the reason you want to tell this story?

  • WHY are you writing this story? Maybe you want to make people laugh, teach them something new, or ask a big question.
  • Spend some time writing down your reasons. Make sure they’re important to you, not just because you want to escape your day job. If your reason is important, it will keep you going when the writing gets tough.
  • Remember: Your WHY can help you figure out your story’s THEME. The THEME is the big idea or message in your story.

2. Know your WHO and WHAT

Now think about the people who will read or watch your story (the WHO) and what they like (the WHAT).

  • WHO are you telling your story to? Think about the people who might like the kind of story you want to tell. Are they kids, adults, fans of science fiction, history lovers, or someone else? Knowing your audience will help you develop a story they’ll love.
  • WHAT do these people want in a story? Do they like exciting adventures, dark fantasies, deep feelings, tricky problems to solve?
  • Your WHO and WHAT will guide your GENRE. The GENRE is like a map for your story—The GENRE is like a map for your story—it guides what should happen and offers inspiration from popular stories.
  • Remember: Knowing your WHO and WHAT will help you choose the right GENRE, but it also helps you figure out what should happen in your story and how you should tell it. Making a story that fits your audience will help them connect with it and enjoy it more.

Bottom line: By understanding your WHY, WHO, and WHAT, you’ll be able to come up with story ideas that your audience will love. Plus, you’ll find your THEME and GENRE which will further focus your story ideas.

Step 2: Leveraging the Power of ChatGPT

Now it’s time to use ChatGPT to come up with lots of story ideas!

  • First, you need to know who your audience is.
  • Second, you need to know what they like.
  • With these two things, you can use ChatGPT to come up with lots of unique story ideas.

Next, we’ll use ChatGPT prompts to help you come up with, polish, and grow your story ideas. These prompts will ask about what you like and want in a story.

First Prompt: Discover Your Theme and Genre

Note: Adding too much information inside the [placeholder] can dilute the output. Choose only a few interests to include.

//Prompt below (edit the text inside the brackets)//

Using the following personal interests and experiences provided, suggest appropriate fiction genres and universal themes that could form the foundation for my story. These interests include my favorite movies, novels, shows, and other impactful experiences.

Here’s the list: [Insert your favorite movies, novels, shows, and experiences here].

I’m looking for three distinct suggestions, each comprising two potential fiction genres and three related universal themes. Please format your answer using the following markdown syntax:

First suggestion:

• Fiction Genre 1.1:

• Fiction Genre 1.2:

• Universal Theme 1.1:

• Universal Theme 1.2:

• Universal Theme 1.3:

Second suggestion:

• Fiction Genre 2.1:

• Fiction Genre 2.2:

• Universal Theme 2.1:

• Universal Theme 2.2:

• Universal Theme 2.3:

Third suggestion:

• Fiction Genre 3.1:

• Fiction Genre 3.2:

• Universal Theme 3.1:

• Universal Theme 3.2:

• Universal Theme 3.3:

//Prompt above (edit the bold text in brackets)//

NOTE: Alternatively, you can simply ask ChatGPT for a list of Genres and Universal Themes for fiction and films. Then review those and choose one Genre and Universal theme that sparks your interest.

Second Prompt: When You’re Building a Story Idea from Scratch

//Prompt below (edit the bold text in brackets)//

Based on the Fiction Genre of [insert GENRE], Universal Theme of [insert THEME], suggest 5 unique, unconventional, and thought-provoking story ideas that have the potential to become a bestselling novel or blockbuster film.

//Prompt above (edit the bold text in brackets)//

Third Prompt: If You Have an Existing Story Idea

//Prompt below (edit the bold text in brackets)//

Based on the Fiction Genre of [insert GENRE], Universal Theme of [insert THEME], help me refine and expand this story idea [insert your current story idea details] to make it more unique, engaging, and thought-provoking. The goal is to discover fresh ideas and innovative narratives that captivate the audience and make them think.

//Prompt above (edit the bold text in brackets)//

For every prompt you experiment with, you can easily ask follow up questions for more ideas or challenge ChatGPT to produce more innovative results. For instance, an easy follow up for any of the prompts above would be:

//Prompt below (edit the bold text in brackets)//

Unfortunately, those ideas are not worthy or good enough for the kind of story that I want to tell. [Provide details you disliked from the results, add new insights related to what you are looking for. Or leave blank and remove tis placeholder.]

Now use a temperature of 10 to generate 5 new story ideas that are more thought-provoking and worthy of standing out as different in my chosen genre because my intention is to develop a story idea that goes on to inspire millions of people and leave them with a lasting impression.

//Prompt above (edit the bold text in brackets)//

— — —

Congratulations, you now have a personal Muse thanks to ChatGPT, always ready to spark new story ideas!

However, our expanded story development journey is just beginning.

Keep an eye on your inbox, because next week, I’ll show you how to collaborate with ChatGPT to build a cast of characters around your ideas.

That’s it for this Saturday.

If you’re finding value in the Saturday Storyteller newsletter, consider sharing it with a fellow storyteller.

See ya next week!

— Dave