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Cure Your Writer's Block: How to Come Up With Great Creative Writing Topics

written by: Ashley Hansen • edited by: Trent Lorcher • updated: 7/12/2012

Have you ever been struck with dreaded "Writer's Block?" When it's time to complete a creative writing assignment, you won't get far without an idea or a topic. Here are some tips and tricks to help you formulate some great topics for your short story, poem or narrative.

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    Creative writing comes naturally to some, but for you it may be more of a challenge. When your teacher hands you an assignment, you may be Thinking wondering how you'll even come up with topic, let alone how long it may take to write. Don't waste your precious time staring at a blank sheet of paper. These ideas will get you on track to creating an original idea and turning in an assignment that will wow your teacher.

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    Freewriting

    Get your writing juices flowing. Just write. This is perfect for students who already keep a journal and enjoy writing about anything and everything, but it can also work if you feel lost at the beginning of an assignment. Beginning with a fresh sheet of paper, write anything that comes to mind. This can be a description of someone you know, random words or images that come to mind, or even a detailed account of what you ate for lunch today. Whatever it is, don't think - just write.

    Once you've written for at least five to ten minutes, read over what's in front of you. If you see a word, idea or image that pops out, circle it. Many students find that this is the fastest and easiest way to come up with a creative writing topic.

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    Picture Search

    You already know that great writers are able to convey detailed images in their literary works - there's no reason you can't do the same. Start by browsing through a magazine or photo album. Hop on the computer and do an image search for the first word that pops into your head. Looking at a wide variety of images will give you plenty of starting points for how to create your own in words. After all, describing a scene in great detail can be a great way to start a story or poem.

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    Lists

    Make lists. Not only will this get your brain going, it will also give you a great arsenal of verbiage for your assignment. Think of different topics or have someone suggest a topic for you, then make a list of corresponding terms. For example, if your list was "Emotions," you could list ecstatic, hopeful, confused, anxious, etc. You can also list things like "Fears," "Scary Settings," or "Romantic Gestures." Suit your list to the assignment you've been given and you'll have a topic in no time.

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    Literary Inspiration

    Use the stories you already know to give you a starting point for your creative writing topic. If you love Romeo and Juliet, why not re-tell the entire story from Mercutio's point of view? Take the character of Juliet and place her in a modern setting - what would people today say about her actions? Put a twist on a classic story or famous character - it's easy because you already know the story and your teacher will be impressed with your creativity.

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    Point of View

    This technique will help you flesh out your assignment if you only have a vague idea of what story you want to tell. If you can't get past the first scene in your story, tell the same scene over and over again but from different characters' points of view. If a girl is fighting with her best friend over a boy in the first scene of your story, describe the scene from beginning to end in each of their points of view. Add one girl's mother who is wondering where her daughter is and her thoughts of the boy who came between them and you've just quadrupled your story length by telling it from four different points of view.

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    Using Literary Genres

    You've probably learned all about literary genres by now. Here's a refresher: literary genres are the categories which we assign to the format and plot lines that occur in many books and stories. Included in a literary genre may be a certain tone, similar characters, an overall theme or the style of writing. Some examples of literary genres for fiction are romance, fantasy, science fiction, horror, adventure or epic.

    Chances are you've already read stories in at least two or three of these genres, and you might even have a favorite that you enjoy to read just for fun. This is where you can begin taking steps to making your creative writing assignment a snap. Take a literary genre and break it down to the basic plot structure, character types and tone. Then you can use this as an outline for your own story, using all your own ideas.

    Examples

    Let's say you love a good mystery novel. You get wrapped up in the characters, the plot line and the spooky atmosphere the author creates. When it comes time for your next creative writing assignment, use what you know about mystery novels to create a thrilling and suspenseful story that will really impress your teacher.1087620 leaning tower 

    Still not sure where to start? Think about the basic elements of many mystery stories:

    • Tone: Ominous elements (like fog or darkness), serious dialogue
    • Characters: Detectives, suspects, victims
    • Setting: Crime scene, court room, police station
    • Plot: Incident occurs, then clues are collected and the perpetrator is revealed at the end

    So, now you have the basic elements lined up. How does your story come in? Start by thinking of one element - a character, what the crime is, how the suspect is revealed, etc. Once you've got a few pieces of the story in your head, it will be easy to connect the dots between them. The best part is that if you have trouble coming up with ideas, you can refer to other mystery novels for ideas. However, make sure you aren't copying any ideas or text directly from another book - always use your own original ideas.

    Finishing up your Assignment

    The reason that using literary genres as inspiration for your creative writing topics is so helpful is because once you get a small idea in your head, you can use what you know about the genre to help flesh out your story. If you only know that you want to write a story about aliens invading the earth, you can refer to science fiction novels for ideas on coming up with other characters, how to describe the aliens and what mood you want to set in your story. It's an easy way to make one good idea into a fully developed and impressive story.

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    And... You're Done!

    Hopefully at least one of these ideas were able to help you get over the initial hurdle of coming up with a great idea and get onto the bones of writing an article. Have your own solutions for writer's block? Leave your ideas in the comments.