Writing Tools: Inspiration

Writing Tools: where do you find inspiration

It’s one of the most common questions put to writers: where do you find your inspiration?

Because writing inspiration doesn’t often come along and magically strike us. Sometimes we have to hunt high and low for it.

There are a raft of sources that we’ve all probably drawn on at some point and we all have our favourites. How about these?

Story Starters

Look out for these on the Fiction Ed’s blog, a new one every week. We know from the stories that come in mentioning them that these photos are popular as a story prompt.

Overheard conversations

Accents, phrases, quirks of speech, might suggest an interesting character or background. For example: “D’ye think meh heid buttons up the back?” Such a great put-down that perfectly captures a Scots working class granny, and her humour.

Family & friends

Picture Uncle Albert. Lived in a Midlands coal mining village, drove one of the big coal haulage trucks. Had a faint blue scar on his temple, permanently stained by the coal dust. Every pore on his skin was grimy with it. Because of that, he liked his evening bath, so come rain or shine he would keep the living room fire stoked up because it fed the back-boiler; no fire, no hot water. His wife Ada would go nuts at him as the family sweltered through a roasting English August. “My strike, man, will you stop putting coal on that blessed fire!” But Uncle Albert paid no never mind – he wanted his bath so he’d just keep those buckets of coal coming.

Now, that’s not a story in itself, but it’s a scene, isn’t it, and perhaps prompts something humorous, set in the Fifties….? Or perhaps it’s about life in a pit village – its dangers… You just need to let your imagination wander with the story to see where it takes you.

Unusual family histories are a goldmine, too.


Holidays, cruises, historical sites, local museums – especially for period stories.

Magazines & newspapers

Headlines, snippets, small ads – eg “For sale: two bicycles: pensioners mistake”, a genuine For Sale ad from the local paper.


These are terrific for pinning down story themes for whatever genre you have in your sights.

Start your journey in writing with Shirley’s Story Starter, published every week on The People’s Friend Online.


Shirley Blair

Fiction Ed Shirley’s been with the “Friend” since 2007 and calls it her dream job because she gets to read fiction all day every day. Hobbies? Well, that would be reading! She also enjoys writing fiction when she has time, long walks, travel, and watching Scandi thrillers on TV.