Writing Excuses 10.1: Five story ideas

Inspired by the Writing Excuses podcast 10.1: Seriously, Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Writing Prompt: Write down five different story ideas in 150 words or less. Generate these ideas from these five sources.

  • From an interview or conversation you’ve had
  • From research you’ve done (reading science news, military history, etc)
  • From observation (go for a walk!)
  • From a piece of media (watch a movie)
  • From a piece of music (with or without lyrics)


Humanity has discovered how to find tiny rifts in space, tears in the fabric of reality that can be widened and use to cross from our world into a world with much stranger (and perhaps more mutable) rules. The story takes place on a research station just on the other side of one of these rifts.

Because of the location of the tear in realspace (far out on the edges of the solar system for political reasons) and the danger of the rip (the edges are two dimension, thus sharp), supplies from back home are rare. Throughout the course of the story, stranger and more horrifying things keep happening, making the characters wish more and more for something normal.

All of the characters are Jacks/Jills of All Trades, but specifically scientists. They can’t stand that even the basest laws of otherspace aren’t so immutable.

Inspiration: Astronauts Get Belated Christmas Presents, Mustard, and Clean Undies (io9)


93% of the energy from the sun is stored in the ocean (water has a particularly high specific heat capacity). Far in the future, mankind has used this in order to make a generation ship: a city sealed in the center of a massive sphere of water, hurtling through space.

Over time, the world that was is forgotten and legends grow around operation of the ship. The main character is a young man being inducted into the Priesthood (mixing machine worship and cargo cult), but one day the terminal in his bunk (repurposed computer rooms) begins to glow. The ocean is warming, wrecking havoc with the life therein.

Before all is said and done, the young man has a lot to learn about the world he thought he knew and about just what is out there in the deep, dark space between the stars.

Inspiration: Project ARGO - monitoring Earth’s oceans (Naked Scientists)

Side note: that would be a much better story for the title A Sea of Stars. I may have to repurpose it. 😄


In the future, time travel is real and common. It’s entirely possible to jump back or forward in time, with paradoxes tending to just sort themselves out, as if the universe itself is trying to heal.

The central concept of the story is the idea of a time crash, where two time travelers come directly into conflict and the resulting collision sends out ripples in time and space, with history and reality waving between the original and the two colliding realities. Specifically, there is a time crash pile up, with more and more time travelers arriving, only to be caught in the growing storm.

When? World War II. Why? Hitler.

It’s up to the main character: a middle aged, not at all special time cop to untangle the timelines, rescuing some, arresting others, and eventually stumbling on the dark secret at the core of it all: Hitler was a time traveler.



Just beneath the surface of our world, supernatural beings wage war. Not werewolves and vampires, nor gargoyles and demons. Let’s go with the fae and robots (alternatively AIs in general). I’m not sure there are too many books out there mixing those two… 😄

The main characters will be a young changeling woman rebelling against her family (iron piercings!) and a robot working at a robot factory that fall in love (because of course they do), somewhat mirroring the whole Romeo and Juliet thing.

Also, Skynet(Terminator). 😄



In a steampunk world of steam powered clockwork gadgets, death is not the end. The most complicated and powerful of the machines are the automaton, essentially humanoid robots. But what most people don’t know, is that it’s not technology that grants such machines life, it’s magic binding the soul of one recently departed into a ’tired mechanical heart'.

One character is a serving girl from the kitchens, who dies in the first chapter (le twist) and becomes one of these automatons, assigned as a frontier solider (a war is brewing with another empire who binds their souls into animals rather than automatons). Another is the son of the Mayer. When his pranks get out of hand, he gets sent away, apprenticed to the Priesthood (the ones who bind the souls to the automatons).

In the end, it’s up to the two of them to either save the day… or change their world.



Tired mechanical heart

Beats ’til the song disappears

If only the clockwork could speak

I wouldn’t be so alone

Side note: This is actually the world of two of my previous incomplete novels: Shadows and Steam (NaNoWriMo 2011) and the City on the Lake (March Madness NaNoWriMo). I really want to write in this world, I just haven’t quite managed it.

Amusing. I didn’t expect to go so heavily into the science fiction. I think that I’ve subconsciously (or not) been thinking about how much I enjoy science fiction, while at the same time, I’ve been writing far more fantasy. Perhaps this will be the push I need to remedy that…

Also, if any of these ideas strike your fancy, feel free to steal them. Ideas want to be free and all of that. All I ask is that if you use one of them, let me know. I’d love to see it.