How to Brainstorm Story Ideas Using AI: 7+ Creative Writing Tips

How to Brainstorm Story Ideas Using AI

Feeling skeptical about using AI for help with creative writing? You’re not alone. As a professional screenwriter and novelist I’ve had the same doubts over the past few years as AI use has been widely adopted in many industries.

Talking about AI in creative fields brings up all sorts of issues and debates, and I’ll be the first to say that AI should be simply a tool for human writers to use, not something that you should expect to write ‘for’ you.

Now, one thing that AI is actually very good at is brainstorming story ideas! So, in this article you’ll learn:

  • How to use AI to brainstorm story, character, setting, and plot ideas.

  • Which tools are worth trying out for creative writers.

  • How to balance AI ideas with your own creativity.

Let’s get into it!

How AI Can Assist in Brainstorming

AI can be a great tool for brainstorming. By giving your AI tool a few keywords or prompts, it can give you lots of creative suggestions for all sorts of different aspects of storytelling.

I’ve tried using AI for idea generation, and it’s actually helped me find unique ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own.

I’ve found that AI can really help kickstart my brainstorming process and help me overcome writer’s block.

a writer using AI for story ideas

Examples of AI-Generated Story Concepts

Here are some ways AI can generate story ideas:

  • Plot Ideas: Input a basic scenario, and AI can expand it into a full plot. It can also take your general plot points and turn it into a full beat sheet for a screenplay or novel (I make no guarantees on how good this beat sheet will be though!).

  • Character Profiles: Describe some basics of your character, and AI can flesh out their background and traits.

  • Setting Descriptions & Worldbuilding: Provide a setting, and AI can detail the environment and mood. It can give you ideas for each part of the worldbuilding process!

How to Brainstorm Story Ideas Using AI

In general, there are some key components of a story that I find AI to be helpful with brainstorming ideas for. These include my characters, my settings, my worldbuilding, and my plot points and plot twists.

Let’s take each of these and I’ll show you how you can use AI to help you generate ideas!

Use AI to Brainstorm Story Characters

how to write relatable characters

My favorite way to brainstorm story character details is by using a creative writing AI tool like Sudowrite or Novelcrafter. My favorite of these for brainstorming is Novelcrafter, as it lets you input all of your existing story details into the “codex” – and then it will use that information when you use the “chat” function.

Chat-GPT is helpful in the very beginning stages of brainstorming, but not in later stages where you already have some of the details set. It doesn’t have a way to add in all the existing story information as context for the AI, so it won’t be able to ‘remember’ and use your existing info in the same way that a creative-writing focused AI program can do.

Here are some starter prompts you can adapt to get ideas for characters:

Name ideas: Give me 20 ideas of names for a mom character from a story set in the 1920s.

Appearance and Physical Traits: I’m writing a character who is 35, female, ordinary-looking, and works with cars. Give me some ideas for her appearance.

Occupation Ideas: Give me 20 ideas for jobs that an 18 year old boy might have had back in 1850.

Character Traits: I’m writing an apocalyptic story with an alien whose planet has been destroyed as the main character. He’s going to seem helpful to humans at first, but then he’ll betray them. Give me 10 potential character traits that he might have.

Personality Type: Give me three different personality descriptions for the dad character in a coming-of-age story. Use enneagram types please.

Backstory Ideas: I’m writing a character who is tormented by events that happened between her and her best friend when they were on holiday together in Bali, 10 years ago. Give me ten different backstory ideas for this situation and character.

Dialogue or Catchphrase Ideas: Give me 10 potential catchphrases my 10 year old, baseball-loving protagonist might have in a comedic story.

Use AI for Worldbuilding & Settings

infographic on the steps to building a fictional world for creative writers

There are lots of ways to ask AI to give you ideas for the setting and world of your story. Here are a few prompts that you can use to generate ideas.

Setting and Atmosphere: Describe a small coastal town in the 1950s. Include details about the buildings, weather, and daily life.

Historical Context: I’m writing a story set during the Renaissance. Provide historical events, cultural norms, and key figures that could impact the story.

Cultural Details: Give me details about the daily life, traditions, and festivals of a fictional society living in a dense jungle.

Geographic Features: Create a fantasy world with three distinct regions: a desert, a forest, and a mountain range. Describe the climate, flora, and fauna of each region.

Technology and Innovation: I’m writing a sci-fi story set 100 years in the future. Describe potential technological advancements and their impact on society.

Political Systems: Design a political system for a dystopian society where a single corporation controls the government. Include laws, power structure, and public sentiment.

Magic Systems: Outline a unique magic system for a fantasy world. Include rules, limitations, and how it affects daily life.

Economy and Trade: Describe the economy of a medieval fantasy kingdom. Include details about trade routes, currency, and key industries.

Social Hierarchies: In a society ruled by wizards, explain the social hierarchies and interactions between different classes. Include daily life, privileges, and conflicts.

Architecture and Landmarks: Design the architecture of a futuristic city. Describe key landmarks, building styles, and public spaces.

Environmental Challenges: Outline the environmental challenges in a post-apocalyptic world. Include effects on climate, wildlife, and human survival strategies.

Religion and Beliefs: Create a religious system for a fantasy world. Describe gods, rituals, and how religion influences society.

Use AI to Brainstorm Plot Points & Twists

infographic showing 3 act story structure

Here are some prompts you can use to generate relevant ideas for your story’s plot and plot twists!

Inciting Incidents: Give me five ideas for an inciting incident in a mystery novel involving a detective and a small town.

Rising Action: Suggest five events that could build tension in a story about a young girl discovering she has magical powers. The story is set in 1940s England.

Climax: Provide three dramatic climaxes for a sci-fi story where the protagonist must save their spaceship from an alien threat. The spaceship has been damaged already, and the aliens are coming at them from all directions.

Plot Twists: Create five unexpected plot twists for a thriller where the protagonist is a private investigator uncovering a government conspiracy.

Subplots: Generate three subplot ideas for a romance novel set in a bustling city. The protagonist is a teacher in the city and the love interest is an office worker.

Conflict and Resolution: Describe three conflicts and their resolutions for a historical fiction novel set during World War II.

Foreshadowing: Give me five subtle foreshadowing ideas for a horror story involving a haunted house and four wounded soldiers.

Flashbacks: Suggest three flashback scenes that could reveal important details about the backstory of the villain in a fantasy novel. These ideas should include flashbacks of his difficult early life.

Red Herrings: Provide three red herring ideas for a detective novel to mislead readers and enhance the mystery.

Character Arcs: Outline three character arc ideas for a coming-of-age story about a teenage musician living in the near future.

Use AI to Research Aspects of Your Story

AI models can be very helpful for researching specific aspects of your story, characters or setting. Here are various prompts you can use to brainstorm ideas about story specifics.

Historical Research: Provide an overview of daily life in ancient Rome, focusing on the social hierarchy and common occupations.

Scientific Research: List ten recent discoveries in the field of renewable energy and their potential impacts on the environment.

Cultural Research: Describe the key elements of traditional Japanese tea ceremonies and their cultural significance.

Professional Roles: Outline the daily responsibilities of a forensic accountant working on a corporate fraud case.

Industry Trends: Summarize current trends in the tech industry, including advancements in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.

Psychological Research: Explain five common symptoms of anxiety disorders and their treatment options.

Use AI to Brainstorm Situations in Your Story

If you just need to spitball some new ideas for your story, try using AI! Here are a few ways you might incorporate AI in your traditional brainstorming process.

Reasons for Life Decisions: Give me ten reasons why a twenty-year-old man might decide to move to a new city without a job lined up.

Motivations for Actions: Provide ten reasons why a teenager might secretly start taking dance classes.

Situational Scenarios: List ten reasons why a college student might choose to live off-campus.

Emotional Reactions: Provide ten reasons why a young girl would refuse to attend a family reunion.

Behavioral Changes: Give me ten reasons why a usually punctual employee starts arriving late to work.

writer brainstorming ideas

Other Kinds of Brainstorming for Story Development

One interesting use of AI is to take your existing character backgrounds, conflicts, and settings, and ask the AI to reimagine them in various cultural and social standpoints.

For instance, I might input basic story elements and then ask the AI to reinterpret them through a different genre or time period. This technique of creative thinking gives me tons of new angles to explore in my story:

  • Genre Twist: Place a traditional fairy tale in a cyberpunk setting.

  • Time Swap: Imagine a Roman gladiator in the modern corporate world.

  • Cultural Reinterpretation Reimagining a love story in a medieval Japanese setting.

  • Social Contexts Transform a family drama into a futuristic society with advanced technology.

  • Reverse Roles Switch the roles of hero and villain in a classic adventure story.

  • Environmental Change Set a crime thriller in an isolated, underwater research facility.

  • Political Shift Transpose a medieval kingdom’s political intrigue into a contemporary high school setting.

  • Technological Leap Turn a historical drama into a story set in a virtual reality world.

  • Economic Flip Place a post-apocalyptic survival tale in a utopian society where resources are abundant.

  • Cultural Mashup Blending elements of ancient Greek mythology with modern urban life.

The Best AI Story Generator Tools

infographic about story generators

AI story generators, like Novelcrafter and Sudowrite, are specialized programs that are designed to produce creative, story-driven content. Here’s my quick take on the best ones:

  • Novelcrafter: The best AI creative writing program overall. It’s great if you know what you’re doing with fiction writing. Novelcrafter is the most flexible of the AI storytelling programs, and it’s got the best ways to organize and keep all of your story’s details so that the AI can ‘remember’ and use those details when you’re brainstorming with it.

  • Sudowrite: The best AI storytelling tool for beginners or anyone who has challenges with traditional fiction writing. This AI tool supports you every step of the way, from designing your characters and their world to developing the plot points and innovative ideas for your story. It just might be a bit frustrating if you’re an experienced creative writer.

Sudowrite does have a dedicated ‘brainstorming’ tool that can be helpful to beginners. However, I think that most brainstorming for stories and creative writing is best done using Novelcrafter’s ‘chat’ function.

READ MORE: You can read my full review of Sudowrite here!

Sudowrite brainstorming
Here’s the “brainstorm” function of Sudowrite.

Ensure Creativity and Originality

While artificial intelligence is a helpful tool, but don’t let it do all the work. It works best when you use it to generate ideas, rather than having it write giant section of your story. Always make sure your unique voice as a writer shines through in your work. AI should enhance your innate human creativity, not replace it.

Always try to find a balance between AI-generated ideas and your own creativity. Use AI to brainstorm, then build on those ideas with your own imagination. This way, you stay in control of your story, and you can be sure that your story remains just that – yours!

Potential Limitations and Ethical Considerations

Know that AI has many limits. It can’t understand nuanced themes or emotions like humans can. Often, AI-generated content is repetitive and lacks the depth that only a human can provide. It’s important to use AI as a tool, not a crutch.

Also, know that AI can reflect biases present in its training data. Make sure your prompts are inclusive and fair.

Summary

AI tools are incredibly useful for brainstorming story ideas, but remember, they are just tools. Please don’t rely on them to write your whole story!

If you’re going to write a novel, short story or movie screenplay, you’ll need to know more about story structure, character development, and plot pacing.

Always keep learning, exploring and improving your writing skills. Happy writing!

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