Let's be honest. Writing a book is HARD WORK. One of the questions I get asked a lot is how I come up with ideas for my books. Believe it or not, it's actually a simpler process than you think! I come up with ideas one of two ways...
This is the easiest way, and I think the method all writers count on. We wish for ideas to come to us naturally, and sometimes, they do. To stimulate my mind to generate ideas on its own, I take walks in nature, go play a game, be athletic, try a new hobby, meet new people, and generally immerse myself in as many new experiences as possible. I watch TV shows and movies I usually wouldn't, and read books outside my genre. Sometimes I take my laptop to a nature preserve, or a cafe where I've never been, and just write whatever comes to mind. The idea here is to saturate your brain in as many situations and stories as you can.
Sitting around, going through your day-to-day routine, isn't going to cut it. You have to do something different and break out of your comfort zone. The more adventurous you are, the better chance you'll come up with an amazing story.
Sometimes, though, you can scale Mt. Everest and still be just as clueless when you come back down as when you started. That's when my other method comes into play...
This is actually a much better way to come up with ideas, because you're taking advantage of the situation and not sitting around waiting for something to happen. I would advise against sitting at your desk and forcing the ideas to flow. Take a notebook and go somewhere for this process. It'll be much more exciting, and you'll be able to jot down ideas as you go.
First, though, determine the type of story you want to write, and in what genre. Do you want to write a mystery? Romance? Horror? For what age audience, and what gender? Make a list of the movies and books you like, and then try to figure out why you like them. You'd be surprised how many things are similar in many of your favorite stories.
For example, let's say you like Eragon, How to Train Your Dragon, and Dragonheart. All of these things have dragons in them, so you know you'd enjoy including a dragon in your novel. Let's assume you also like The Princess Bride, Quest for Camelot, and The Princess Diaries. All of these stories have a determined princess, trying to discover who she is. You could also include that in your story. If you can come up with a list of 5 or 10 similarities, that's a good starting point for a novel!
After you determine this, next is characterization. Let's say you want to write an epic fantasy, for males aged 14 to 17. Next, think of your main character. What does he look like? How old is he? Where did he come from? Let this come to you naturally. If you draw a blank, jot down some general facts, that would apply to almost any character. You can fill in the bones later.
Now that you've got your character, and some of the plot devices, the next thing to do is create the story itself. The main focus here is to use questions to develop your story. My favorite one to ask is..."What is the WORST possible thing that could happen to my character in this situation?" Then I'll pick what's going to happen in the book from the various answers I come up with. Other questions you can ask are...
1. What does the world look like that my character lives in? What's the time period? What does everything look like, and how is their culture different than mine?
2. Is my character fighting against an actual person, or a dilemma?
3. What does my character want more than anything in the world, and how can they get it? This is a BIG ONE: the most important question in all the book, that you must answer!
4. What's something funny my readers will enjoy in the story? Scary? Interesting?
5. Why do I want to write this book? What is the purpose of it, or the message I want to get across?
Ask as many questions as possible in order to grow your story. How do you come up with ideas? Share your methods in the comments!