Sunday, May 2, 2010

11 Free Book Idea Generator

The Story Idea Machine is a free online tool based on The Marshall Plan Novel Writing Software by Evan Marshall and Martha Jewett. It's designed to help writers develop a novel or story idea in five steps. The tool asks you to provide:
  1. The name of your protagonist.
  2. An inciting incident.
  3. The protag's emotional reaction to the inciting incident.
  4. The course of action the protag follow in response to the incident.
  5. The hoped for outcome of that action.
You fill the information into blanks in a form, submit, and the Machine provides a story structure that looks something like the following:
As the story opens, Laura, the novel's lead character, discovers that her son Timmy has been kidnapped by his father, who's a cop. Laura feels as if the world has been turned upside down and is distraught to the point of madness.

Laura weighs all possible courses of action. Finally, after much careful consideration, Laura decides to go after Timmy without help from the police.

This is the only way Laura believes it will be possible to get Timmy back, the only course to take.

It is this goal that Laura will aggressively pursue, all the way to the end of the story.
The instructions suggest that you play with changing around the different pieces of information you enter in the form until you find a story that really appeals to you. They also point out that the story idea generated is "a brief, film-style 'treatment' for you to work from as you develop your novel."

I've never used writing software, but I've always wondered if it's helpful. After trying the Story Idea Machine, I'm still undecided.

On the plus side, it's free.

So what do you think? Is this helpful in giving you a jumping off point for writing? Is the 'treatment' close enough to a query letter or short synopsis to help provide some insight when it comes time to start marketing what you've written?

Happy plotting,



  1. Are you kidding!!!

    Personally, I think that this is a BRILLIANT idea!

    When I want to write a short story or witty poem, something usually for my own boys or my students - I get those poor victims to brainstorm ideas for me.
    My students are constantly giving me prompts to base my stories around. Well, in this situation I'm writing for them so I include whatever THEY want.

    When I am writing purely for my own pleasure or catharsis, then prompts and 'idea generators' are not usually necessary. In this situation I want feedback on the language, grammar, tone and so on. The plot is usually already fixed in my head...

    IT'S FREE....?! SEE to plot my plot and improve the lot!

    This was GREAT Martina....just thought of a negative aspect, though...are we in danger of producing something that another 1000 or so writers have written because the generator gave the same info and plot guidelines to a whole bunch of 'lazy PLOTTERS?!?'

    1. You obviously didn't read the entire page! Your suppose to replace the character, plot, and emotions with your own ideas. Its basically an outline you have to color in your own story.

  2. Martina--Thanks for sharing the link and giving us an example. I haven't used anything like this before, but I'm curious now. :)

  3. Hi Ann Marie! Since you have to put in the goal and the bones of the story, the chances of someone else coming up with the same thing are much reduced. It's that same old discussion about how many plots there are, right?


    Hi Sharon! My pleasure.

  4. Interesting concept, Martina! I'll have to check it out. : )

  5. Hi, Martina! I followed you from Julie Musil's blog and really enjoyed this post. I'd love for you to check out my post today where I've tackled the issue - Is "It" Really Worth It? I hope to see you there, and thanks for providing the helpful link. Have a great evening! Tory

  6. why dont you just look around you and at your own pst and what you think is going to happen tommorow to you. also if you start to read a book that you have nevver read before and before you start the next chapter imagine what would happen next to that person and if you didn't get it right then you have an oringinal idea. if you did by chance get it right then move on to the next chapter... etc.

  7. Have a conversation with someone then alter your conversation to a very interesting one and put it in you book.

  8. Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this
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  9. This could be seriously addictive! (She wails as she thinks of all the story ideas already on file and which she'll never have time to write!)

  10. The main character of my book, Yakima, is a teenage warrior who lives at a temple and trains to fight the demons that disrupt the balance on Earth.

    What ignites the main story is when two new students, an African American named Boron and an American named Eli, join the temple to train with Yakima, which annoys her. Boron and Eli have very different personalities from her and from each other.

    Eventually, the three apprentices leave the temple to fight the demons, but it is proven that there are very dangerous and very powerful enemies out there. Sacrifices will be made, and challenges will be fought.

    I have already planned this into an 8-book series. I have names of titles for every I just need a title for the series itself! If I could have some help, that would be great!


Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)