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I want some advice on how to come up with a good story idea

I have to create a story that has the 12-stage hero's journey structure, with a Byronic hero.

Right now I can't seem to think of any good story ideas except for the 'hero goes to find an object/treasure, and tries to defeat an enemy' which is pretty bland. Or, 'the hero tries to stop the villain from doing something bad, after getting a call', which also is kind of generic.

I think my ideas aren't bad, but want to come up with something more original

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  • Are you not aware that those two correspond to the Labors of Hercules and the Journey of Theseus? Not exactly bland and generic, IMO.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    May 4 at 17:55
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    Welcome to Writing.SE! If you're asking us to come up with a story idea for you, then I'm afraid that's not what we do here. We can give you advice on how to come up with a good story idea yourself, but I wouldn't be surprised if that's already been asked somewhere.
    – F1Krazy
    May 4 at 18:23
  • Hi, thanks for replying. I want some advice on how to come up with a good story idea myself, and I think the ideas I have are not bad, but I just want to come up with something or modify my ideas to make it more original, or more action and drama-based, so to speak.
    – writer58
    May 4 at 19:28
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The idea doesn't really matter, it's the execution that matters. A great real life example of this is Codex Alera by Jim Butcher. From Wikipedia:

The inspiration for the series came from a bet Butcher was challenged to by a member of the Del Rey Online Writer's Workshop. The challenger bet that Butcher could not write a good story based on a lame idea, and he countered that he could do it using two lame ideas of the challenger's choosing. The "lame" ideas given were "Lost Roman Legion", and "Pokémon".

The 12-step hero's journey comes from the book The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. In it, Campbell shows that we see a similar structure for many of our stories/myths we have as humans. This structure can be found from ancient myths to modern fiction. From religions to video games. Not all stories fit this structure 100%, but most of the time you can find at least some of these steps in a story. Heck, the video game Grand Theft Auto could be considered a hero's journey.

Ideas and structure are often shared among many works. We even have a name for them: Tropes. Just because stories share similarities doesn't mean they aren't unique.

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The Hero's Journey is a memeatic story structure that takes many forms, but follows the same general steps:

An ordinary person who up to now has lead an unremarkable life in a humble home town setting that is far from the problems of his world. One day, he is tasked by higher powers with an important mission that requires him to leave his familiar corner of the world and journey to remarkable and unknown places, convince new friends and allies to aid him in his task, learn how to uses his talents, and is tempted by the evils of the world to stray from his quest to make his world a better place.

Now, who did I describe: Luke Skywalker? Frodo Baggins? Avatar Aang? Spider-man? Batman? Superman? Jesus Christ? Moses? Noah? Sun Wokong? Gilgamesh? Beowulf? King Arthur? Harry Potter? Stanley Yelnats (Holes)? Scrooge MacDuck?

The generic outline can be said about any of those heroes and they cross time and culture originating organically from around the world. There are unique variations of the Hero's Journey, such as the prequel trilogy of Star Wars, which shows what happens when the hero fails his quest (or better yet, shows what happens when the hero's quest is vague enough that two very different interpretations emerge). Mulan is "the hero's quest but with a woman as the hero." Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame are the heroes failing the quest... and then getting over their depression to succeed.

As said elsewhere, writing a hero's journey is rather paint by numbers as far as writing is concerned. Making a good Hero's Journey that people will want to read... that's flipping over the paint by numbers page and painting your own picture. There are still lines that must be adhered to... but you're the one sketching the lines.

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Story telling is one of the two principle skills required for writing -- the other being the craft of writing -- and it is hard to do well.

You need to come up with a character that has unique traits, preferably a mix of good and bad traits. Write your character down.

Then decide on a goal for your character, pick a motivation that makes sense for that goal. And write it down.

Next list out each of the 12 stages of a Hero's Journey on a piece of paper.

Put the goal in the right spot -- somewhere near the end.

Then pick a point in your story to start -- picking up power converters from Tochei Station, perhaps, or bulls-eyeing womp-rats in Beggar's Canyon.

This is your first stage.

Next start filling in the stages with external and internal problems for your character to overcome to reach their goal so they are consistent with the Hero's journey. You just need enough information to know what happens in this stage, high level stuff and big plot points.

Keep in mind this isn't easy, unless you are one of those rare persons with an innate talent for storytelling; the rest of us have to work very hard to learn to do this.

The important part is to not try and keep it in your head, but to write it down.

This is because the alternative choices for each stage multiply geometrically, overwhelming your imagination and intellect keeping it straight. But, if you write it down, you have a concrete relationship between the different stages and you can decide if you like it or if it's too much like the plot of your favorite Three's Company episode.

Then, if something isn't working, you can re-work it. Add and subtract character traits. Alter motivations. Do whatever you want until you have a complete story you want to tell.

Lastly, you take all your stages and write the story.

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  • You seem to be — in a minor aspect — in contradiction with yourself: first, you offer: "The important [in] this is to not try and keep it in your head, and to write it down", and offer a good explanation as to why this is a good practice. Then, your closing line is: "Lastly, you write it." I sense this comes across as being in contrast with your previous guidance. Out of the two, I would favor the meaning delivered by the first one. Should you choose to keep the last line, I believe it could benefit from some clarification.
    – Levente
    May 6 at 15:11
  • @Levente, I don't see a contradiction. The write it down is about making notes regarding the stages and the line you reference means to write the story using your notes.
    – EDL
    May 6 at 15:46

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