I am just beginning my journey into writing short stories. When I have an idea, I can't get it on paper. Like, that feeling when you have this amazing story idea that you just need to get out, but when you finally get to the notebook, it's gone. This has happened to me way too often. I have dubbed this term "writer's forgetfulness". Does anyone have any tips on how to solve this?

3 Answers 3


Always carry a notebook everywhere you go and always note down all ideas immediately.

I have a notepad and pencil beside my bed, and when I wake up and have an idea I write it down in the dark and go back to sleep. Also, don't exand on the story idea in your head instead of writing it down! Fantasyizing the continuation of the story will make you forget the original idea (because your mind "thinks" that you have already used the idea and will stop preserving it for you). Write it down first and then allow yourself to continue elaborating. You need to note down everything that you think in relation to your story, or you will forget that part.

When I take a walk, I walk a few steps, stop and write down several ideas, then walk another few steps, etc. If you don't do that, whatever you don't write down you will forget. If you are in the idea stage of a story, you must submit everything else to writing down your ideas, or you will forget them.

  • In the electronic age, I typically type them in Sublime Text Editor, when my laptop is nearby. If not, I'll use a Notes app on my phone. I did carry a pocket notepad and a pen/mechanical pencil back in college.
    – Cryptc
    Commented Feb 26, 2023 at 15:11


I find that identifying the three key features of the idea allows me to retain it:

  1. The main character.

Who do I imagine driving this story? Usually there is a hint of character in my lightbulb moment. I might drill a couple words into my head: Misunderstood banker/Naive ingenue/Ruthless mercenary/etc

  1. Inciting incident.

This is key. What is the thing that defines the path my character will take? It might be: Global money laundering scheme/Manipulative boyfriend/political exploitation/etc

  1. The twist.

Aha, here's the rub. This can be the antagonist with his own agenda, the world changing, anything that gives the story its je ne sais quoi. What is the opposing force? It might be: a change of heart/true love/governmental overthrow/etc.

So you only need to recall six words.

~Misunderstood banker, money laundering, change of heart.

~Naive ingenue, manipulative boyfriend, true love.

~Ruthless mercenary, political exploitation, governmental overthrow.

These six words are enough to keep the spark of inspiration burning. I do not forget the idea, when I have the six words.No idea if this will work for you, but it works for me. Memorize the key points when they come to you--memorize six words. It'll change your process...


I had this dream, that I can barely remember. I swear it was the greatest story I'd ever heard. During the dream, I remember that it was going to be a great story. I woke up, and I only had pieces that didn't quite fit together.

So did I dream a great story or did I dream that I'd come up with a great story?

My good story ideas always stick with me. I might lose details, but I always retain the core idea -- the character's motivation, goal, and what is stopping my character from achieving their goal.

My meh ideas get lost. Sometimes I get them back and they are better.

For me, when I stopped thinking about stories as a premise with a series of events and started thinking about them as hopes/desires/drives being thwarted and frustrated before being achieved, then I found it much easier to remember the details.

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