Here’s a simple way to generate better character ideas, or story ideas of any sort. This isn’t so much a source of story ideas as a way to improve existing ideas. You can do the same thing with setting, plot, or whatever story idea you need. It’s exceptionally simple. Just throw the first two ideas away.
“What?!” I can almost hear you saying. “You want me to throw away my ideas?”
Yes. I want you to throw them away. And make sure you’re throwing away good ideas, ones that you actually might be able to use, not stupid ones you thought up just to throw away.
Don’t worry. You won’t be losing much, because ideas are plentiful. There are so many ideas locked inside of your creativity. You just need to get them out. Because there are so many ideas, though, per the law of supply and demand, ideas by themselves are worth little. Or as John Paul Mendocha put it, “An idea is worth one ten-thousandth of one percent of nothing.” Your readers can’t do anything with raw ideas. That’s your job. The value is in taking those ideas and turning them into something that people actually want. Still, you do need ideas, and the better the ideas you start with, the more you can make out of them.
Now, there are good ideas, and then there are great ideas. With practice, you can learn to generate lots of good ideas. But what you want to do is sift through them to find the great ideas, those perfect gems that stand out from the rest.
So don’t be afraid to throw away good ideas, in return for great ones. Consider the first good idea that comes to you, and reject it. Think of something better. Then reject that idea, too. Turn it into something even better. Throw away two good ideas in return for a single great idea.