Ideas for Your Light Novel and Why They Don’t Matter

You’ve read a million Light Novels (LN) and decided you’d like to write one too.

But you’re missing one major element.

A brilliant, unique, never-before-seen story idea that will shock readers and turn your LN into a bestseller overnight.

I mean, if you’re going to write at all, why not shoot for the stars? Why waste a reader’s time telling him the same old story he’s seen in a thousand other LNs?

But coming up with such an idea is no easy task.

Perhaps you have a well-realized world, a lovable cast of characters, and several scenes outlined, but are still holding out for that all-powerful story idea to tie it all together.

However. As you likely gathered from the article’s title, I’m here to tell you that your quest is futile.

To break your bubble as fast as possible—ideas, especially in regards to fiction writing, are worthless.

Ok, maybe not totally worthless, but they’re not worth near as much as the value you put on them.

But why? If all great LNs are born from a brilliant idea, how could you call those ideas worthless?

Because by themselves, they are. Ideas are only worth as much as the execution you put behind them.

And we’ll get into the importance of execution soon, but first—

4 Reasons Why Great Light Novel Ideas Are Worthless

It’s useful to remove your brainwashing by showing you exactly why ‘a bestseller idea’ has no real value.

Ideas Are Dirt Cheap

If you sat down and did nothing but invent LN story ideas (whether they be in regard to your story, characters, or world) for an hour, how many do think you could come up with?

10? 20? 100? What, zero? Surely you could come up with a handful at least.

I used to think ideas for my LN were like buried treasure. But it simply isn’t true.

Good and bad ideas are everywhere. Great ideas are just as plentiful. One in a million ideas aren’t that rare given there’s several billion people on the planet.

Don’t believe me? Just go online and type in ‘writing prompt’ or ‘story idea generator’. You will find literal tens of thousands of story ideas, character sheets, and settings all up for grabs.

Ideas themselves are dirt cheap, only the Author’s execution of them has any real value.  

There Is Nothing New Under the Sun

Despite Re:Zero’s success, none of its ideas were original. Isekais, time loops, creepy twins, and everything in-between have been around forever. What it did was execute those cheap ideas brilliantly. Image Copyright: TV Tokyo

When you were slamming out those ideas, how many did you pull from or base off of something else? Did you have some that were 100% unique?

If you answered ‘yes’ to the latter, I’m sorry to say you’re mistaken.

As you were writing out your ‘unique’ idea, I guarantee five others wrote the same thing, ten thought of it, and a million more wrote or thought of it in the past.

Statistically speaking, if you have billions of people thinking all the time over the course of several thousand years, the chances of you having a 100% original thought are virtually zero.

And that’s OK. Just because none of your ideas will ever be unique doesn’t mean you can’t use them to execute them to write a bestselling LN.

Most Ideas are Only Good in Your Head

In your head or on paper, your idea may be truly brilliant. But if it stays just an idea, it’s worthless, so you try incorporate it into your LN.

However, you soon find that it isn’t working out. This is not an issue with your idea, but your execution of it. You can have the most unique, fascinating character or setting ever, but if you can’t make them fit into your story, they have no value.

Have as many ‘unique’ ideas as you like, but always be thinking about how they’ll work in your LN. If no amount of great execution can make them work, toss them out or save them for another LN.

Ideas are cheap, you’ll think of another soon enough.

A Great Idea Never Remains Great

Evangelion’s unique ideas of exploring mental health problems and more-than-just-metal mechas didn’t stay unique for long. Countless franchises copied its ideas and fans soon expected them and eventually got bored of them. Image Copyright: TV Tokyo

Let’s say you have a great idea and even manage to work it into your LN.

Awesome! But how long will it last? Will that great idea still be just as great in volume 7 as it was in volume 1?

It could be, but it won’t be easy to maintain. And there’s nothing wrong with that. All ideas, once implemented enough times, eventually become just another trope.

Your great idea will inevitably become an overused one. So, there’s no need to fret if you can’t think of a great idea. There are none in the long run. Focus on execution instead.

The Execution of Your Light Novel Ideas is More Important

And so, as I’ve said a thousand times now—how you execute an idea is worth more than the idea itself.

But despite what I literally just said, ideas and execution have the same value. One we’ll look at in terms of money (Idea borrowed from The Millionaire Fastlane).

  • Bad = $1
  • Good = $1,000
  • Great = $100,000
  • Brilliant = $1,000,000

So, a brilliant idea ($1,000,000) multiplied by bad execution ($1) = $1,000,000

A brilliant idea can turn a profit regardless of how terribly it’s executed.

Conversely, a bad idea ($1) multiplied by brilliant execution ($1,000,000) also = $1,000,000

Even if you have a terrible idea, you can still make some money off of it if executed brilliantly.

However, you would obviously be much better with both a brilliant idea and brilliant execution.

However. That cannot be guaranteed. The key difference between ideas and execution is your control over them.

This is why ideas are ultimately worthless. You have no control over them.

There are no 100% success rate guides to coming up with a brilliant idea. You either have them or you don’t. What can be controlled is the execution of your ideas. Even bad ideas can be made to shine when well executed.

So, again, execution is more important than your ideas. If you have a brilliant idea, great, handle it with care. But if you don’t, there’s no need to fret. You still have total control over execution, which we’ll cover next.

The Best Light Novel Ideas for Flawless Execution

Because ideas are cheap, you don’t have to worry too much about whether to use it in your LN or not.

If it’s truly bad, I wouldn’t waste your time trying to polish your turd, but if a turd’s all you have, then by all means, polish away.

Akikan’s premise is: cans of soda that turn into cute girls. This is an absurd idea, yes, but apparently the author’s execution was good enough to get an anime adaptation. All turds can shine. Image Copyright: Half H.P Studio

However, there’s no need to use your turd if there’s something better available.

While there’s no surefire way to know if an idea is truly good or bad until your LN hits the shelves, there are several ways to come close.

A brilliant execution can only take place if your ideas allow for it to take place.

No matter how hard you try to include a fanfic of your favorite Vtubers in your Medieval Fantasy LN, it simply won’t end well.

It’s a bad idea and even if you somehow execute it flawlessly, the majority of readers will interpret it as badly executed simply because of how horrible the idea was.

I might’ve just said you have full control over execution and can make any turd shine, but that doesn’t mean you should.

Instead, you should aspire to brilliantly execute good ideas from the get-go.

But how can I guarantee a good idea?

You can’t! Woohoo! Oh, woops, sorry. Again, you won’t know for sure until your LN is in the hands of readers.

But there are plenty of good ideas out there that have been tried and proven successful.

Thus, we’re going to take a look at the various aspects of ‘good’ LN ideas so that you can better shape your ideas into brilliant ones, or least good ones.

The Best Ideas are Simple

Whether your idea is for your story, character, or world, it need not be unique or clever to work. If it is and you can make it work, great.

But if you can’t make it work, you have a problem that is not easily solved or even worth solving. As mentioned earlier, any idea you have needs to mesh with the rest of your ideas.

An astronaut in Victorian England is certainly unique and can work, but how much extra effort would you need to execute it brilliantly?

Uniqueness does not necessarily equal goodness. And again, there’s no such thing as an original idea.

So, if you have an idea you’ve never encountered before, there’s a high chance that it wasn’t used because it’s nigh impossible to execute well.

Many ideas that initially seemed impossible to execute well ended up working out despite the odds. However, such ideas are now considered old hat. They’re just another trope.

Instead, stick with simple, but effective ideas. Tropes exist for a reason. And while you shouldn’t rely on them in the long run, they’re useful in the first draft stage of your LN.

Visual novels have been using the same 5-member harem lineup of Tsunderes, Imoutos, and Childhood Friends since the dawn of time because they just work. Anime: Da Capo III, Image Copyright: Lantis

Simple ideas are just as good as unique ones if executed well. Here’s some examples:

  • A young man’s hometown is destroyed by a tyrannical government, so he swears revenge and joins the rebel army.
  • Two lovers are torn apart by circumstances beyond their control, so they sacrifice everything for a chance to be together.
  • A young woman leaves the big city to live in a small coastal town only to discover the locals aren’t what they seem.

Generic? Perhaps. But such ideas have been are still being used as the basis to a million and one stories.

Your initial idea may be generic, but that won’t make your whole LN a bore. It’s your job as a writer to take even the simplest ideas and transform them into something enjoyable during the writing process.

A simple idea doesn’t have to stay simple. It will evolve naturally as you write, but only if you cause it to do so. Tropes will remain tropes if you leave them as such.

When it comes to ideas, you should aim for those that have been proven successful and aren’t just a cheap, passing gimmick.

Fidget spinners certainly popped off, but where are they now? You should utilize ideas like the yo-yo. Fidget spinners are no more, but yo-yos? Yo-yos are forever.

If you have a unique, brilliant idea and can give it a brilliant execution, then get out of here and start writing. If not, don’t fret, just stick to simple ideas that have withstood the test of time.

Your Idea Needs to Last Beyond Volume One

If you’re writing a LN, it’s probably (and should be) a series. And the most profitable LN series are those that last a long time. It’s always easier to keep dedicated fans than try to make new ones with a new series.

So, the major idea acting as the pillar of your LN series needs to be rock solid. Your initial idea needs to have lasting power. For example:

  • Naruto wants to become Hokage. (Naruto)
  • The Straw Hat Crew is looking for the One Piece. (One Piece)
  • Ash wants to become a Pokémon master (Pokémon)

Each idea is simple at its core, but each serve as the driving force for the entire series.

And why? Because Such ideas have lasting power. The series can end at any point or never if it still turns a profit (i.e. every superhero comic that’s still ongoing since the 1950’s).

What does it even mean to become a ‘Pokemon Master’? Will Ash eventually get some certificate proving he’s a master? No, hence the goal, it’s designed to never be achieved until the series stops turning a profit. Anime: Pokemon Sun and Moon, Image Copyright: TV Tokyo

If Naruto sucked and the publishers decided to cut the cord early, the Author could’ve easily had Naruto become Hokage in ten volumes instead of seventy.

So, before making your unique, fantastic idea the core of your story, ask yourself if you can maintain it.

Let’s say your characters are tasked with saving the world. But you run out of story ideas serving as blockades from them achieving that goal. You’ll be forced to have them save the world in volume 7 instead of 20.

But you want to keep going. Your characters stories haven’t been fully realized. There’s so much more you can do with your setting.

However, the pillar holding your series up has crumbled. There’s nowhere you can go from there without harming the series identity as a whole. They could save the world again, but wouldn’t that seem a little ridiculous?

You can always go off on tangents like many Authors, taking readers down rabbit holes of other characters, filler arcs, and whatever else, but unless your fans are truly dedicated, this is dangerous at best.

Never lose sight of that core idea holding up your LN series lest readers start to wonder when you’ll get back to the good stuff—the story they showed up for in the first place.

No matter how brilliant your idea, executing it through the length of an entire LN series is no simple feat. The solution is to stick with ideas you know you can make last like the examples above.

A good LN idea is one that lasts.

A Great Idea Can Carry Not-so-Great Ideas

In recent times, many LN Authors have been happy to forsake unique ideas for safe ones.

I am of course referring to the great deluge of Isekai LNs that have flooded every corner of the market. No matter where you turn, every LN seems to have the words ‘reborn’, ‘reincarnated’, or straight-up ‘Isekai’ in the title.

My distaste for this trend is another article, but I can’t bring myself to fault the Authors as they are taking my above advice and keeping their ideas simple.

A unique idea that deviates from the current trend will naturally result in a smaller audience. Simple ideas are simply profitable.

But in the case of Isekai, the core idea is ultimately ‘bad’. Not because it actually is bad, but because it’s so overused that readers now ask for far more from Authors than just a typical Isekai.

In the past, you could get away with letting the unique premise of an Isekai carry your entire LN. Now, you have no choice but to make every other element of your LN shine extra bright to make up for employing a ‘bad’ story premise.

And that’s perfectly fine. The same could be said of basically every other genre. There are more copy-paste Harems in the visual novel market alone than every copy-paste Isekai ever.

The core idea might be ‘bad’, but you can still brilliantly execute your LN by focusing on your other good ideas.

A harem’s story is usually boring, but the waifu-material characters are what readers showed up for in the first place.

An Isekai’s premise may be overused, but the opportunities for unique and interesting world-building are endless.

Chances are, not every single idea in your LN is going to be amazing, but that’s no reason to throw them out. All the other great ideas you have can carry the not-so-great ones.

Before tossing out a perfectly serviceable, but lame idea, ask yourself if your other ideas can prop it up and contribute to the overall execution.

Your Great Idea Isn’t Necessarily a Marketable One

Your LN ideas may be great, mesh together as a whole, and are well executed.

But are they marketable?

LNs being LNs cater to a hyper-specific market—Otaku.

And while Otaku chase trends like cats do laser pointers, they don’t much deviate from their core tastes.

That’s why Otaku media is so compelling in the first place. It’s got angry Tsunderes, cutesy Airheads, and overpowered main characters that you’ll very rarely find in any other form of entertainment.

So, when turning your ‘great’ idea into a LN, make sure it actually jives with the genre.

This might seem obvious, but many of the ‘great’ ideas Authors have are designed solely to ‘shake up the genre’ or ‘make a statement’. Which is fine and all if they can pull it off, but most fall on their face.

Madoka Magica’s unique twist on the magical girl genre only worked because the creators knew what they were doing. The director, Akiyuki Shimbo, shook up the genre a similar way seven years earlier with Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. Image Copyright: Aniplex

Before trying something extreme, master the basics of the LN genre so you actually have enough clout (and income) to ‘shake things up’.

Throttling your ideas to fit within what’s expected of LNs might seem like you’re destined to die in obscurity for being too generic, but it’s the other way around.

Even if you write the greatest ‘LN’ ever, but no one recognizes it as a LN, you will have zero readers and zero sales and zero desire to ever try again.

When deciding what ideas to incorporate in your LN, don’t be afraid to take risks, but never forget your ultimate goal is to sell your LN, so it needs to be marketable.

And Yet, We Are Still Authors

Execution this, marketing that, blah, blah, blah.

I know, I get it. None of this business-plan talk clicks with us artistic-types.

But it’s sometimes good to leave your head for a second and look at the big picture.

All those brilliant ideas you have may not actually be that great or worth anything at all…but that’s OK!

The beauty of them is that they can come in seconds and by the thousands.

And while I did say to keep those that would work best in your LN and ditch the rest, you don’t have to.

It’s almost better to take an idea you’re genuinely interested in or excited about and run with it. Who cares if it’s not unique? That it isn’t marketable? A LN written with passion will always shine brighter than one treated like some product to be sold.

And while your execution might suffer at first, it’s nothing you can’t just repair in the editing process. You might be there a while doing damage control, but hey, at least you enjoyed the writing process.

Besides, the longer you mull over whether your idea is worth pursuing or not, the further away your goal of writing a LN will slip.

Take those worthless ideas you have and make them work to the best of your ability.

They don’t have to be particularly great or unique in any way.

My own series, On Creating the Ultimate Weapon, is comprised of simple re-imaginings of famous legends that everyone’s read at least once.

And it came out just fine. You don’t need the most clever, unique, fascinating idea ever to write your LN, you just need an idea. Any idea. Every LN starts from there.

So quit worrying about your ideas and get to executing them!


Hey, my name's Azuma. I first dove deep into Otaku culture in 2010 and never quite grew out of it. After a million different anime, light novels, manga, and visual novels, I learned a lot about each art form. Knowledge I want to share with you from writing advice to drawing tips. I'm also the Author of two light novels series, Garden of PSI and On Creating the Ultimate Weapon. Happy creating!

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