GUEST BLOG: Where Do Story Ideas Come From by Suzanne FerrellThursday, August 23, 2012 10:00
Writers get asked this a lot. I mean, A LOT! The sarcastic answer is always, “From the big book of ideas.” I only quote this one when I’m really tired. Usually I try to explain it in a more civilized manner, but even then the answer can come out, well, weird at best. So where do I get my ideas?
Ah, if we only knew how the human mind works. But since we don’t, I’m going to give it a good educated guess. Somewhere buried in my writer’s mind is probably a gene, or quite as likely a faulty synaptic pattern, that stimulates the imagination. I was always that kid staring off out the window during class. For some reason I was never behind on what the teacher said, but I still stared out the window and day dreamed. Now, I knew these were day dreams, I mean at least I didn’t expect super heroes to come busting into class or cowboys to ride through the room on their trusty stallions. I also discovered another good place to day dream…church. Yep, if the preacher was too monosyllabic or insisted on preaching the old testament begats, then yep off would wander my mind.
So one thing that gives me ideas is boredom. My brain wants to be actively engaged in something and if my real life doesn’t do it, then my subconscious will take over.
Another thing that gives me ideas is reading. Yep. Sometimes when I read a book the author will go one direction with the story and my mind is saying, “Whoa, Nelly! That’s not what should happen.” Next thing I know I’ve started a book with a similar premise, but different plot path. I have three unfinished books like that in my computer.
Sometimes real life will stimulate me to write something. Here I have to be careful about exactly what I chose to write. Being a L&D nurse, I tend to have lots of hysterical stories about people in labor, most of which are better told over drinks in a bar than in the pages of a book. Wouldn’t want someone to decide to take umbrage at the truth.
But I think the biggest place to get ideas is from one simple question. “What if…?” Two words. Yet if two or more people ask the question about a situation, I can guarantee no two would have the same story.
That is how Cantrell’s Bride came to be. The question “What if a woman was in a store and recognized the voice of a man looking for her?” came into my head. How would she react? Would she be happy? Shocked? Surprised? Scared? Then, of course, came the next question. Why would she react this way?
Those questions started me writing a scene where my heroine decides to panic and flee. Problem was, this was the middle of the book. Yep. Started the book in the middle. I had to go back and discover why my heroine was fleeing this man. How did she end up in this store in Colorado in 1881? And what was going to happen to her?
So, you see, ideas for stories can come from anywhere. Just be careful if you ask the question “What if…?” You, too, could end up writing novels!