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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Where Ideas Come From

Yes, I'm riffing off Esri's post from last week...I had way too much to add for a comment!

On Friday I was reading a story to my class about a schoolhouse that traveled from town to town along the railroad back in the old days. The teacher lived on the train and would stay in a town, usually filled with miners or lumberjacks, for six weeks before moving onto the next town.

By the time I’d gotten to the second page of a three page story, the teacher was a woman who wanted adventure and this was the only way she could get it. The women of the towns looked down on her for her vagabond life. The men of the towns looked upon her with interest, especially this widowed lumberjack…

And I don’t even write historicals.

So reading is one way I get ideas.

Watching TV and movies is another. Usually reality shows, something on the Discovery Channel or National Geographic, will spark something for me. A few years ago I saw a special about a cruise to Antarctica and I’ve been dying to do something with that ever since. But my WIP is kind of Gilmore Girls meets Virgin River.

The news helps, too. The 2000 Colorado fires inspired Hot Shot, my April 2008 release from Samhain.

I know one of my buddies didn’t like the way a movie was written, so her book is the way SHE thought that movie should be written. My vampire story is a modern day Moulin Rouge (with a happier ending).

My critique partners get these amazing ideas for connected books. That’s where my ghost hunter book came from (well, that and a dream.) The series fell apart, but I still have my ghost hunter book. Now we’re working on books for The Wild Rose Press’s Wayback Rodeo series. I’ve never written a cowboy book in my life, but this is fun. We’re even thinking of going to the San Antonio Rodeo for further inspiration.

What if is another source for me. My first book, Where There’s Smoke, due out in March from The Wild Rose Press, is a what-if story. Okay, it’s kind of a fun story. I’m a teacher, right, and the firefighter band Backdraft came to play at our school for a Just Say No rally. The guitar player was really cute, all the teachers were crushing, and I realized I knew him. Well, not KNEW him, but my uncle and his dad are best friends. My cousin Jennifer used to tell me stories about him all the time. So my what-if story was, what if Jennifer and Oscar the Incredibly Handsome Firefighter had grown up together as the children of best friends, and finally turned to one another and say, heyyyy…

Conversations can be inspiring. Two years ago, my grade level was eating lunch and one of the teachers was telling about one of her cop husband’s cases, about a ten year old whose mother had used him for a drug mule, he’d never been to school, never been socialized, and then his mother was killed. I had to wonder what kind of man he’d become. I had to hope he’d find his way to be a good man. So I made him the foster child of a Ranger, and he wanted to make this man proud so he grew up and became a Ranger too, fighting a drug war in Central America. That’s the Emily finalist, Breaking Daylight.

My biggest source of inspiration is dreams. Just last week I had this dream about Alex Karev from Grey’s Anatomy. All I remember is this one line, but it is a great line and would be terrific motivation.

Earlier in the month I had another neat dream about a woman being threatened because she was the daughter of someone important. I know, it’s been done, but when I wrote the dream down, it hung together. Someday I’ll have time to write it. It would make a great Silhouette Romantic Suspense.

Sometimes the dreams don’t hold together when I write them down, but I keep snippets. My first book was a dream about divorced cops who were kidnapped and had to be rescued by their kids. I kept the divorced cops part. My 2007 Golden Heart finalist was a dream about archaeologists in South America taken hostage by a gang of rebels. I thought it was a good idea, my dh didn’t think my heroine would survive, so I made it about divorced archaeologists in Central America, and left off the rebels.

What do I do with all these ideas? I clearly don’t have time to write them all. I have notebooks and I have idea folders. My potential SRS about the daughter of someone important already has its own Jack Sparrow notebook. (Just so you know - that's a level of commitment that I plan to write this story!)

The dreams I write down in another spiral.

I even have an email folder for story ideas I’ve gotten reading email.

I have an idea document on my desktop. I just checked – it’s not as full as I thought – only about 5 ideas, and one of them is this paranormal…

Now if I could only write FASTER and revise BETTER!

Where do your ideas come from?

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At 6:51 AM, Blogger Marianne Arkins said...

I'm always amused when people ask me where I get my ideas... because, yanno--they are EVERYWHERE. You just have to be open to seeing them.

Dreams, newspaper headlines, something you see on the street...if you pay attention, and let you mind wander a bit, you're all set.

Like you, my problem has never been "not enough ideas" but "not enough time".

Good post!

At 9:37 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Mary! you dream in stories, too?
I wonder if dreaming stories is a clue that you are a storyteller at heart. Before I ever even imagined writing a book, I used to dream in stories. (A really cool sci fi one, but I think it was about Captain Kirk...)

I totally agree that story ideas are everywhere. I am just not able to make use of them. I am not a fountain of story ideas. Mine come agonizingly slow.

At 9:46 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

This may be weird, but I sometimes get ideas while driving in the car. I start thinking about my wip or sometimes a new book idea just comes to me. I've had the dream thing happen, too.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

I many ideas and not enough time.

Most of my ideas tend to just pop into my head and then I start asking the "what if" questions. I tend to plot out my stories in my dreams, in the shower, and in the car. I also have an idea folder on my computer so that I can get the ideas down before I lose them.

And Mary, I love Alex Karev from Grey's. I'm dying to know what his story is...he must have had a rough childhood.

At 9:59 AM, Blogger Norah Wilson said...

Mary, I envy you!

Many of my ideas come from songs. Not necessarily the premise for the story, but the theme. Maybe a phrase gives me the tagline for a character, and I start imagining what kind of story would suit him...

At 11:36 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

I don't usually remember dreams, but I do get good ideas after I've woken in the morning and am just lying there, noodling in my head. Seems to be a really creative time.

At 7:47 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

I'm endlessly fascinated by where ideas for stories come from. I remember back when I started writing and heard about writers who had big, fat file folders full of ideas. I couldn't imagine ever having that many. Well, now I have not only a fat folder for ideas, but I also have a folder where I store photos I've ripped from magazines -- photos of people I think would be good models for characters.

At 9:56 PM, Blogger doglady said...

The first historical romance novel I started to write started out as a fan fiction about a certain soap opera character. I had written two contemps about him and I wanted to try and convert it to Regency which is my favorite genre. After that it kind of took on a life of its own and I have rewritten to be something totally me. I was ten chapters in and got stuck. A critique partner of mine suggested I do an exercise she had done in her writing class. You had to write a story using four words drawn out of a hat. My current WIP - rough draft practically done - Lost in Love was this exercise. The little exercise has finalled in three contests and won the Royal Ascot. I have ideas for three sequels to this book. I have ideas sketched out for a series of six books about a family that is mentioned in passing in Lost in Love. Then I have a way to tie the first book Dreams of Angels into the series of six. I wrote a couple of chapters for the Avon Novella Event that a number of people have asked me to complete the story so I have those ideas filed away. I guess I am more of a web spinner when it comes to getting story ideas.

At 6:09 AM, Blogger MaryF said...

Marianne and Theresa, we need to do a challenge, maybe - get some of these ideas down on paper!

Diane, yep, I always dream in stories! I would imagine it's harder to find story ideas that would fit historical books...I know my buddy Robyn has trouble with ideas as well. On the plus side, you can spend more time on your WIP without being seduced by The Next Book.

Maureen, me, too! And I want to pull off, but I just repeat it to myself over and over till I can write it down!

Theresa, Alex is definitely the most intriguing character on Grey's right now. I used to like Izzie before she went crazy and slept with George...anyway, Alex is the model for my hero in Breaking Daylight.

Norah, from songs! That's neat! In my younger days, when I listened to more music, this was true.

Esri, I agree, right after I wake up is a pretty fertile time for my imagination as well. I use it to plot a lot. Whether I make it from the bed to the computer with the same thoughts is another issue....

Trish, I have (had, actually, I forgot we updated the computer) bookmarks of potential heroes and heroines. Then you have to find JUST the right story for them....

Pam, a story idea - a SERIES idea - from FOUR WORDS pulled from a hat?? I bow to you! That's amazing. Wow.

At 10:22 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Mary: Getting the ideas from the bed to the computer -- yes, that's the trick.

Doglady: My first book came out of fan fiction, too! How wonderful to have all that coherency in terms of series/genre, etc. The fact that all my first books were in pretty different genres did not help me get published, lemme tell you. You're fortunate you found your focus early on.


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