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February 26, 2015


I want to enter a short story in my publisher’s call for submissions for a Christmas anthology, and even though that desire is there, I was struggling to find an idea, one that could develop into a ten thousand word story, and that I could write quickly. 

So I went to my favorite place for inspiration, Pinterest, and looked through the board (okay, three boards) that I have for Christmas.  And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a picture I didn’t remember pinning.  All of a sudden I had a male character, his occupation, and why he was out in a snowy forest with his dog.  A few clicks later, and I had a female character that will bring him no end of trouble and exasperation. Et voilĂ , a story is born!

Authors find inspiration in so many places.  Just a kernel can spark an idea, which can set off firecrackers in our brains. 

For me, I’ve had characters spring to life, then I have to write the perfect story for them.  Well, one in which they go through all kinds of turmoil to get their happy ever after.  Other story ideas have come to life with a setting, a scene idea, even a phrase or a headline.  Two songs have sparked ideas for stories, so totally different they are worlds apart.  This picture of a frozen lighthouse is what sparked the idea for a story yet to be written. 

Back in the early 90’s, we had breakfast with my Dad and his parents, and my grandfather said something about a club my grandmother belonged to.  To this day, it still makes me laugh.  Anyway, he called her social club by a funny name, and now I have the idea for a Cozy Mystery series.    
Over the years I’ve had so many ideas for stories that my binder (and Pinterest account) are brimming with inspiration for each book.  I don’t know if other authors are this way, but I get a feel for pictures and what story they belong in as I’m scrolling through pictures.  Give me three pictures of Christmas trees, and I know right away if they fit in my Holiday Romance or not.

So once I have the spark of an idea, then it’s time to craft the world for characters, choose settings, GMC (goals, motivations, and conflicts) for each main character.  And honestly, that’s usually the hardest part for me.  That’s what makes the story interesting, and keeps readers turning the page to see what happens.  And while it’s fiction, it has to be believable for the reader to stay tuned in the story.  Even in Paranormal or Urban Fantasy, readers want those worlds to make sense to them. 
You know those cooking shows where the chefs are all given the same ingredients and they have to come up with a meal?  You can give several authors the same picture/character/or setting idea, and each one will write a totally different story. 

I was invited to a Facebook author party last night, and I loved the idea this publisher had: several authors have written books all based in the same town. There are recurring characters and places, but each story is unique.  And they are all different genres.  It reminded me of the creative writing class I took in high school.  We, as a class, decided on the town, population, etc.  And each of us created a character and had to keep a journal about our lives in that same town.  I think the teacher gave us an idea for events in the town, and we had to come at it from our character’s viewpoints.  It was great fun.

So yes, anything can spark an idea for a book. 

Where do you get your inspiration?  As a reader, what are your favorite books to read? Do you like fiction or true stories?


Vicki Batman, sassy writer said...

Hi, Allison: My inspiration usually comes from something someone says. I like to start with dialogue and do a rough and nasty draft that takes forever to shape into something worthwhile. But I have looked at pictures and written stories. I have started with one word and written stories. Maybe they were locked inside me and needed a push out.

Phyllis said...

HI Allison - great post. I get a lot of writing inspiration from songs. Mostly instrumental, but lyrics say a lot towards a scene. I could be doing something physical, like cleaning, and dialogue just pops into my head. Next thing I know, I have a scene!

Kathleen Baldwin said...

Hi Allison!
I love the photo you used. Wow, are those all icicles?
It was very interesting to hear about your creative process. I love how just an image will spark your imagination. Me, too!

Lola said...

Terrific post. I get most inspired when various elements in the ether collide, but I don't understand my characters until I can find a visual image that speaks to them and/or a piece of music the character would love.

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