I’ve been asked many times where the ideas for my stories come from. I wish I could say that I’m brilliant and I spend months – years – mulling over a story idea before putting it down on paper.
Unless I’m in the middle of writing a story, I’ll table the idea (keeping a record of it on this handy app I have on my phone) until I’m ‘available’ and ready to start formulating the story outline. Side note: my initial outline is pretty much always just character details and a few notes about where I see the story going. Maybe some research, if necessary. 99.9% of the time, my brain and fingers will decide that the story should go in a totally different direction.
So where do all my wonderful ideas come from? Well…in short…everywhere. Many of the books I’ve written have been inspired by a particular song or song lyrics, but other times an idea will come to me out of the blue when I least expect it. I’ve mentioned before that I got my idea for Saving Cruz, from a news report that I was listening to. One little blip on a newscast and suddenly and entire book series came to life.
Last summer, the hubby and I were hiking, and as I was trudging alone (sucking wind) behind him, I suddenly got this idea for a story about a young boy. I’m not willing to give out any details yet, because the book is still in the ‘polishing’ stages and won’t be heading to the editor until August, but I will tell you that I was surprised at how fast the story unfolded. I noodled on the idea the entire time we hiked (10 miles, thank you very much), and when we returned to our trailer I frantically tried to get the notes down before they disappeared into the great beyond known as my brain.
I once got an idea for a story driving down the street; seeing a cute little cottage tucked behind a larger house. That cottage inspired a fun story about a cookie-obsessed girl and the cowboy she fell for. Another idea was inspired by cutie pie Sam in the Supernatural series. In fact, a lot of ideas crop up simply because I like what I see; a handsome face, a deep voice, and whammo…suddenly he’s staring in my latest work.
So many ideas come from questions I find myself asking. Like in that news story I mentioned, I recall asking myself how hard it must be to live your life knowing you killed someone just because you fell asleep at the wheel. Ideas – like our stories, I suppose – are fluid and fleeting. More times than I can count I get an idea for something and either forget about it or read something similar. There are truly only so many ways people can fall in love. Coming up with something new is probably the biggest challenge.
Although many story ideas happen by chance, there’s always a bit of me in each and every one. I’ve always wondered if other authors do that too. Meaning, if their character has particular likes and dislikes, does that come from the author’s own likes/dislikes, or are they independent? Granted, I want my characters to have a ‘life’ all their own, but I still like to impart a quirk of mine (or someone I know) into every story. For example….Mia, the heroine in Saving Cruz, has a love for the movie An Affair to Remember. SO DO I!! And Amita, our spunky gal in Taming Marco, gets all neurotic about Phantom of the Opera. Yep…me too. Liam, my hero in Loving Emma, has a deep love for cannelloni. Don’t tell anyone, but so does my hubby. That little bit of storyline detail was written just for him. The great thing about inserting these little personal touches is that the people who know you well will see them and make a point of mentioning them to you. Plus…it’s a great way for me to show them how important they are to me.
I’m always looking for inspiration out in the world that will fuel my next big story idea. Chances are I’ll find that next great idea while I’m grocery shopping….or channel surfing…or driving down the street. The next great idea may not change the world, but it will change me; as all my characters and their stories have.