Where do you draw inspiration from when you write?
For me, story ideas can happen literally anywhere, when I’m doing chores, watching t.v., reading, daydreaming, any time of the day or not. Some are fleeting, just a wisp of a story that is all to soon gone. Other times, it’s a fully fleshed out story that just needs me to put pen to paper.
So how do my ideas become stories? I have a rather lackadaisical approach to it, honestly.
These are just pleasant little treats that I get throughout any given day. A snippet of a story about someone in a grocery story or another driver on the road. What the cat was thinking about while it attacked the other cat. They are as fleeting as soap bubbles and disappear as quickly as they appear.
These are stories that are clearly part of a larger story. However, what larger story it is, I have no idea. The scene or chapter is fully there, but there is no context for the rest of the story. Why are these characters there, where do they go from here, what even brought this group together and why is this scene so important? I don’t have answers to any of these question. I will usually write this portion and tuck it away. Sometimes the rest of the story emerges, sometimes it doesn’t. If I’m stuck on my WIP (or procrastinating, I hate editing) I can peek at these and see if anything gets triggered.
Sometimes I have ideas bouncing around in my head for several days before I get around to writing them. This allows me to get the flavor of the story, if you will, and decide whether or not I want to actually write it. If an idea has stayed around for a few days, I will jot down the main points, character name, what they’re doing, the top few points in the story. If the story goes away at this point, the story is just a seed and needs to grow a bit more before it becomes a story in full bloom.
After jotting down the idea, if the story doesn’t go away, then it’s ready to be written. The characters are developed and ready to talk to me. I like to think of myself as someone taking dictation as the characters narrate their stories to me. When I sit down to write, I don’t have things entirely mapped out, as a matter of fact, outline hinders my creative process. When I sit down, I know who the characters are, the general direction I want the story to go, and three or four milestone or anchor moments. What do I mean by that? These are parts that are unchangeable parts of the story. These have to happen in order for the story to happen. They cannot be changed, they cannot be moved, or writer’s block will happen and I’ll have to retrace to see where I tried to force the characters to do something so out of character that they shut the entire production down. The rest of the story flows around these points and I learn new things about my characters all the time. For example, I didn’t know that the main male character in my series had siblings until book three. FYI, neither Aletta nor I were happy about him omitting that fact.
These are the stories that are just distractions. Imagine a toddler hopped up on sugar running the household. That’s what these are, they detract from the main story and have no point. They are hard to spot, sometimes I can be writing what seems like a logical part of the story only to find that I’ve followed a plot bunny and written myself into a dead end. While not totally useless, they can give you ideas that you might not have considered before layering new depths into the story, they are very disruptive to flow and pacing.
So how do you get story ideas?