How the Heck do you come up with your ideas?

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Have you ever been asked that? Bet you have. Bet we all have. The answers to the question are as varied as the ways we DO come up with our ideas.

My book An Unsinkable Love came from an open call from a small publisher. A friend in a critique group was editing for them and she posted the call for a story that included the Titanic in the storyline (it was for the 100th Anniversary of the sinking). I had never considered writing a book about the Titanic - that’s been done, right? But I didn’t have anything else I was really passionate about right then so I thought,  What the hell? Four months later I found myself sitting in my car in a dark parking lot where my beta reader passed over the manuscript to me from her car. I’m lucky we weren’t turned in for a probable drug deal. I submitted it at ten o’clock the next night, beating the deadline by two whole hours (I wouldn’t recommend waiting until the last minute – it’s hard on your blood pressure). I got the contract and that story is history (pun intended).

The point I’m trying to make is that your story idea can come from inside your head (I’m trying frantically to get all those stories out because the racket they’re making in there is unbearable at times!). They can come from something you see. From something, you read in the newspaper. From a TV show that mentions something that catches your interest – basically, anywhere, if you let them.

For me, I immediately write those tidbits down. If I don’t, I forget them and the Great American Novel might have just been lost (eh, maybe). I keep a “potential story” file on my computer – most entries are just a single sentence or two, or a scan of an article cut from the paper or a magazine to remind me what I need to research.

My current series is about Classic Car restoration, so I subscribe to the Barrett-Jackson and Mecum auction sites. They have color photos and details on cars to give me lots of info to work with. When I travel I make notes of interesting things I see, like the absolutely ginormous ammunition depot on the way back from Las Vegas that had more than a hundred huge underground bunkers and other interesting-looking structures. I drive through a cemetery to get to work and often walk there on breaks or lunch; I keep a notebook with me and write down names and dates from stones that have interesting artwork or sayings on them, especially those that are from the 1800’s.

Where do you get your ideas from? Do you keep a list of ones you want to write about someday? What’s the oddest tidbit you’re holding on to?

If you think you have writer’s block, or just need something to work on while you’re waiting to get that six figure contract, pull your list out and WRITE ON!

Terri Benson
As a lifelong writer, Terri Benson has one published novel, award-winning short stories, and over a hundred articles – many award-winning – in local and regional magazines and online e-zines. She is a multi-year member of RMFW (Western Slope Liaison & Board Education Chair, and W/S events are hosted at her employer); she is also a longtime member of RWA. She is a regular blogger for RMFW, and frequently pelts them with articles for the newsletter.
Her historical romance An Unsinkable Love, a truly Titanic love story with plenty of suspense, is available from Amazon in both e-book and paperback. More about Terri on her website.

7 thoughts on “How the Heck do you come up with your ideas?

  1. Good morning, Terri! Fun blog! Inspiration for my first fiction novel ever came during a boring afternoon of entering sales data for my home-based business, many years ago. I made a typo in the year field and thought — what if, upon entering an incorrect date in my computer, I was accidentally transported to another century (with my trusty Mac, of course)? The novel is resting in a sacred place on my book shelf. That initial inspiration, patchy as it sounds, carried me through the entire story, and it proved to be an excellent learning experience. 🙂

  2. “Where do you get your ideas from?”

    I write humor, and I find that cannabis helps. 15 mg of THC before laying down to sleep, with a voice recorder ready at hand, and one hour later I am spewing hilarious jokes like a, er, well, like a busted shit pipe. The problem is, of course, that in the morning I discover about 75% of the material is no longer funny.

    “Do you keep a list of ones you want to write about someday?”

    Yes. I collect ideas electronically and on paper.

    “What’s the oddest tidbit you’re holding on to?”

    SIX TIMES DAMNED: six independent short stories bound together by the common theme of retelling the “The Flying Dutchman” legend, five of them spanning the past 250 years to current time.

  3. I’ve always felt the ideas are out there everywhere, just floating around like cottonwood tree fluff. All you gotta do is reach out and grab a few, pick the one you like best, and go with it.

  4. I’ve gotten them from my travels, from articles in National Geographic, from dreams, from collaborator’s obsessions with a topic, from conversations, from interesting objects, from funny things that have happened to me, from history, etc.

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