Saturday, July 21, 2012

Where do you get YOUR story ideas from?

It seems like at least once a week I get asked the dreaded question: "Where do you get your story ideas from?" My answer is simple. I have a garden gnome with a magic pen locked in my attic, who comes up with all my ideas for me. He writes the ideas down on a slip of paper, puts it in a bucket and then lowers the bucket to me through the hole in the ceiling. Then, I sift through the slips of paper to find the perfect story idea.

What? You don't believe me? Darn. Well then I'll have to make something up.

My ideas usually come to me at the most inopportune times. Sometimes it's when I'm showering (this is a frequent place my muse likes to attack), sometimes its when I'm driving to the grocery store. Most often, however, is at 1 a.m. when I should be sleeping. I jump out of bed, grab my pen & paper and start writing out an outline, or a scene, or whatever else my muse has decided to bless me with. Sometimes its an entire full-blown outline (like my last WIP). Sometimes it's just a scene that I will eventually wrok into an entire story.

Most of my story ideas begin with some sort-of prompt. It can be anything from a picture, to an object, to a song. I find music extremely inspiring, and have written entire books to a single playlist on repeat. It's the feeling the song gives me that I try to incorporate into my story.

So for Awaken, my YA Fairytale reimagining, there was a particular picture that inspired the entire story - but I can't post it here for copyright issues. But, there was also a song that inspired it. (To be honest - the entire soundtrack for the movie was on repeat the entire time I was writing it.)

So tell me - how do you come up with your story ideas? Do they just pop into your head, or are they brought on by a prompt? What do you find most inspiring for your writing?


Shelley Watters writes romance for young adults and adults. She lives in Arizona with her husband, two kids and two dogs. She loves listening to music, reading good books and letting her imagination go wild as she creates new worlds and torments her characters in delicious ways. She is an active member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is represented by Mark McVeigh of the McVeigh Agency.


  1. I love the score for The Assassination of Jesse James! Very inspiring, and one of my favorites to write too.

    So, if you hadn't guessed, music is where I get most of my inspiration from. I have 100+ film scores that I put on shuffle as I sit down to write.

  2. Ha ha, that gnome is creepy. :) I usually get my ideas through a glimpse of a relationship, how two people might see each other. I got my current WIP concept from an X-Files episode, though. :) Y'never know!

  3. My ideas just pop into my head whenever my muse feels like it! I can hear a phrase & like my current WIP I just have an idea that I have to write. Then a simple song can do the trick. :)

  4. My ideas seem to fall out of the sky and hit me in the head and then I spend the next few days obsessing over them and trying to write down every single thing about it down. Even when I'm not supposed to be focusing on the bright and shiny new idea - just so that I have something when I do decide to focus on it...and also so I don't forget.

  5. I have gotten many good ideas in dreams. Others spring like Athena from Zeus' head, fully formed but very small -- a complete scene, or a character whose backstory I know but whose future is uncertain... Lately I've gone back to history which has its comforts (characters and stories all laid out for you). Fan fic is my favorite way of "greasing the wheels": my made-up characters have inhabited nearly all of my favorite books or movies at one time or another (but it doesn't inspire my real work except as a way of practicing dialogue, plotting, etc.)

    Great post Shelley!

  6. Mine take a while to develop. But when I've been thinking about them for a long time, they just go without a warning and just jump onto the page! I'm a pantster when it comes to writing, I rarely use an outline! Sometimes, if I just push myself to write, my characters will slowly start to tell me more about themselves and then the proverbial ball really starts rolling! I love to make playlists of music, too. Music is a big source of inspiration for me, too.

  7. Ideas come in spurts for me. A good tv episode or book, or a documentary (which is where i got the idea for the book I'm revising) pretty much anywhere!

    Great post!!