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Where do you get your ideas for you novel?

Where do you get your ideas?

Tonya lists this as one of the questions NOT to ask a writer. I know a lot of writers hate getting this question. I have heard writers snap back at people who ask it. One writer answered it by saying, “I buy them!”

I can’t figure out why writers hate the question because I think it is an interesting one. Just where DO ideas come from? Why do writers have so many of them when some people just don’t?

I was driving along with my friend one day and saw a sign that said, “Cibolo Creek.” “Oh!” I said to her. “What a wonderful title for a book!” She couldn't figure out why that would be a good title or what anyone would write about it, but I immediately threw out several threads. I’m still planning to write that one someday.

A friend of mine was amazed at my “creativity.” I told her I was sure she was just as creative. But she just denied it. She couldn't come up with a single idea for a book or story. Just nothing. Even when I made some suggestions, she was not able to elaborate on them or see a story possibility. Then it was my turn to be amazed.

I love to hear from creative, imaginative writers about how, when, where they got an idea for a certain book or project. I think it is fascinating to see how someone else’s mind works. Maybe that’s why people like to read. We get into someone else’s mind, see things from someone else’s point of view, and learn to see the world differently.

I love to analyze my own stories and figure out where the ideas came from. For MR. RIGHT’S BABY, the idea came to me “out of the blue.” I was driving along not thinking of anything particular when the whole story popped into my head. I hadn’t planned to write a contemporary romance, but I just had to write this one.

Later, I wondered where it all came from and began analyzing the threads in the story. The little girl is my daughter. Some of the things Carly does in MR. RIGHT’S BABY are just like the things Shana would have done at that age. A friend of ours many years ago, wanted to marry his girl friend who had a young daughter. He loved that little girl so much. But he worried that he wanted to marry his girl friend just to get to be her daughter’s father more than to be her wife. That became another thread in the book.

I picked that book apart, following those threads back to their origins, sometimes to things that had happened 20 years earlier. And somehow, all those threads had come together that day on the road in the car. How they did or why then, I don’t know. But there it was, the culmination of many life situations tangling together into a new shape and blossoming into the plot for a book that had to be written.

Yeah, Tonya, I love figuring out where ideas come from. Mine, and yours, and every other writer’s. To me, it’s a fascinating study.

Anyone else interested in where ideas come from?

Visit Michele at her website!!


  1. I think some writers hate that question because the answer isn't a simple one. Certainly not as simple as, "I buy them". Which, by the way, made me laugh. Oh, if it could only be that way.

    But it isn't. There isn't one place where ideas come from. They're everywhere, as you pointed out. Even in something as simple as a road sign.

    And there is no set time when ideas come to us either. In the middle of the night, in the middle of a meeting, while fixing dinner. Or an author's most favorite place, in the shower.

    Ideas are all around us. Sometimes we just have to open our minds to them. And some people haven't yet learned to do that. But when they do, watch out!

  2. I think a lot of writers don't like that question because the getting of the ideas isn't the amazing part of writing--we all have more ideas than we know what to do's the execution of said ideas that's the amazing thing--the skill and the craft and the wordsmithing and the storytelling.

  3. I always get asked this question. I was craving for a rich-filled, three-layered chocolate cupcake one afternoon when a vision of a woman in distress flashed through my mind. That's when I got the idea for my novel, Chocolicious. I knew chocolate had to play a big role in the story.

  4. I can't remember ever being asked this! So it wouldn't bother me. Driving is great for getting ideas, though. I get a lot from song lyrics, too. But I think there's something to Athena's theory: ideas are the easy part!

  5. Enjoyed this post and I don't think I've ever been asked that question.
    As one of your correspondents already said, I get a lot of ideas in the shower. Before I retired -- meaning that I shaved every morning -- I often got ideas when I was shaving.
    Driving --- ditto. Not just long trips either. Sometimes when running an errand.
    But I think many of mine come in dreams, or in that time just after a dream when I'm partly awake and partly still asleep.

  6. It is interesting that writers place people they know in the writing. Reminds me of the line,"The names have been changed to protect the innocent."

  7. I think it's a viable question for anyone involved in the creative process, be it a writer, actor, musician, or artist. I tend to get my ideas while exercising. Probably has to do with getting more oxygen to the brain!

  8. I think why asking that question irritates writers might be because of two things.

    1. They think (and often rightly so) that people are trying to find a golden formula. A scientific process of getting a good novel every time (or at least an idea). Though anyone who's come up with a story idea and wrote it, knows that it's anything but a repeatable formula. And even if it was, I'd think that would take the fun out of it.

    2. They want to believe in the magic. Or if you don't believe in magic, the subconscious. And trying to make it conscious might cause someone to distrust their natural intuition.

    As far as my own ideas go, I buy into Stephen King's idea about where ideas come from. That it's not one specific idea but rather a few different random ideas and events that culminate together to form an story idea when you least expect it. Kind of like how dreams are composed of different random ideas and events.

    "Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos; the materials must, in the first place, be afforded: it can give form to dark, shapeless substances, but cannot bring into being the substance itself." -Mary Shelley

  9. Thank you all for taking the time to stop by and comment. It is interesting to read what you all have to say about ideas. I agree with King. That's basically what happened with Mr. Right's Baby.
    Ideas are all around us. Maybe it just takes a special eye to see them, and as Athena said, to work them into an actual book.
    It's amazing how ideas come to us when we are doing other things--driving, exercising. It's sort of like they sneak up on us as soon as we aren't trying to find them!

  10. Regina Duke here.

    Commenting a day late (had to do housework!). I agree with those who say ideas are abundant, it's finding the time to write about them all that is the problem. :-)

    This is a lovely blog! And I love the cover of Mr. Right's Baby!

  11. I do think it's fascinating to see how two people can see something and come up with two different ideas for a story. It's happened to me. Because you live with characters running amok in your brain, it's hard to imagine how someone doesn't stories in events or general happenings. I find them everywhere--even when I'm not looking. lol!

    Sia McKye's Thoughts...OVER COFFEE

  12. Great to know where you get your ideas from Michele. One of the reasons I hate being in the drivers seat is because my creative juices just begin flowing when I'm on the road. Talk about distractions! At times it takes something small as a signboard to get ideas fogging my mind.


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