Saturday, February 20, 2021


Feb. 20 - Where do you get your ideas for stories?

One of the great things about being a writer is that ideas can come from anywhere and everywhere.

When you think about the elements that get woven into a story, characters, setting, plot, conflict, and theme, any one of these can prompt an idea. Think of them as the who, where, what, why, and when. Who are the characters, where are they, what is the problem, why do they have a problem, and when does this all take place?

The setting is as important as the characters. The readers need to know where the story is taking place, what the world of the story is. Is it contemporary and set in a recognizable city/country? Is it fantasy, science fiction, paranormal? I mostly write Regency romance and so I have to be upfront with the era so that my readers don’t get a jolt a few pages in.

Listening to people talk can often lead to a ‘what if?’ moment that prompts a plot idea. Several years ago, when I had a day in which to please myself, I stayed on a light-transit train right to the terminal to hear the end of the conversation two ladies in front of me were having. Such is Karma, we rode all the way to the last stop and I never did hear the end of their story, but I made up my own conclusions all the way back into the city. The basis of the conversation was that the brother of one of the ladies had taken off, leaving his wife and two children. What prompted him to leave? What was their conflict? Did she perhaps do away with him? Could he be buried under the roses in the garden?

Another overheard conversation in a farmer’s market in Vernon, British Columbia still makes me chuckle. The gist of it was, the homeowner couldn’t let the dog out of the house because a bear was in the garden eating apples. That could work its way into any kind of story, but especially contemporary western romance.

photo from

Light and shade can prompt ideas, too. The way the light falls across the surface of water on a bright or a dull day, can create images that help set a scene. Never mind fifty shades of grey there are, give or take, roughly two-hundred-and-fifty shades of blue. Pick one and work a scene around that shade of blue sky. How does that make your character feel? New writers often worry about how much of themselves they put into a story but thinking about how you feel about something is a good place to start in imagining how your character might feel. Transferring those elements of emotion can help create a more rounded, three-dimensional character, as it gives them more depth.

You might see an advertisement, a book title, an incident in the street. All these can prompt ideas. I once wrote a short story entitled ‘Size No Object.’ The idea for that came from an advert in a woman’s magazine, back in the days before the internet when people often looked for pen-pals and wrote real letters. The gist of this advert was that an inmate of one of Her Majesty’s Prisons was looking for a female pen-pal, size no object. I couldn’t get that one out of my head. Another was watching flags fluttering in the breeze on a castle which prompted. ‘The Hedge Witch.’ Witches always hung around castles, right? Think of the movies Sleeping Beauty and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves with Geraldine McEwan playing Mortianna. Watch this two-minute clip which also shows the late Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Next take a look at where my fellow bloggers get their ideas.

Skye Taylor

Anne Stenhouse

Beverley Bateman

Connie Vines

Diane Bator

Dr. Bob Rich  

Fiona McGier

Helena Fairfax

Marci Baun

Judith Copek

Rhobin L Courtright