Where do you get your ideas from?

The question I get asked most often is where do you get your ideas from? They can come from anywhere. My first western was inspired by my parents love story. My first scifi romance was based on a dream I had as a teenage. My last western was again based on my parents who corresponded after meeting one summer, until Dad asked Mom to marry him. That made me think of mail order brides and Tame A Wild Bride was born.

My new series is also a mail order bride series. There are so many opportunities for stories there because there were so many different reasons that women would offer themselves up as brides. The most common of course was the lack of men in the east and surplus of them in the west.

As to the men, they were as desperate as the women. They needed women to have children to carry on their names, to make the territory grow and eventually become a state. They needed women to civilize the west not just settle it. They also needed women for companionship and yes, sex.

Some of these unions lasted for fifty years and were happy ones. Others lasted only one hour. Yes, you heard me an hour. The woman in question discovered as she and her new husband that he was the one who robbed her stage on the way to town. She recognized the scar on his hand. She screamed ran from the room and locked herself in the bedroom. When she finally came out, her new husband was gone and the poor bewildered preacher and his wife were told that it never happened. The woman went back to her home, unmarried.

So there you have it. Ideas come from anywhere and can hit you anytime. I carry a notepad in my purse for just such occasions

If you’re an author where do you get your ideas from? If you’re a reader, have you ever seen something or someone and asked yourself, what if? That’s what author’s do. What if so and so met such and such and did this and that. It all starts with What if?

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12 thoughts on “Where do you get your ideas from?

  1. Hey Cynthia. I happened by when checking out your post on Triberr ;-)
    For me it went like this. I was travelling around the world in my job (nothing glamorous) and used to tell funny stories back at the Irish factory during tea break about crazy little things what had happened to me in Asia, North and South America and Eastern Europe. The lads said I should write a book about it and I did – an international action adventure novel. It turned out pretty badly written and not very funny at all, as did the next one. I put them under the virtual bed and went to college to learn the craft. Then I applied all my ideas to a more introspective novel based in Ireland, as my job had become based in Dublin.
    Every day on the way to work I saw a Romanian beggar on Heuston Bridge. The guy had a disabled leg and played a guitar but was grumpy, unlikable. Other days he was friendly, no guitar and his disability was in the other leg. I thought it was a scam but turned out they were brothers. Then they had a big bust up with the local down and outs over the pitch and someone was murdered. So my novel Peril was born.
    The Baptist, my psychological thriller, came out of a session in writing college. The tutor asked us to bring in photos to stimulate our creativity. I brought in a picture of me and my baby brother and noticed for the first time he was pushing me away in the picture. We always had a strange relationship. John Baptist, deluded psychopath cleansing a way for the second coming, promptly popped into my head and murdered his younger brother in the bathtub. That was how my novel The Baptist came about.
    I took that writing experience and rewrote my international adventure. The story had always been gripping but the writing had sucked. The result is The Crucible Part 1, a political thriller about AIDS, religious fundamentalism and recolonization of Africa.
    As you intimate in your post, real life is sometimes stranger than fiction!

  2. Nowadays, most of my ideas build on each other. One book will spawn an idea for the next and so on.

    In the past, some of my plot ideas have come from bad dreams and weird spooky stuff I’ve experienced.

  3. Hi Cindy!
    I read the Houston Chronicle and I have gotten several story ideas from the articles. My newest release, BAD VIBES, deals with a topic that came straight out of the Chronicle. Human trafficking. I read that Houston police had raided some low-class clubs and rescued 120 kidnapped women being used as sex slaves. Seriously! Of course, I have a hero up to that task.
    *hugs*
    ~J

  4. My Halloween romance opens with a scene of a skeleton at Angie’s door and she drags the guy into her house thinking it’s her neighbor. In real life, I did that to a skeleton at my door thinking it was a young neighbor, but it wasn’t. So it was simply, what if…and the story came.

    So many of my characters or events are rooted in real life. I observe, listen, and then my mind takes bits and pieces, and molds them into a story, but I allow my characters to drive the story which to me is fun. I never know exactly what they will do.

    I do like to keep my characters inside the box to keep them realistic. My heroes tend to be more geek than brawn. And my heroines tend to be the gal next door.

    Assemble ten friends, five guys and five gals. How many of those guys have a size 32 waist and how many of those gals wear a size 2? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As long as he thinks she’s beautiful, and she thinks he’s handsome, they’ll be fine together. Her dress size doesn’t matter.

    I can catch a young mother in the grocery store pushing the cart and something about her will click in my brain. It might take a few years but whatever it was about her will come out as a character at some point.

    I’m not just an author, I’m a matchmaker for the characters in my brain.
    Elizabeth

  5. Recently, I used an article in our small weekly hometown newspaper. Truth is so much stranger than fiction so I can only use parts of the article, no one would believe the real events. LOL
    Fun blog post. I loved reading everyone else’s comments as well.

  6. I have a novel coming out next year based on a fire that took the lives of a family friend’s wife and children. The world I built for my recently-released science fiction, “Relocated,” started with a reaction to a science fiction novel I read years ago. My reaction? That’s not how I would write it.

  7. I’m enjoying what everyone is saying here.

    Sometimes I get an opening scene. It just pops into my head.

    Once I read something in the Writer’s Digest magazine that gave a list of items to incorporate in a story. One of the items was a red dress. That became the book I’m waiting to hear back from an editor on — Love and Murder In Red Satin.

    The whole what if thing is always a good prompt. My current WIP, On Becoming A Vampire, is what if a nice guy English teacher is turned into a vampire?

    And then sometimes a title will hit me. I have one that keeps hammering away in my head that I’ll have to write sometime. Cindy, thanks for a fun blog.

  8. Like you, Cynthia, my first science fiction novel, The Trial of Tompa Lee, started as a dream. The whole book didn’t come to me that easily, of course. The dream was more like a grain of sand irritating an oyster’s flesh. The oyster adds a layer of mother of pearl to reduce the irritation, then another layer and another until a pearl is born. So it is with layers and layers of details in novel.

  9. Schenectady. I get my ideas from Schenectady. There’s a mail-order outfit up there where you can subscribe, and every month they send you three ideas. Well, these days they email them, but it’s the same concept.

    I think that’s worth an entry.

    Maybe someday I’ll write a story about the Schenectady Idea Farm. I wonder what you feed those things? Adversity, I imagine.

  10. A lot of my story ideas seem to come from dreams. Unfortunately, I usually can’t remember the full dream when I wake up, but some part of it, a feeling or a small idea, sticks, and gets expanded upon.

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