One of the most asked questions of a writer is – where do you get your ideas? I always loved Stephen J. Cannell’s response to that question. He said he kept them in a coffee can in his back yard and dug it up whenever he needed one. I don’t have trouble coming up with new ideas. Plotting them out is a different thing entirely. But ideas can be found everywhere. News article, TV shows, books, incidents in real life. All you have to do is open your eyes and look around.
We just returned from a trip to Ohio for a funeral. Not a happy occasion, but the eleven hour drive up from Mississippi provided plenty of fodder for novels and stories. Just watching the passing landscape sparked my imagination. A cute little house perched on top of a distant hill. A winding road that disappeared behind a rock outcropping. A small plane flying overhead. What if the plane had to land on the hill and a woman driving down the road stopped to help – not a complete story, but a good starting point.
Watching road signs can be a fun source of names. We passed a sign that said – Flora Edwards. Two different towns, but together they create a quirky character in a small town. What does Flora do for a living? Owns a diner, cuts hair, runs a B&B. Near my home town of Gahanna, Ohio, the sign announced two towns, but when I read them I decided they’d make a good name for my next heroine. Bexley Lancaster. I’ve seen that sign for years, but this trip it became a name and not two cities.
The funeral we attended was for my brother. The sadness is overwhelming, but so were the stories people told about him. As I reconnected with his life, I found dozens of ideas for characters and for stories, all of which could be the basis for an inspiration story, but would also honor my brother. He was always doing things for others without being asked – taking garbage cans back from the street, shoveling snow from driveways and sidewalks before they were up. He encouraged friends to run, to pray and if they were on the fence about God, he nudged them toward faith.
Can you see a hero who does things for other in secret? Can you imagine a heroine who uses simple acts of kindness to show God’s love? Give her a skeptical hero and you have a nice conflict.
If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, take a closer look at those around you. Each person you know, each view from your window, each snippet of an article is a possible story idea. It’ll become a habit and you’ll end up like me – with a twenty page file of ideas waiting to turned into stories.
Lorraine Beatty is a multi-published, bestselling author born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. She’s also lived in Erlangen, Germany, Bridgeport, Connecticut, Baton Rouge, Louisiana and currently resides in Brandon, Mississippi. Married to her high school sweetheart, she and husband Joe have two grown sons and five grandchildren.
She has been writing since Junior High School and has contributed feature articles to several books on Television History, and written for magazines, newspapers and company newsletters. She currently writes for Love Inspired books, and Barbour Books. A longtime member of RWA, and ACFW. She is a charter member and former president of Magnolia State Romance Writers, the local Mississippi Chapter of RWA.
Away from writing she sings in her church choir, loves to garden, spend time with her grandchildren, and travel.