Friday, October 7, 2016

Finding the “spice” that makes your story fresh and unique

By Susan Brower
VP of Editorial - Gilead Publishing

It’s been an interesting six months as I have reviewed countless submissions for our new venture, Gilead Publishing, from the best agents in the industry. Imagine having a completely clean slate for acquisitions; I could acquire in any genre, only limited to having a balanced list and a target number of titles. Quality writing—check, Christian content—check, author platform—check.

Despite some of the best writing in the industry that fit our submission guidelines, I was still looking for “fresh ideas.” I actually read one proposal all the while thinking I’d read it before. Not only had I read it, I put it on the “interested” pile for further research. As I looked through our submission grid for this great story, I discovered that I hadn’t read it before, but had read one that was close enough that I wouldn’t want to acquire them both. Some element was the same, some character’s backstory was similar or the setting was not as unique as it might have been.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t elaborate on what, exactly, “fresh” meant. But I do know it’s not something that just comes to a writer unless they open their mind to the world around them. Creativity is not developed in isolation. It’s developed proactively and consistently. There are ideas everywhere. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Five Sources of Inspiration:

1.   Current Events, Social Issues:

What do “Criminal Minds International”, Netflix’s “Newsroom” and an Our Daily Bread video clip have in common?  Elements of each led to an idea for a contemporary thriller involving a missionary in South America. Believe it or not, People magazine is one of my best sources for ideas. The “hero” and “human interest” stories are great for starting the brainstorming process. I also find cable channels like Smithsonian and History Channel offer numerous options for idea generation. They tend to be well-researched and devoid of the scripted drama of “reality” programming. How does it work? The rookie reporter from Newsroom, an international serial killer from Criminal Minds International and a film on sustainable farming in Africa becomes the student on a mission trip in South America who is kidnapped by rebel soldiers.

2.   Thrillers, Mysteries, Suspense
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How does taking a boat ride on a beautiful summer day generate an idea for a murder mystery? Allow yourself to daydream! It seems obvious, but take every opportunity to observe the people around you. Imagine what their story could be and look for unusual experiences. These are great for developing the little details that make your story more interesting. For instance, a few years ago, I was taking a relaxing boat ride with authors Brandilyn Collins and Barb Scott on Lake Coeur d’Alene. We encountered another small boat that was stranded in the middle of the lake and proceeded to tow them to the shore. Somehow, this simple rescue turned into the plot for a dark and sinister murder mystery. The stranded boaters, were, in fact, a pair of murderous thieves who were befriending Brandilyn and her husband so that they could later come up to their home and…well, you can imagine the rest of that plot. Barb and I had developed a complete storyline by the time we landed on shore. 

3.   Historical
Sources for developing fresh historical ideas are infinite, yet I find this is
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the area where originality can be the hardest to find in the proposals I see. Again, I go to cable channels for inspiration in the historical categories. First, they tend to highlight “anniversaries” of big events (sinking of the Titanic) which stir interest among readers for stories of the era. Second, they have to find new and unique content to present history and it’s likely you will find an interesting incident to develop a story around. History Channel, Smithsonian, and A&E have great content. One recent story that intrigued me was about the development of the OSS (America’s first official spy organization) during WWII. Agents from the US were sent to Canada to Camp X to learn the traits of a spy…including the best ways to kill without making a lot of noise. Hmm, now what could I do with that information?????

4.   Romance
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There are not a lot of unique plots in the romance category. However, because certain tropes are always popular (cowboys, babies, secrets, second-chance love), it’s very important to have different settings, character backstories, and conflicts so that readers continue to be intrigued with the romance category. Believe it or not, the Bible is a great source of inspiration. What would a contemporary Hosea and Gomer story look like? Francine Rivers wrote the ultimate historical novel that has sold millions and been on bestseller lists for years. Another idea is to look at programming from cable channels as well as documentaries on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc. What about a romance featuring a realtor who specializes in selling islands (HGTV’s Island Hunters)? Perhaps she meets her Prince Charming as he looks for a place to live off the grid…Hmmmmmm Don’t forget DIY, Travel, and Animal Planet. You’d be surprised where the smallest inspiration can develop into a bestselling novel. 

5.   General Fiction
Why do some of the best story ideas originate in the UK? I can’t answer this question, but I do try to keep up on what is popular on UK television and movies through BBC America and PBS. Mysteries like Grantchester, Sherlock Holmes, Broadchurch and Endeavor feed my imagination for murder and mayhem. Historical series like Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey, and Poldark make me want to dig deeper into American history during these same times. What I’ve learned most from them is that character is the one element that holds these stories together. It inspires me to look at characters as real people with real emotions and flaws. It seems easy, but the Brits do it best.

Determining how “fresh” a story might be is very subjective. A well-read editor is likely to be much harder to please. Remember, we are reading what is published and what does not get published. Writers must look for inspiration in a variety of places including those that have nothing to do with the genre you are writing or the story you are telling. Inspiration is the spice you add to a story to bring out the flavor of the character, setting, and plot.

Gilead Publishing is an independent publisher of fiction. We publish quality fiction that will appeal to adult readers who enjoy stories written from a Christian perspective. These include novels for women and men in the Contemporary, Romance, Historical, and Mystery/Suspense categories. We also publish Science Fiction/Fantasy through our Enclave imprint. At this time, we’re not looking for YA or children’s, but never say “never.” As we grow and expand, look for novels from authors around the world with stories from around the world.

Sue will be giving away a three copies of Cowboy Christmas Homecoming from her three Seeker Authors and one of Sleigh Bells Ring in honor of Seekervillager Barbara Scott.

Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.


Sandy Smith said...

I had a very busy day and just now getting on to read Thursday's post but instead find I am very early for Friday's post. That doesn't usually happen.

This was a very interesting post and fun to hear all the ways authors can find story ideas. Please put me in the drawing!

Mary Connealy said...

You're first, Sandy!
You're in the drawing.

Mary Connealy said...

Sue thanks for being on!

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

What a fascinating perspective!
Thank you for being here in Seekerville today.


How fun to have such a clean slate and go forth... Thank you for breaking things into categories too. That helps.

NEVER?! I like that you're never saying never. :)

When you're ready to peek at a middle grade adventure about a K9 Spy full of current events, let's talk. Many people (ok humans) think I'm crazy for writing this series but it seems to resonate.

Looking forward to reading the interesting works you've acquired along the way. I've seen some of the promos Gilead has done and thought they were super clever.

Mary Preston said...

A unique read is always appreciated.

Megan Brummer said...

What a great post! It reminds me of one of my favorite writer quotes:

"Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any." ~Orson Scott Card

A few years ago, I knew I had a story in me...but for the longest time I couldn't figure out what it was. I always wanted to write a book... but I couldn't think of any good book ideas. Or I'd see a great movie or read an amazing book and think Why didn't I come up with that?


Now I know better. Someone taught me that you have to look for inspiration, not just sit around and wait for it to hit you. Thank you for sharing some of your favorite places to find and develop fresh ideas! Just reading through them has given me some ideas of how to stir up my current WIP and hopefully give it some more "spice" :)

Cindy W. said...

Hi Sue! First off, congratulations on your new venture of Gilead Publishing. I look forward to the books you will be publishing. Hopefully I will be able to find them in my small town.

I appreciate all the insight you have given everyone in your post. I makes you step back and look at your story to see if you are on the right track. I look forward to working with some of these elements as I move back into writing.

I would love to be in your drawing.

May everyone have a blessed weekend!

Happy Birthday Seekerville! Party on.....

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Bettie said...

Congratulations on your new publishing company. It was nice to meet you at the ACFW. You've given us so much to think about. I appreciate your fresh perspective on this topic. I'm working on a historical right now and will definitely be looking for tv programs related to my era on the history related channels.

I love Christmas tales, so please enter my name in the drawing.

Have a great writing day everyone. I broke through a writer's block last night and I feel good!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome Sue and thank you for the terrific tips!!!! Going to share these!

Josee Telfer said...

Love this perspective, Seekerville! It's always insightful hearing from publishers and agents.

Romance can be tricky as far as fresh storylines go. Thankfully, I come from a huge French-Canadian family whose stories could fill books for years!

I was just thinking yesterday about how differently I see things since I started writing. "What's their story" is often going through my head as is narration of life as it's happening.

Please tell me I'm not alone with the internal narration.

Jackie said...

Hi Sue, welcome to Seekerville! Congratulations on Gilead! I was excited to hear about your company at ACFW and glad to learn more today. Thanks for sharing.

Rhonda Starnes said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Sue! Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips.

Glynna Kaye said...

Welcome, SUE! I'm so excited about "the new kid on the block" -- Gilead Publishing! Wishing you and all your authors the very best!

Connie Queen said...

Good morning, Sue!

I love the covers of all the books!

Anything Gilead Publishing does not want to see?

Connie Queen said...

One more question please.

Are Gilead books in the Christian books stores?


cathyann40 said...

I love the covers! Theres nothing better than a book with snow in it.

Dana R. Lynn said...

Thanks for the great tips, Sue! I took notes:)

Pepper said...

YAY!!! It's Sue!! I'm super excited about Gilead - you guys really have chosen some of the best of the best in your group of upcoming releases. Julie Lessman? Mary Connealy? Jen Turano? WOWZERS!!!
You guys have such great interest and hype going on about you right now! So excited! It sounds like you're really loving your new position, Sue!

Pepper said...

Oh oh!! annd RUTHY too. (sorry RUthy)

kaybee said...

SUE, thank you for an interesting post. You are right, it's easy to fall into "been there, done that" with most of the genres. But then again...I do Oregon Trail, and there's a story behind every person who set out on that life-changing journey. There's a story in everyone who went to the Second World War and came home. We just have to find them, and put our own stamp on them. Character is everything. Everything I ever wrote began with characters, but characters who were influenced by their settings. Can't separate them. Don't want to.
May be back later,

Cindy Regnier said...

Congratulations - Gilead sounds wonderful and I'm looking forward to all the wonderful books. Great to have you in Seekerville

kaybee said...

Sue knows her stuff, I won a review of my book proposal from her last year. Good luck with Gilead, Sue! This is good news, especially with so many lines folding/revamping/being eaten up by corporate or worse. Christian fiction will survive. Somehow.

kaybee said...

JOSEE, I'm French-Canadian too. Unfortunately, my people don't talk that much...

Elizabeth Van Tassel said...

Thank you for the wonderful, informative article. I love being inspired when we travel and keep a file going with "someday" ideas. My favorites are taking a real life mystery and twisting it a bit with fantasy sprinkled in. Great to see this from your point of view and best wishes.

DebH said...

This is a great post, Sue. I'm happy to say that your list is where I seem to find all kinds of ideas from already (yay me...) Even family stuff gets me into idea mode. Things may happen and I think "that could work in a story somewhere". I'm still trying to figure out how to work out a scene for husband and wife attempting to capture a moment of ummmmm... personal quality time, but not-napping toddler and jealous pet dog end up outside locked bedroom door howling (one for mommy, the other - just wanting to interrupt)

Wanting to be in the draw because I'm loving Gilead books. Covers are cool too.

Question: what type of submissions are you getting that you wish you WEREN'T getting? what are the overdone, over-used storylines you'd rather NOT see?

Sally Shupe said...

Great informational post! And to think I just discovered I can get PEOPLE magazine on my kindle for free through Amazon prime. I'm going to go read it now. Great tips on finding inspiration. Thank you! And thanks for the chance to win Cowboy Christmas Homecoming or Sleigh Bells Ring!

Dana McNeely said...

Congratulations, Sue. It's both fun and always to try something new! Thanks for the insights on finding inspiration for new projects. Please enter me in the drawing.

Jessica Nelson said...

Wonderful post. Thanks for the insight and congrats on the new publishing venture! Gilead seems like a great new the signs too. Innovative.

Renee McBride said...

Hello, Sue!

Thanks for inspiring us this morning. I'm so pleased that Gilead is off to a great start. I love the covers of the two Christmas anthologies you shared and can't wait to read them.

Laurie Wood said...

Hello Sue and thank you for sharing these great ideas for stories "ripped from..." TV channels. I like to watch Discovery ID for crime and forensic shows that deal with modern day crime analysis. There are so many great documentaries on Netflix you could spend all day "researching" for your next story. And thank you for sharing your insights in to what makes a story "fresh" for you because I'm sure most editors feel the same way.

Please put my name in the drawing for a book. I also love those covers!

Renee McBride said...

Hello, Sue!

Thanks for inspiring us this morning. I'm so pleased that Gilead is off to a great start. I love the covers of the two Christmas anthologies you shared and can't wait to read them.

Edwina Cowgill said...

Hi Sue,
Your post is great - so many good suggestions on where to go for inspiration!

Congratulations on the new publishing company!

Please enter my name for the drawing!


Missy Tippens said...

Welcome, Sue! I loved this post. You've given me lots of great ideas for shows and channels to watch. And also permission to watch TV!! ;)

You mentioned Poldark. I've heard so many good things about it. I'm recording the new season but still need to watch earlier episodes on Amazon Prime. I look forward to it!

Congrats on the success of Gilead!

Marianne Barkman said...

Your new venture sounds someone writing a story about THAT? I have friends who own a book distribution company here in Canada. I gave her the name of your company. I hope they connected with you, Sue. I'm not sure if it's a good fit, but I'd love to see Gilead represented!
Great post. Thanks for being here, Sue. I'm one of those readers that read. Please put my name in the hat or box or dish, whatever you have today. Thank you

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Sue Welcome to Seekerville and thanks for posting such great ideas for inspiration. My hubby always puts on most of those shows you mentioned. We love the Smithsonian and Travel channel. And yes, you can glean some great ideas.

I love it when I find a story set in an unusual place or the characters have unusual careers. It does give the story a "fresh" perspective.

Thanks again for taking your precious time to give us such great information.

Have fun today with our Seeker friends.

Rose said...

Hi Sue,

Having a new publishing company on the Christian scene is exciting. I draw many ideas for my stories from the 'television' channels you listed. Also many times, I get historical ideas from our local newspapers who report happenings from 20, 50, 100 years ago!

Myra Johnson said...

Welcome, Sue! These are all great suggestions for finding and developing fresh story ideas! I never cease to be amazed at how connections can form between random bits of news stories, historical details, personal observations, etc.

I was quite impressed by everything you and Dan said at the Gilead Spotlight at ACFW, and I hope this new publishing venture enjoys great success!

Janet Dean said...

SUE, welcome to Seekerville! Thanks for the terrific tips for finding fresh story ideas. I can just picture you all turning a good deed of towing stranded boaters into a fully developed suspense story. :-) Gilead Publishing is a blessing for authors and readers alike.


Mary Connealy said...

Sue I think this really challenges me. Do I write a different version of the same book over and over?
Do I need to think more WIDELY to find backstory ideas?

I'm kind of worried now that I am just pure redundant.

The women who fought in the Civil War disguised as men...that was an odd backstory.

Using a huge fictionalized Carlsbad Cavern as the backdrop for a novel.

Those are different but HOW different?

I need to do this. Think more, watch more, maybe even travel more.

I once walked through Pioneer Village in Grand Island, NE, one of those living history towns. Only it was off season so all the buildings were there but no living history, no people to populate all these historical businesses.

And walking, alone, down abandoned streets, a time travel story came to me.

Seriously intriguing idea. But how do I write a time travel book? It's sure not my genre. Still that idea lingers in my head.

Mary Connealy said...

KC writing about May the K9 spy is such a fun thing and you love it so much.

There is NOTHING crazy about that. Good for you.

Mary Connealy said...

Mary Preston every once in a while something comes--a book or a movie and I think, "That is something I've never seen before. THAT is a totally unique idea."

Right now what pops into my head is Ghost Busters. The original movie. I watched that and thought, 'this is totally new.'

Mary Connealy said...

Megan, i love that Scott Card quote.
That sounds like me, walking past story ideas. I spend far too much time tuned out, living in 1870 in my head. Daydreaming my current book. I miss the things that are around me.

I'm going to try and change.

Mary Connealy said...

Cindy W. it's a great post isn't it.

I've been watching Poldark. Only season one on Amazon Prime. I understand season two has begun but I missed the first couple of shows so now I'll just wait to the end of the season and watch for them to come on free and I'll binge watch season 2 then.

But the backdrop of that whole show is the French Revolution and the local English people being stirred up against the aristocracy. England avoided their own revolution by making some changes.

And our hero, an aristocrat who is penniless, hates the way the common man is treated and stands with them. The arrogance of the aristocrats, the unfairness of the laws, the wealth and comfort versus the poverty.

And the trouble coming.

Sadly it has shade of America today. Powerful people who rule over people. And the common man is held in contempt and all the laws are such that it's almost impossible to fight back, even if you've got at least a good amount of money because it's all stacked against you.

America was in large part created in opposition to such tyranny and we are far too close to being there again.

Mary Connealy said...

Bettie what I loved was Sue saying they are looking for Fresh Stories, that's a challenge to everyone, new or established author.

Mary Connealy said...

Good morning Tina.
Seekerville posts on my facebook page but I always share it, too, later so it goes up again at a different hour...........AND I HAVEN'T DONE IT YET.

So I'll go!

Jana Vanderslice said...

I love "Old Photo Archives" on Instagram & Facebook! I always wonder about the story behind the photo & what life was like for the people in the photo. I guess that comes from a sweet grandmother who would spend hours with me going through her old photos in a shirt box & telling me the precious stories of her life!
Great Source of Ideas!!!

Janet Dean said...

MARY, don't fix what isn't broke. Your daydream world seems to be working for you!


Janet Dean said...

JANA, I love that your grandmother shared her life through old photos. I'm fascinated by genealogy. Why ancestors came. What they left behind. How tough was the adjustment. All those intimate details are usually missing unless we have diaries. The fun part is we writers can create a fully developed back story and flesh them out.


Mary Connealy said...

Josee you are NOT alone.

I don't do it enough! LOL that sounds wrong. Liked I'm not snoopy enough. (I'm afraid I am!)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sue, you named my three faves!!!! Poldark, Downton and Call the Midwife!

And stories about midwives are fascinating, aren't they??? But who'd have thought a story about a returning Revolutionary War veteran... for the losing side.... would garner such interest and respect? Poldark is amazingly well done, and totally captivating!

Sue, thank you so much for being here today! I'm having so much fun with my Gilead novella "A Cowboy for Christmas" that's part of the "Christmas Cowboy Homecoming" collection with Julie, Mary and Anna!

What a great collection, and I can't wait for release day in 11 DAYS!!!!

PSYCHE!!!! So fun!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Pepper dissed me.

I was an add on....


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Connealy, I love TIME TRAVEL books.

Love them to pieces.

They're so open for the scope of the imagination!!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Connie Queen I know they are intended to be in bookstores.
These are print books NOT ebooks (although they have ebook versions, too)

Mary Connealy said...

KayBee, that is a deep truth, what you said about character and setting being so interwoven, one influencing the other, it's impossible to separate.

Mary Connealy said...

Really, Ruthy? You love them? You think I should write it????????????

Also if anyone gets a chance, on a fall day, after the busy season, to walk the deserted streets of a living history farm or town or should do it. It's got a cool, almost haunted feel that's pretty tingling!!!

Like you're transported through time.

I'd love to see this place with people in it, too. I love living history venues. But that was my chance, I was in the area. And I am so glad I went.

Mary Connealy said...

DebH, that 'interrupted by dog and kid' would be classic.

So much truth.

Mary Connealy said...

Sally you can? I wonder what else? What other magazines. I don't read many magazines just because I'm so over buying them.

But maybe for free.................

Mary Connealy said...

Jessica weren't the signs cool? When we sold to Gilead we each got mailed a sign, small blue sign, that said I'm a Gilead Author. And we got asked to take a selfie holding it and put it up on Facebook or where ever.

There was confetti in the same envelop. They made an event out of signing and got lots of announcements and publicity that fun way!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Okay, here's a shocker. The History Channel/ and Modern Marvels. I write contemporary but they have some terrific programs on the FBI and all sorts of modern spy and security stuff.

It's not all recent, but wow, it really gives you terrific plot ideas.

Mary Connealy said...

I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Poldark. There is just NO END to the trouble.
Everytime they get ONE problem solved another pops up. I KNOW >>> I KNOW...that's what a book or story is supposed to do.

I guess I'm a big 'Happily Ever After' girl.

Mary Connealy said...

I watched Modern Marvels once, Tina. It was about a really cool huge machine that cuts down trees, strips the branches and loads it on a truck in one single operation.

I never thought to find a book in there but it was something I'd never seen before. And they love unique careers.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Sally! I didn't know this. "And to think I just discovered I can get PEOPLE magazine on my kindle for free through Amazon prime."

I got a Kindle Fire when they were on sale dirt cheap and I've been too busy to check out the features. I need a long plane trip to do this.

Mary Connealy said...

Missy how long has it been on this new season?

I'd like to watch the first episode or two to see if Poldark ends up executed.

I'm guessing since they've got a whole season with his name on the title.....NOT.

Still I'd like to see how he gets out of that bogus MURDER rap.

Sally Shupe said...

Yes! With Amazon Prime. There were a whole bunch of books listed to read for free through Amazon Prime as well. I didn't recognize any authors however... I knew you could watch some of the movies, but I haven't done that either. I like the free shipping lol.

Mary, I also did something the other day...Remember you were talking about ordering number 9 off the menu? I am such a creature of habit lol. My daughter and I go to Subway every Wednesday evening before church. I always order the same thing. You should have seen their faces when I switched it up and ordered something different. The lady making our food and the guy checking us out. They didn't know what to do with a different order from me. It was actually a pretty good choice and I MIGHT consider getting it again. I am such a fan of the chicken bacon ranch though. But we'd gone to Subway the night before and I didn't want that sub again the next night. That was the only reason for switching. But I survived to tell about it. I have faced that fear and overcome it!

Mary Connealy said...

PS not that anyone will notice but it's NOT Pioneer Village in Grand Island Nebraska. It's the Stuhr Museum.
There is a Pioneer Village, too. It's in Mindon Nebraska, also a cool place. I don't know about Living History though.

Mary Connealy said...

Sally Shupe YOU WILD WOMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!! lol

I know someone who picks the date.

October 7? She counts down sever spaces (a low number can be tricky, you might end up with an appetizer.)


Sally Shupe said...

Yes, that's when I got my Kindle. It is so old and I'm still learning what it does lol. I still say it was the best purchase I ever made though. My email stated now includes prime reading, maybe it didn't before? Books, magazine,and more. National Geographic Traveler, HGTV, and many others. Books in Sci Fi, Mystery & Thriller, Nonfiction, Historical, Romance, Business & Money, even Comics.

My son had to show me I could play games on my Kindle. I don't know if I could find them now or not however. I read on my Kindle. That is all.

Mary Connealy said...

Sally, also, I usually think about Amazon Prime because of the free shipping.

Every time the price of Prime goes up I blame myself. I am forever taking advantage of the free shipping!!!!!!!!

And our UPS man....well....I live a LONG WAY OFF THE MAIN ROAD.
And he's here waaaaay too much. Multiple times a week. I'm sure he's longing to have an intervention with me for my Amazon addiction.
Any unusual needs are hard for me because we live such a long way from a big town. So my thoughts go to shopping online almost INSTANTLY.

Sally Shupe said...

Mary, I could not do that! That's just too much wild abandonment lol. Maybe if they were out of what I wanted...No, then I usually go somewhere else. IHOP went through a phase where they didn't serve biscuits. They had gravy, but no biscuits. Really? We're in the south. We eat biscuits. We left and went to Hardees. They have since brought back the biscuits. Chili's doesn't have 1000 Island dressing. I bring my own. I don't think my system could handle going somewhere not knowing what I was going to get until I saw the menu and counted.

Sharee S said...

Hi Sue, this was such an interesting post and it was a pleasure to meet you at ACFW this year.

I use historical facts to trigger ideas as well as current events. Truth is stranger than fiction some days! But both help to keep those creative juices flowing. I think it helps to awaken folks to things they may not want to hear about. Putting a character together that readers can identify with while discussing the issue, makes it not only real, but relevant. In my humble opinion.

Kelsey said...

What a fun post! I've been getting so many ideas lately, I'm not sure what to do with them all. Don't you love it when you get a "sense" of a whole fictional world in an instant? My most recent one was in a DIY flower shop making bouquets for my sister's wedding last week. The Ginger delivery guy with the cargo shorts and hoodie had no idea he was being studied as inspiration :)

(Also, please put me in the drawing too!)

DebH said...

"interrupted by dog and child" is so true because it happened. it probably didn't help hubby's ego that I burst out laughing when child and dog wailed in harmony - but my writer's brain could picture the scene from bird's eye view - I couldn't help it. *sigh* the dog doesn't like me canoodling with "her" man so we've had to be creative on how to avoid canine interruptus. putting her outside garners a beat up screen door - did you know an Akita can do some pretty good paw damage to a door?

yep. my life. story prompt generator.

love the post. still want one of those books too...

Vince said...

Hi Susan:

Welcome! I just love posts about creativity! I worked in a creative department for many years. Actually, 'new and fresh' is not hard. New, fresh, and good: that's hard. New, fresh, good and something others will pay to read: that's even harder. However, new, fresh, good, something others will pay to read and something a publisher will buy: that's the hardest! That's professional level!

One thing is nice, however: if your idea really is new and fresh, it will stand out like a supernova in a dim night sky. I think the best way be creative is by brainstorming. You know, when you face the 'tyranny of the blank page' and the deadline for that full page Sunday ad is 3 pm this afternoon?

Here's what we did: sit down and type out at least a hundred unedited stream of consciousness headlines in a few minutes. Almost all will be garbage. You might have an associate doing the same thing. Then look at each other's headlines. One or two might actually be usable. Some might be altered to be outstanding. A few may even stimulate a great ad idea that seemingly has nothing to do with the initiating idea. That's how creativity works once it gets up a full head of steam.

Again, when you hit gold, it gleams in the pan and twinkles.

Now for 'Historical Romances': most I've read have no history in them. They should really be called 'Period Romances'. Getting to 'New and fresh' might best be accomplished by these authors by actually including some history!

Many famous 19th Century English authors toured America on the very lucrative speaking circuit. Give one of these authors a cameo in a story. Include, if there was one, some notice that an economic panic was in process. Have an argument in the background about 'the free an unlimited coinage of silver' or a neighbor who is off to another of those noisy 'Greenback Party' meetings.

Don't go into detail or be preachy, just have historical things going on. Also don't be afraid to research and give real prices for items and the type of money (coinage) being used.

To point: not too long ago I read a fresh and original historical romance that I found astounding! It was build around real historical events in the area where the author lives. It was a great romance and great history too! It was such a pleasant surprise and so much in tune with what you are talking about today that I'd like to give just a part of my review of:

"A Home of Her Own" by Keli Gwyn

Reading "A Home of Her Own" was a particular delight for me because I want the history in a romance to be woven into the plot. I want the story crafted so that it could only happen in the time period it takes palce. I also want to learn new things about the setting and time period.

In addition, I'd like to discover surprises as to the use of technology from the time period of the story. If I can also learn things I didn't know about the arts, newspapers, science, medicine, cooking, and agriculture, then I'll be really happy with the story. Well, I was really, really happy with "A Home of Her Own" because it accomplished all the above and more!

Please, please: publish some more books like this gem! And please include me in the drawings for those Christmas books. They are my favorite romances.


DebH said...

p.s. PLEASE write that time travel story. I love time travel stories and combined with you - AWESOMENESS!!!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Jana, have you ever heard of Solomon Butcher? He photographed sod houses in Nebraska. Some of them are so cool and fascinating.

He did this all his life while his wife and children were mostly home alone.

He was a DOCTOR, she was a NURSE. He was never famous or rich in his lifetime.

And then years later...long after he died thinking himself a failure...these 3500 glass plate photo negatives come to light and he's recorded the history of pioneer times.

Mary Connealy said...

DebH, well, we'll see. LOL
That'd be different wouldn't it.

She travels to cowboy times so it might almost work

Mary Connealy said...

Sally where I live there are some good local restaurants, I definitely know what I'm getting into.

And when I am in the city....and go out to eat....being creative....and ending up with a bad meal, well that's just a huge disappointment because I don't get out that often.

Maybe if a person went out a lot.

I love that chicken bacon ranch Sub sandwich, too! Yum. It's My Cowboys favorite.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Oh, I do take advantage of free movies with Prime. That is a huge opportunity for research. Check it out next time you want to research something.

CatMom said...

Welcome, Sue - - and thank you for sharing this post. I'm inspired just by reading your suggestions! And it's interesting what you wrote about the Brits doing such a great job with character. Being a big Downton Abbey fan (along with millions of other folks, LOL) I agree. :)

Thanks again for this information, and please enter me in the book drawing!

Blessings, Patti Jo :)

Walt Mussell said...

Always great to read an editor's perspective. I like the idea of watching the History Channel for fresh ideas (and I watch a lot of the History Channel). However, since I like writing stories set in historical Japan, I seldom see anything covered there outside of WWII. Instead, I turn to NHK (Japan's PBS). NHK produces year-long historical dramas, and has been doing so for decades. I can watch these stories on-line and they're amazing. An NHK drama was the starting point of the novella I put out as part of an anthology in late August.

Valri said...

Welcome Sue! I love the covers of the books! Interesting post today! Please enter me in the drawing.

Cynthia Herron said...

Sue, what great thoughts and tips! Thanks so much!

Last summer before our daughter left for college -- (Yes. We are fumbling our way through this bittersweet phase known as the empty nest period... Bunny trail... :-) ) her favorite show was Dateline. Wow. They say truth is stranger than fiction, and I found myself trying to solve the mystery, too, right before the show's conclusion. My writer's mind buzzed with fresh ideas as DD and her dad and I watched and bonded.

Of course-- I still do the people watch thing inside malls and coffee shops. Once I did a character sketch (on the lady ahead of me) in the check-out line at our local market. Well, good grief...she gave me so much to work with. Pink hair, polka dots and stripes, four inch heels... and a grandma. And... a former missionary who loved Jesus and told the cashier all about Him. NOT one's typical trip to the market, but such delightful story fodder. :-)

Congratulations to Gilead and blessings on all the great gems you find!

Fedora said...

What a great post! As a reader, I do appreciate fresh stories, whether it's a fresh setting, type of character, or a different take on a trope I've read before! Thanks for the ideas and sharing some ways authors find new inspiration!

Jackie Smith said...

I look forward to reading many books published by Gilead!!! Please enter me in the drawing.

Nicky Chapelway said...

I'm inspired by EVERYTHING when it comes to writing. A music video, a song, a book I read (Sometimes I don't even have to read the book, just looking at the title and guessing what the story is about- which I generally always get wrong- has me coming up with an idea all my own), a movie I watched, a TV series, a walk through my backyard, just watching someone do yard work... It seems that everything I look at has me wondering, hmmm... how can I make this into a new story or add this to a story I'm already working on?

Generally my ideas come from a mix and match. I combine an idea I got from a recent TV show I watched with an idea I got from reading a book and something I watched in a movie and liked. This way I figure not very many people are going to come up with the same ideas as me (unless they are doing exactly the same thing I am doing, liking the exact same scenes in these movies/TV shows/books that I am, and their brain is following the exact same thought train that mine is, though that seems just a little unlikely). The way I figure it, I am the only one who is going to live the many diverse experiences that I do (I may share some with other people, but I doubt anyone has lived their life exactly like i have) and so if I am inspired by my experiences then my stories are always going to be (at least a little) different from everyone else's.

Please enter my name for the drawing!

Nicky Chapelway said...

also I don't know about Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey, because I don't watch them, but I do watch Poldark and enjoy it immensely. I find it a good inspiration for ideas for historical books. Two series ideas already have been inspired by that show alone.

Trixi said...

How in the world did I totally miss this post? Usually Thursday night (my time), it's the Archives so comments are closed. Guess that's what I was thinking! Either that or my mind is slipping...haha!

Anyway, really great post Sue! Please put my name down for only "Sleigh Bells Ring" as I have a copy of "Cowboys Christmas Homecoming" on it's way to me soon. Thanks so much!

Myra Johnson said...

It's Birthday Month, TRIXI! We have fresh content every day! And lots of giveaways, too!

Trixi said...

Oh good to know that my mind isn't slipping!! I didn't realize that :-) Yay for birthdays!!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Walt are the Japanese dramas in English? Or subtitled? I'd like to give that a try.

Mary Connealy said...

Cynthia, was the pink haired woman all those things? Or were you making that up about her.

What a great character.

Mary Connealy said...

Trixi, we are having NO Archives in the month or October. NEW POSTS EVERYDAY!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Vince your comments are always thoughtful and inspirng.

This whole day is inspiring me to just chase my characters DEEPER.

Trixi said...

Thanks MARY for letting me know! MYRA also said something, I didn't realize that :-) Yay for no archives and birthdays!!!! Now I just have to get used to it for the WHOLE month ;-)

Julie Lessman said...

SUE!!! How incredibly FUN to have you here, my friend, so THANK YOU for coming to Seekerville!

ESPECIALLY since your #3 Point (Historicals) has given me LOTS of places to dig up ideas, and heaven knows although my latest releases have been contemporaries, my true writer's heart lies in historicals.

YOU SAID: "There are not a lot of unique plots in the romance category."

You know, I pretty much say that every week when hubby and I watch Hallmark movies. So much so, we've even made a joke out of it because so many of the plots are the same components, so my hubby always says, "Gosh, I didn't see THAT coming ..." ;)

SO ... when we do run up against a Hallmark plot that is "fresh" and different, we go CRAZY over it! There's only been a handful, but the few gems that are unique are our faves that we don't mind watching over and over.

Like Ruthy, I am SUPER excited about the release of the two Christmas novellas, so bring on the snow and hot chocolate!! :)


Missy Tippens said...

Cynthia Herron, I can commiserate with the empty nest--and we're even on our second year of it! Still tough when my daughter went back to school in August.

I love the idea of your creating a character of the woman in front of you in the cashier line! How fun!

Missy Tippens said...

Mary, that's so interesting about Solomon Butcher! Makes me want to run do research. :)

Julie Lessman said...

Hey, Sue, you said: "What would a contemporary Hosea and Gomer story look like? Francine Rivers wrote the ultimate historical novel that has sold millions and been on bestseller lists for years."

What a brilliant concept Francine had with Redeeming Love!! I would have to say that stories that are allegories based on the Bible have been some of my FAVORITE romance novels. At the top of the list along with Redeeming Love is Liz Curtis Higgs' Scottish Lowland Series, which begins with A Thorn in My Heart. It's an allegorical story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel set in 1790 Scotland, and it is hands-down my FAVORITE historical series EVER!! Which come to think of it ... sort of inspires me to want to write one too, so see how your post has stirred the pot?? ;)


Jan Christiansen said...

It's always great to get tips from a publisher about what they're looking for. I really enjoyed this post and file it away for future reference. Love Seekerville and all their wonderful guests.

Julie Lessman said...

RUTHY SAID: "Pepper dissed me. I was an add on.... SIGH........

Ruthy, you are NEVER an add-on, darlin' ... it's just you're in a class all your own! :)

And, Pep ... thanks for the sweet comment, my friend!

MARY!!! I LOVE time-travel stories!! I never used to until I read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander -- OH. MY. GOODNESS!! Changed my life, seriously, and hands-down THE BEST hero I have ever read. BUT ... just as a disclaimer, I'm talking the books, NOT the Starz miniseries which is pretty raw according to the 1st episode Starz gave away free. YIKES!! Rough stuff for two people who watch nothing but Hallmark movies ... Also, the books are NOT Christian books, but the love scenes (in the first thee books, at least) are between the married-to-each-other hero and heroine and are not overly graphic like many secular romance novels today, and beautifully done.


Janet W. Ferguson said...

Such a great article! Definitely a keeper! I was really excited to learn more about Gilead at the ACFW conference.

Julie Lessman said...

SALLY, seriously? Free People Magazine on Amazon Prime??? Mmmm ... that almost tempts me except, uh, I hate magazines. But then I hated novellas at one time, too, so maybe there's hope for me yet ... :)

TINA SAID: "Oh, I do take advantage of free movies with Prime. That is a huge opportunity for research. Check it out next time you want to research something."

WOW, Tina ... I take advantage of movies for research for books I am writing (i.e. watched Forrest Gump, The Last Song, and The Last of the Belles for Isle of Hope since all were filmed there), but I never thought about it to get ideas like both Sue and you suggested. Mmm ... must check into that ...


Caryl Kane said...

Great post SUSAN!

TINA, I miss the comments being embedded in the post.


bonton said...

SUSAN - thanks for the opportunity to learn a little more about Gilead, and the sources of inspiration for story lines!!

Congrats to Gilead - looking forward to reading those two novella collections, and many more books from you!!

bonton said...

SALLY - just wondering what is necessary to get free People magazine through Amazon Prime, I've never received any info through my Prime membership on that?? Thanks!!

Sally Shupe said...

Hey bonton! Log into your Amazon account, click on Prime. Scroll to the bottom where it shows Everything Included in Prime. There is a section for New Prime Reading. Click that and it takes you to the page listing the books and magazines that are free with Prime. I got an email today saying You're prime membership now includes, so I don't know if this is new or if I just didn't know it before lol. Enjoy!

Chill N said...

Oh my goodness -- Grantchester and Endeavor! Such good writing for those shows (good actors, too). Loved your comment about the History and Smithsonian channels. History is a great place to play "what if" for plot ideas.

Thanks for the info about Gilead. Best wishes for continued success.

Nancy C

Phyllis Wheeler said...

Thank you Sue!

Please enter me in your generous drawing :)

May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

Terri Reed said...

Great brainstorming suggestions. I peruse CNN a lot for my suspense ideas and watch the investigative shows. I love the covers shown. Very cool.

Laura Conner Kestner said...

Thank you, SUSAN! Such a great post. I've often read old newspapers (doing research for news articles) and they are wonderful sources for ideas and inspiration.

Mary Connealy said...

Oh My Gosh Julie do NOT compare me to her. I am defeated before I begin!!!

Mary Connealy said...

OKAY if we all write a hurricane during an election story let's all remember this moment!

Mary Connealy said...

I didn't know that either Sally.


Pepper said...

Ruthy, just think Phineas and Ferb thoughts and know how much I love you!! Ruthy & Pepper 4ever ;)

Laura Conner Kestner said...

MARY, I love this idea: "Also if anyone gets a chance, on a fall day, after the busy season, to walk the deserted streets of a living history farm or town or should do it. It's got a cool, almost haunted feel that's pretty tingling!!!"

I agree completely!! I've been to the Presidio La Bahia (The Fort of the Bay) in Goliad, Texas several times, and twice it was completely empty (except for the volunteers but they stayed in the front and let us make our way through). I do not have enough room here to accurately describe how I feel about that place. Its history is as tragic as the Alamo (twice as many men were killed there not long after the battle of the Alamo) but lesser known. It's quite a distance from my house, but I would go there daily if I could. I feel sometimes as if it's actually calling me. How's that for strange?

Sally Shupe said...

You are welcome, Mary! Maybe it is a new thing. I'm usually the last to know anything lol. Or at least how to do anything. I've enjoyed scrolling through the books and magazines today!

Kathryn Barker said...

Congratulations on the new publishing company...exciting times!!

I'm crazy about this post, Sue. I'll be sharing it with my writer's group...we love tips on generating new ideas!!

I'm continually bombarded with thoughts and ideas when strolling the aisles of our antique mall...and the vendors find the most amazing of them brought in an old wooden handled HEAVY wrench...she thought it was for wagon wheel hubs...but when we looked it up, it was actually a railroad tool...all I could think about was what a great weapon it was...

Would love to be entered in the drawing...


ohiohomeschool said...


Fun to see the new books. Thanks for the chance to win!

Walt Mussell said...

Mary, you can get the Japanese dramas subtitled. One minor note is that when the translators write dates of events, the dates are usually incorrect. Japan used to use a lunar calendar and so the lunar calendar date is what you see on screen. It's not corrected. For example, the most famous battle in Japanese history occurred on 15th day of the 9th month (in the year 1600), so the translators will write September 15, 1600. The actual date of the battle, on a western calendar, is October 1, 1600.

Mary Connealy said...

Laura that is so COOL.

I love that.. I've never heard of this place but I love the idea.

Mary Connealy said...

Got it Walt.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

I've been trying to get over here all day. When kids are home for fall break . . . there's not a lot of time for hanging out in my favorite haunts. :)

Sue, this post was helpful. I loved all the suggestions you made for fresh story ideas. I don't think a writer can ever have too many resources for this.

My favorite was for looking at People magazine. I don't buy those very often, but maybe I'll have to change that when I'm in need of a story idea. ;)

Julie Lessman said...

LOL, MARE ... you would NEVER be defeated before you begin, my friend. All you have to do is shoot somebody. Galbadon doesn't do that ... ;)


Just Commonly said...

Great ideas! Now I know where authors get the trick! Thanks!

Have a happy weekend!

jubileewriter said...

Thanks for the idea reminders. What an inspiring post. I'll have to check out some of the programming not normally on my radar. Thanks for sharing.

Carrie Turansky said...

These are great ideas, Susan! Thanks for sharing them with us and giving us a peek as some of the new Gilead books that are coming! I'm super excited to read them. I find some of my best historical ideas through Pinterest searches and then following the images back to the online articles. You have a gift for spotting great ideas!

Suzanne Baginskie said...

Sue, I love that you shared very unique ways of generating new ideas. As you said, it's hard to find freshness or stories that haven't been done before. I am a people watcher and travel as much as I can. Your blog has already inspired me to combine a few ideas I have been tossing about in my head. I want to wish you and Gilead publishing lots of luck and thank you for taking the time to blog on Seekerville. Loved the reference to Spice in your title, stories would be bland with just salt and pepper. Good example for us writers. This column will be printed out for my writing advice collection. Have a great weekend.

Suzanne Baginskie said...

Happy Birthday to Seekerville on day eight. Keep these fabulous columns coming. Seekerville is the best writers spot on the web. Be sure and vote for it. Enjoy your Saturday everyone.

Jan Miller said...

Sue, what eras are you most interested in for historical romance? Thanks!

Vince said...

You wrote:

"This whole day is inspiring me to just chase my characters DEEPER."

Yes, so true, and when you penetrate really deeply into your characters it seems to bring out the universal in even the most uniquely drawn individuals -- and that, I believe, is the soul of the best humor.

Kim hansen said...

Thanks for sharing.

Sherri said...

I absolutely LOVED this article - so full of GREAT ideas and inspiration. Thanks so much for your thoughts!

Patty said...

Hi Sue! How exciting to be able to sift through all the submissions looking for gems=) but a lot of work I am sure.
My husband and I notice how many of the crime drama shows seem to be to ripped from the headlines. So I can see how there probably isn't a shortage of story ideas if you have a creative mind.

bonton said...

Thanks for the info, SALLY!!

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Thank you, Sue, for the information on Gilead and your sources for story ideas.I use many of them. I agree that British writers have a talent for giving us unique characters with fanastic stories. The best to you in your new position.

Connie said...

I am thrilled that more and more publishers are catering to those of us who want to read books that uplift and encourage; books that appeal to our Christian beliefs but still nourish our love of a good romance. historical fiction or perhaps a suspenseful thriller. Thank you Gilead Publishing.

Pam said...

It looks like there will be some great books coming from Gilead Publishing. I'm always happy to hear of more options for our Christian fiction authors since I love to read their books.


Beth Erin said...

I'm loving Cowboy Christmas! Great work, Julie, Mary, and Ruthy!!!