Before our post today, I would like to take a moment to honor our veterans and families. Thank you for all you’ve given in service to our country. Please let us know in the comments today if you're a veteran or family member. We want to honor you!
We recently had a blog reader email us asking where we get our story ideas, and whether it’s okay to write a story if the idea got sparked while reading someone else’s story. I’m not an attorney or able to give any legal advice about copyright law. But I can say that story ideas come from everywhere! And certainly, our creative brains get clicking while we’re reading. If you’re concerned, I’d suggest reading more info on copyright (click here). It specifically says ideas cannot be copyrighted. Still, I suggest reading up on the topic. It’s always good to be informed!
However, all of us reading here today could be told to write a story, and given details about the characters and plot, and each story would turn out differently. We all bring different perspectives, different life experiences, different voices to our work. This is what makes stories so rich!
I thought it would be fun to share a bit today about where some of us get our story ideas. I recently polled the Seeker authors, and we had a discussion about this topic. Here’s what they shared with me…
I get a lot of my story ideas from research on my work in progress. I come across some interesting detail that doesn't work for the current book but sparks a whole idea for another book. I've also gotten ideas from movies, books, travel and people watching.
My idea for The Kincaid Brides Series came from a long-ago trip to Carlsbad Cavern.
Petticoat Ranch came from my husband growing up with a family with seven sons, then us having four daughters and watching his mind be boggled by the way girls act.
The Sophie's Daughters Series was based on my belief that despite all the very strict rules for women's behavior back in history, folks who headed west probably went their own way a LOT. Women NOT riding side saddle. Wearing pants. Working alongside husbands and husbands not being afraid of women's work. Thus the female doctor, wrangler and sharpshooter....all manly jobs.
A new idea came from the founder of my home town, Decatur, Nebraska....he LIED and said his name was Stephen Decatur, related to a famed Revolutionary War general. And OUR Stephen Decatur was a scoundrel...much of that has been hushed up. I'm changing the names to protect the legacy.
Lots of my ideas come from research and visiting museums. Or from wanting to tackle a social issue like PTSD, war veterans, orphans, social sins...I tackle all those issues in my upcoming Regency series. Finding a timeless issue and putting it in a different social, economic, or historical environment and seeing what happens. :)
We all get inspired by stories and each person tells it differently.
I'd remind folks that it's not just creativity. It's science. Action/reaction. Character arcs. I think that's where writers lack inspiration, is keeping people in their lane and building the story from how they would react under the circumstances. The mathematical side of writing fascinates me.
I'm a people watcher. And listener. And, like Mary, when I'm researching one book, a detail will jump out and be used for a different book.
The basic is, where don't I get story ideas? They're EVERYWHERE. I have WAY TOO MANY, and not nearly enough time to write them all.
One example - I got the idea for Christmas in Hiding when I was standing at my kitchen sink doing dishes. I could hear a block party on the next block and I started thinking, what if everyone was invited except one person, and what if everyone got poisoned (not fatal) except for that one person? Would she get blamed? Would she have done it? Ultimately, everything about the opening scene (and the book) changed, but that party was what triggered it.
Another story idea (that I haven't used yet and probably won't) came as I was walking to school and saw a muddy communion veil by the curb. Like every other idea, my brain immediately turns it into a story. How did it get there? Was it just lost, thrown away? Since I write suspense.... the questions get darker.
Ideas can come from just about anywhere. Watching the news, hearing a story about someone… Other times things just pop into my head. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the middle of writing a book and then read another one with the same premise. But every writer comes at a specific situation with a different perspective. Like Ruthy said, no two books would be written the same. Different voice, different life experiences, all those things play into the telling of a story.
From my experience:
I get ideas from everywhere—listening to conversations at restaurants and elsewhere, watching people (while trying not to look too nosy!), reading news reports, and listening to sermons. Because I love to write about opposites attracting, I often dream up two entirely different people to throw together in a story.
In Her Unlikely Family, I wanted to put together a stiff banker in a tough situation with a unique, generous waitress ready to jump in to help. In The Doctor’s Second Chance, I wanted to throw together a small-town rugged home contractor with an uptight big-city pediatrician whom he resented.
In A Family for Faith, I was on a flight home from an RWA conference and watched as a single dad tried over and over to put a bow in his daughter’s hair and could not manage it. I yanked out a notepad and started writing ideas for a story about dad with a daughter at an age where she really needed a mother. I also used the real-life experience of a friend of mine as part of my divorced heroine’s backstory—where her child chose to go live with his dad and the pain that caused. So that story had ideas from everywhere!
You know, for this post, I was originally going to try to create a list of places or methods for getting story ideas. But now that I’ve re-read all the input from these writers, I don’t think I’ll try to do that. Every one of us gets ideas from whatever inspires us, whatever makes us question things, whatever sends our brains off in wild directions (worse-case-scenario-itis for some of us!). :)
If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, look at what interests you. Open your eyes, ears, and heart. Pray for God to show you something that you can get passionate about. Because no matter how great an idea might seem, it really needs to be something you can wholeheartedly throw yourself into for the book to resonate and have heart.
Each of us is unique. Each of us has a lot to offer the world. Now go, enjoy writing those stories that are uniquely yours to tell!
Let’s chat! Tell us where you get your ideas. And those who aren’t writers, tell us story ideas you’d love to see written.
After more than 10 years of pursuing her dream of publication, Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.com, https://twitter.com/MissyTippens and http://www.facebook.com/missy.tippens.readers.