Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

I’ve written nine novels, close to 100 short stories and have five books published on Amazon. I’m often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” And in  the Facebook writers’ groups I belong to, I often see this question posted. Well, where do I get my ideas? Everywhere. Newspaper articles, history, things people say.

Because I’m writing fiction, I am addressing writing fiction.

There are many sites on the internet that offer writing prompts. I’ve gotten ideas from reading these. Search the internet for “short story prompts,” “romance prompts,” “fiction prompts” and “story idea prompts.”

5,000 Writing Prompts by Bryn Donovan really does list 5,000 prompts.

Other people’s lives can offer a wealth of ideas for you. I wrote a romantic short story based on the couple who lived across the hall from me. He said that when they were single, they both owned condo units in the building we lived in. They each lived on a different floor and met in the elevator. And eventually they got married, he sold his unit and they kept her unit.

Advice columns can be an excellent resource for ideas. News items are fertile grounds for ideas. History is another fertile ground for ideas.

When I was doing  historical research for a short story I was writing, I contacted the librarian at the El Dorado, California public library (most public libraries have an “ask a librarian” function). In connection with this, she sent me a newspaper article about the first woman driver in Placerville, California. That gave me an idea for another short story that I am including in my upcoming collection of short stories called Sweet Victory.

Incidents that happened in history can spark story ideas. The California Gold Rush. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Asa Mercer’s bringing marriageable women to Seattle in the 1800s. The women who worked as waitresses for the Harvey House Restaurants at the train stations. Circuses and the wild-west shows. Vaudeville. The silent-movie era. 

The Orphan Train Movement was the inspiration for my short story Nobody’s Child, which is also included in Stories of Hope.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City in 1911 was the basis for my story The Fire in my short story collection Stories of Hope, which is available on Amazon. 

Someone forced to leave the life and environment that he or she knows for some reason who has to adjust to and get along in a completely new environment works well in most genres of fiction. In my story Left Holding the Bag  (Stories of Hope collection), Lucy Mae Logan’s life changes for what appears to be the worst because of a chance encounter with a bank robber.  

The whole world is your resource. Don’t worry if you come up with an idea for a plot that’s been told before.  They say all story ideas have been written before. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back has been written over and over again. But, as with any story idea, you can make it all your own with your own characters and the circumstances in your story. 

Could this Harvey House at the Santa Fe Station in Chanute Kansas and the “Harvey Girls” standing out in front give you an idea for a story?

Click here to see this photo on the Library of Congress’s website. Do you know who the Harvey Girls were? If you do an internet search, you’ll find out and maybe a story will come to you.

Inspiration is out there just waiting for you.