You got that idea from where??

One of the most frequent questions any author will hear is “Where do you get your ideas?” And while the specifics of their answers will vary, the theme for all is the same: Life.

Every conversation you hear, event you see (small or significant), tidbit you read, experience you have… all of these can spark an idea. It depends on your interests, your background, your thoughts and emotions. And like the tiniest sapling, it will flourish and grow until it forms a mighty oak.
(Okay, that was a really bad analogy, but I liked this image I found. Which serves to prove my point about inspiration. I didn’t say all of it had to be good.)

During an adult-ed creative writing class at Jacksonville University, one of my fellow students wrote a descriptive passage about the area that was so beautiful, I thought “I can do that!” and wrote a novel based on a nearby town. I’ve also found story ideas in letters to Dear Abby, snippets of overheard conversations, and even from well-meaning friends who said, “You should write about…” I’ve written novels involving hitchhiking (yes, I did that), house renovation (I’m still doing that), and spouse trading (I didn’t do that, but I probably felt like it once or twice).

Oddly, if you read those books today, you probably couldn’t find any of those inspiring moments in them, because they evolved and changed in the process. But one thing all successful writers will tell you, you have to get the words on paper. We all know the person who “is going to write a book someday”, but it can’t happen unless the words hit the paper.

So if you are an aspiring writer, start listening, reading, paying attention. You never know what might spark that next idea. And for my reader friends, the next time you read a novel and think, “I wonder where that idea came from?”, well… you just never know.

For more thoughts on where writers get ideas, check out these links: Where Do Authors Get Story Ideas? and Where Do Writers Find Their Ideas?  Meanwhile, share your thoughts! Where did your best idea come from?

17 thoughts on “You got that idea from where??

  1. Pernille says:

    I guess my ideas come from, like you said, life. Things I have seen, heard or done. Conversations with people I look up to. Experiences that I have enjoyed. Everything can inspire, I just have to bring an open mind with me.

    Thanks for an amazing and, yes, inspiring post!

  2. jennajaxon says:

    My best ideas for wirting usually come from other books or song lyrics. My best idea, however, the one for my medieval story, came from a History Channel segment on the bubonic plague! You never know where that great idea will spring from. Thanks for the great post, Alex! And congrats on the blog site. It’s very pretty!

  3. Sitting in the closet is a great place to find ideas….seriously, think about it.

  4. kaycee kacer says:

    Great post and welcome to the blogging world! I myself am a sporadic blogger. But you’re right. All my ideas come from little tidbits of life that spark ideas. It can happen at any moment of any day!

  5. Lia Davis says:

    First, welcome to blogging! I love the design! My ideas just come at me at the weirdest times: watching TV, listening to the radio, driving in traffic, working and talking with other people. I have to carry a note pad around with me. You never know when the smallest idea can develop into a great story.

    • When I was writing full-time, I used to keep a small tape recorder with me. I would tape conversations between my characters and then go home and write them into the book. Now I’d probably get a ticket from an officer thinking I was on a cell phone. 😉

  6. Ella says:

    My best ideas come from my life experience, books and my overactive imagination.


    • I agree – for a long time I couldn’t read anything when I was working on a book because I found myself being influenced too much by it. I’m getting better about that, but I still find whatever I’m reading sparking ideas for what I’m writing.

  7. mirriamsmyth says:

    Lately, it’s been while I’m sitting in traffic. I have an hour and a half commute every morning and evening. My daughter sleeps in the back seat, and without anyone to talk to my brain starts wandering. Then an idea’ll hit and it’s off to the races from there.

  8. Thoughtful post, Alex. Welcome to the world of blogging! 🙂 Ideas are such pushy things, aren’t they? I have pages of them all over my computer, notebooks scattered about, and scraps of paper in folders! lol.

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