View Full Version : How did you come up with your story?

04-24-2009, 07:31 AM
... because I have no idea how I came up with mine.

All I know is, it was the morning just after a rain, my cat was really sick, and as I was driving him to the vet I saw a rainbow over this stretch of empty road. And I thought to myself, "a dark story about the ruin of two sisters might be nice." Or something like that. True story, I swear!

Funnily enough, later that same day, my agent called to offer representation of another project. Fast forward to several months, and I completed that dark story about the ruin of two sisters, which of course became much more fleshed out as the months passed.

And now that it's done, my agent and a few editors and people ask me, "How did you come up with this story?"

I don't know. I can't just say I was looking at a rainbow and it occurred to me. That's like saying "I was making spaghetti, and I thought I'd go write a story about a young boy who discovers he's a wizard."

Moreover, I don't have a sister. I don't know anyone who's been murdered by a schizophrenic. I don't even know a Japanese person (well, at least). I had to buy a violin just to figure out how my character would play it. The truth is, it just happened. It was a manifestation of several thoughts I had over the course of several different days, over the course of several months. It grew vines in traffic. It sprouted tiny buds while I was watching the news.

So when I'm asked how it came to be, this story I'm madly in love with, I have to say, "I don't know." And I feel kinda lame about it.

What about you guys? How did your stories come to be? How do you answer these questions?

04-24-2009, 07:52 AM
Mine is no less random!
I keep journals for all the "novels" and try to remember to write down when and where the catalyst happened.

Most of my fantasy involves some sort of bond between a human and an animal or magical creature, and it was no surprise I would write one about dragons and people - but I wanted the dragon-people to be different from the rest of humanity ... but I wasn't sure what purpose they would fill in the world (or kingdom) they were in and then.... along comes George Clooney in Syriana. I saw the part of the trailer where he sits in a restaurant booth and proceeds to threaten this man in the most coldblooded, ruthless manner. Well, first of all, I am a sucker for George Clooney, but besides being turned on by that amazing voice, something clicked. I knew I wanted a faction of my dragon people to be like the CIA and homeland security balled into one, and the rest of the story unfolded.

(yes, of course I wrote George a part in the story, minus the extra 40 lbs he put on for the movie and the scruffy beard.)

Linda Adams
04-24-2009, 02:29 PM
I actually can tell people what inspired all three of my projects--my current one, and my next two ones.

Current one I'm finishing up: My travels to science fiction and fantasy conventions, where I saw how meeting celebrities often brought out the worst in people. But it was also in inspired by the politics in Washington, DC and my family's historical house.

Second One: This one's still in development, but I wanted to write about someplace I'd been to. I also wanted to write about beaches and something to do with seashells, so the story came from a place I often visited when I grew up--Morro Bay, California.

Third One: This one started with a newspaper article on people finding valuable objects in old houses they buy and the legal issues that arise. But it's also inspired by my family's historical house and my great-great grandfather (the one who built the house).

Stijn Hommes
04-24-2009, 02:49 PM
My stories are usually a combination of different ideas.
My first major original fanfiction character was sparked by a particular well-written character I read and the inspiration another writer gave me. The plot of the story was a blatant rip off from a television episode of a well-known show.

I think that character stuck with me, because my TV pilot idea is basically a rewritten version of that character combined with characteristics of his love interest and another well-known character. The idea was based on a magic performance I saw, but I have yet to work out a single working plot to make a fully fleshed out episode (let alone more than one)

04-24-2009, 02:54 PM
Sometimes they just come to me. More often than not, I throw some random pictures of random people into a file folder and let them tell me their story. I've done this with pics from the internet and from magazines, and it's spawned several of my recent WIP's.

And, I must give credit where it's due: One of my recent finished novels literally started with scarletpeaches saying (while I was having an "I don't know what to work on" wangst moment) "Oh for God's sake, just write about (X, Y, Z)." Two hours later, I had an outline. A month later, the finished draft of Between Brothers.

So...10% random lightning strike of an idea, 80% throw pictures together and let the characters tell the story, 10% wangst to scarletpeaches until she throws some brilliance into my brain.

04-24-2009, 02:59 PM
The WIP I've just finished came out of nowhere. I planned to start writing on November the first but on Hallowe'en had no characters, no story, no nothing.

So I thought, what sells? Sex. I'll write lots of sex scenes. And spank my ass and call me Charlie if a storyline didn't develop as I went along.

Also, the WIP I'm working on just now started as a 'personal' NaNo project years ago. I bought "No Plot? No Problem!" and decided to set a date and get writing. That, too, came out of nowhere. BUT, though the storyline was sound, it was missing something...a magic feather.

Rude bits. ;)

So years later I'm rejigging the entire novel and making it an erotic urban fantasy.

My best work seems to come out of nowhere. If I think about ideas rather than just getting down to work and writing them, I stall, I faff about, I get nowhere.

04-24-2009, 03:05 PM
I prowl around SYW until I find something that looks promising, and then I steals it!

Nah, I'm kidding....or am I?

04-24-2009, 03:39 PM
I wrote this article (http://radiomagonline.com/features/radio_night_brant_rock/). It's about the first actual radio transmission in 1906, kind of the birth of AM radio.

Around this time my wife was watching "Ghost Hunters" on TV.

I kind of merged the two things in my head and wondered, wouldn't it be weird if ghosts travelled on the electromagnetic spectrum like a radio wave? If so, some kind of device could be made to "receive" a ghost. This idea intrigued me due to my engineering background, but I was stumped on how to make such a device.

But then I thought it would make an interesting story.

So I wrote it.

04-24-2009, 04:23 PM
Well my current story came from a different series. lol. I had originally had it as a third book in a series but the new characters and the storyline was so interesting for me that i decided to make it a different series. Since then the plot, character names etc. have all changed multiple times. A lot of swapping and changing went on before i came to something i was happy with :D

How i stumbled across the actual story though, was that i came up with the name "Realm of Dreams", something that fascinated me. From there i thought of a name "Dreamweaver", which is now a title for a powerful Spellcaster/wizard. Then i came to an antagonist/villain which had to oppose the Realm of Dreams so i came up with Nightmare. And then i came up with other characters, some of them becoming more central and it evolved and changed into what it is now, hehe :D

Calla Lily
04-24-2009, 04:43 PM
My first book came out of "write what you know". I know Catholicism, nuns/priests/monks, and horror. Okay, I'm on the 8th draft, because the first 6 were practice and the 7th got caught in the Bad Agent debacle. So I'm scrubbing off the bad mojo and retooling it.

My second came as a challenge from an agent who rejected the horror. He said that he'd really like to see a book about a nun who fights crime. I said to myself, "Nah. I'm a horror writer." 2 months later, my brain informed me it'd been working on this idea when I wasn't looking. 8 months after that I had a final draft. (This is the book that got me my agent, so you really never know.)

My third came out of another challenge. I was bemoaning the lack of vampire books that are thinly disguised soft-core p0rn, and the Horror Hounds on AW said I should just shut up and write a vamp book myself. So I did. A vamp book with smex AND a plot! Who'd of thunk it?

My next one is in the planning stages--a UF with angels, demons, ghosts, and an MC who cuts (She told me she cuts. I'm just writing it down.) The idea for this came from a scene in the vamp book.

Of course, I have 2 sequels in the planning stages for the mystery, so who knows what I'll really be working on next?

04-24-2009, 04:51 PM
My penultimate novel came about because I read a non-fiction book about a woman in the States who takes in abandoned and neglected horses, kind of like horse foster care. And then I wondered what if she also took in orphaned teenagers and they helped care for the horses. And what if... you get the idea.

My latest novel, an MG, came about because my niece stayed with us for a week during the summer, came camping with us, and so on. She's the basis for one of the characters; my daughter's the basis for the MC. My niece hates the outdoors, loves to watch TV, she's thin as a rail and white as a sheet. By contrast, my daughter's outside every chance she gets, loves camping, skateboarding, cycling, downhill skiing. She's strong and robust and healthy. I just decided to juxtapose those two characters and see what would happen.

And that's my inspiration.

04-24-2009, 04:52 PM
... one of my recent ones sprung out of a failed WIP. I was going to scrap the whole thing but found that one chapter was solid. (A sex scene, lol.) So I saved it and built a new WIP around it.

Leah J. Utas
04-24-2009, 05:39 PM
A scene pops into my head and I can't get shed of it. For my current WIP I had paranoid thoughts about mirrors recording everything they reflect.
It's a fun story to write.

04-24-2009, 06:18 PM
I got the idea for mine while reading a book for a Philosophy of Mind class in college. Their was a particular case study documented that I found interesting. The rest of the story branched off from there.

04-24-2009, 06:34 PM
My WIP started off as a project for a Writer's Workshop I took in college. I was playing a Marvel Comics RPG at the time and thought "What if a role-gamer met up with a character from their game?" It started off as a short story which I tried to flesh out into something novel length but it never went anywhere. So it stewed and morphed over the years. Then I was watching a documentary on books banned from the bible and got an ephiphany. It's rolled from there.

04-24-2009, 06:39 PM
The first one came to me when I was listening to 'Fields of Gold', Eva Cassidy's version. It was the middle of the western Monsoon, it was horribly hot and sticky and I had a pang of homesickness for England and, particularly, for Berkshire. So, I took myself back there in the story.
The second one is a follow on from the first. I loved being back in Berkshire, in my head, so much that I decided to stay there a little longer.
The WIP is from a short story I wrote years and years ago for a Soviet History class. I wrote a novel based on it years and years ago and now I'm rewriting it.

04-24-2009, 07:56 PM
It varies. Sometimes I can point to a specific news story or thing. My novel was inspired by my pet cockroach. A recent short was inspired by Asian elephants being retrained as artists.

But other stories, I have no idea. The idea is just there or arrives when I see something unconnected ('I looked at the frog and thought: Aha! Robots!'). I'd probably blame the pixies. Or explain the frog thing. I don't worry about sounding odd.

04-24-2009, 08:30 PM
A Devil in the Details came about because of a conversation my hubby and I had, about what kind of urban fantasy hero he'd like to see. (he was getting frustrated with the female-centric stuff at the time) It was on May 20th, 2007, 'cause it was our wedding anniversary, and we were having a rare lunch sans kiddo. I think we sat there for like three hours, hashing out the world-building and character and plot for the first book.

Muse was inspired by a stray comment from a friend of mine about how he couldn't seem to write anything himself, but he seemed to be a great source of inspiration to the writers around him (like a muse). He was a bit sad about it, actually, and it got me to thinking about the character, etc. It went from there. (the character is actually named after my friend, he says it's weird to see his name in a book like that)

I don't remember how I came up with Peacemaker, except that I wanted something that involved a sentient jackalope, and a western seemed the best environment for it. (Peacemaker is a fantasy western)

04-24-2009, 09:04 PM
My ideas pop up randomly. For example, my current WIP came from Lord of The Rings. I had been watching the LotR movies obsessively for a while then I stopped. Went cold turkey. Few weeks later, all of the sudden I realized that I wanted to make a Gimli of my own, dagnabit!

So, I am. xD

04-24-2009, 09:19 PM
First one is based off one of my favourite poems. It inspired me to write a book on the emotion it evoked in me. I came up with a basic plot and just went with it.
The second one started with one scene I wanted to write. I planned for it to be contemporary like the first, but it turned paranormal on me. Then I thought up a basic plot and it went from there too.
I don't like to outline, just know roughly where I'm going.

04-24-2009, 09:22 PM
My current WIP idea came from my wife and my cat.

I have an idea for a future story that came from a weird dream.

04-24-2009, 09:31 PM
My next WIP (just beginning the outline) idea came from my boss and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

My current WIP (finished...just cooling off before the I start the final edit) came from when I left my camera at a wedding, and someone took it and took many pictures of people I didn't know, before returning it to me.

04-24-2009, 09:37 PM
Usually I get a crush on someone (could be a star or that guy who works at the coffeeshop) and I start entertaining myself with some way to get together with him. It usually involves me having to be much younger and better-looking than I am and lots of bizarre complications, and, eventually, voila. A MC, a love interest, and the rudiments of a plot.

Then sometimes it's a dream, or some random crap just running through my head. Could be anything, really.


04-24-2009, 09:55 PM
For me, my story about a young woman who travels to Russia and meets a ghost in her hotel room was inspired by, um... traveling to Russia and meeting a ghost in my hotel room :)

Although phrasing it that way makes me feel really uncreative.

04-24-2009, 10:38 PM
I was lying in bed, trying to sleep when an idea for a scene popped into my head. I got up, turned my laptop on and got the idea down before it faded.

That scene is both the first chapter of my novel, and the first thing I'd written in ten years.

Matera the Mad
04-24-2009, 11:45 PM
Some I just wake up with. Poof, there it is. But the major novel I've been working on has a really funny beginning. I wrote a couple of short parody AU fanfics. Then, because of an idea I used in them, I set out to write a prequel concerning the origin of the use of a certain magical root. It was my first finished novel, a great confidence-booster. A character who turned up in the middle of it half took over. He engendered an even longer sequel to the prequel. Then he turned up in a fic that he had no business being in. I either had to kill him or...tell his "real" story. We are both much better for it; living happily ever after, you might say.

04-25-2009, 12:04 AM
Sometimes they just come to me. More often than not, I throw some random pictures of random people into a file folder and let them tell me their story. I've done this with pics from the internet and from magazines, and it's spawned several of my recent WIP's.

I do that, too. How funny. Or I glue pictures in a collage on posterboard.

04-25-2009, 01:50 AM

04-25-2009, 02:39 AM
story came from lazyness. I did a sunday flash fiction challenge about a kid called Marin, came from the monastery and now found himself keeping watch on the ramparts of a castle while the Wyverns were screaming in the nearby forest. It was medieval fantasy. Pthom bugged me about and i kept thinking so I started writing for real. The MC was Luc La Fontaine, a knight back from the crusades with PTSD, and it was spec historical, just like real england, only there were Wyverns. It was some sort of plot against King John. Then I realized the amount of research involved and I said no thanks.

So I updated it. Set it in modern times. He's now Luke Fontaine, a veteran of the afghanistan conflict with PTSD who sees an imaginary Komodo dragon. Marin, the kid from the monastery is now Milan, a russian immigrant (he came with his parents) and they are trying to catch a terrorist who Luke knows from the afghanistan conflict and who Milan's father fought in the Russia-Afghanistan conflict. Just for kicks, there's a connection to the siege of Sarajevo and the Bosnian war as well. Originally it was supposed to be a canadian literary novel that examined Luke's PTSD and his homoerotic relationship with Milan.

But now it's a screenplay, a thriller/adventure with lots of guns, and no homoeroticism. I guess I'll save that for my next book. And Pthom still thinks I should write the historical. Research? yeah, not so much. :D

ETA d'oh! I just realized I'm doing research for the novel, about the conflicts and the siege and the university of Sarajevo and guns and IEDs. I guess I don't think of it as research when I enjoy it.

04-25-2009, 02:42 AM
My sister's apartment had a roofed single-row parking area behind it, and whenever you went to your car, a bunch of birds would fly out of their nests in the roof and circle around and chirp over you. It was kind of intense, and weirdly inspiring. I started to feel a setting, a city, and then I started to see a character in it...

04-25-2009, 01:36 PM
Mine came from life. I did girl guides until about a year ago, but then i got to the age where you either got your own group of little kids to look after or you were just generally too old for it. But then i thought, hang on we did a lot of random stuff that seems pretty useless over the years, what if it was a program for recognising potentional spies. Hence came along my WIP Corded Bars

04-25-2009, 02:44 PM
I sometimes lurk aboard doomer websites and am fascinated by their efforts to prepare for a wide array of disasters. My current WIP throws a few of these disasters at a group of would-be survivalists and generally tortures them in character revealing ways.

A couple of ideas I have started (now in-waiting) evolved from characters I have met and events from my long and mottled life.

04-25-2009, 03:26 PM
I went looking for my current idea. It was a conscious decision to come up with something different to my other work. The start of that plan came from thinking about the bad guy in my last book and wondering what his (metaphorical) big brother would be like.

04-25-2009, 03:37 PM
Mine came a few years ago when I went to the store to play with the iphone right after it first came out. It had all these cool apps, and I came up with some cooler ones in my head, and it turned pretty sci-fi from there.

04-25-2009, 05:12 PM
Dreams, snippets of conversation, eavesdroppings, and a healthy mixture of my favorite books/movies.

04-25-2009, 05:51 PM
Whoa, how DID it happen?

Well, there's this cool apartment house on the East Side of Providence that has door awnings held up by chains that are clutched in the claws of stone demons. Somehow I thought this would be a great place for a detective to live, a detective who would investigate cases involving Lovecraftian gods and monsters. I started out calling him Tracer Bullitt, which is the name of a cartoon detective in the Calvin and Hobbes strip. Later he became Tracer O'Conaghan, and he was divorced, with custody of a Lovecraft addict son named Sean.

Along the way, Sean took over the story. He got himself another father, and Tracer became a minor character. An antagonist appeared, who was supposed to be Lovecraft's colonial wizard, Simon Orne. The antagonist eventually morphed into my own colonial wizard, Redemption Orne. Add a sufficiently slimy monster. Now the potion started bubbling.

The rest of the plot came from speed-writing an outline that grew from sketchy notes to full-fledged scenes and dialogue. Through three drafts, that plot has stayed basically the same, but with many deletions and additions and substitutions. Extensive character studies and magic system formulation between the first and second drafts were a huge help (I hope) to deepening the story.

04-25-2009, 05:54 PM
I'll very often find a snip of inspiration in something else I'm currently reading or watching on television. Occasionally from conversations, especially with my dad (the man is a fountain of cool ideas). It'll be something small that I'll automatically combine with some fantasy element, and go, "Dude! That's neat!"

The original inspiration for TDTD has nothing to do with the story I eventually wrote. I'd just read a novel about demons and hell, so that was fresh on my mind when my brain amalgamated Buffy's resurrection from season six. So I asked myself, "What would convince a dead vampire slayer to willingly come back to life for one more hunt?" I even wrote a scene in which the heroine is summoned to purgatory to make this deal. Not even close to the novel I wrote and sold, but that's the genesis.

04-25-2009, 07:08 PM
As always happens to me, random characters appear in my head and I have to figure out what to do with them.

So I read a book about the death penalty, and the next day, there was a guy in my head. An Okie like me, like the convicted men in the book. He reminded me a little of a guy I was engaged to when I was very young, who probably would have ended up on death row if he hadn't been killed. Only this guy was funny and he was reading a National Geographic, looking at the pictures to get a break from the gray walls of his cell. He was in my head for a few days, with me trying to figure out who and what he was. How'd he get there? Was he looking forward to his execution or trying to avoid it?

Then a few days later, I was taking a walk, and this other character showed up. This girl chopping wood with an axe in a forest at night. She was very small, very ugly, and very alone. She knew someone was coming for her and she was afraid of that, but resigned. And she had many things the guy in the cell needed: calm, compassion, self-respect.

So I said, "How do I get them together so that she can help him and he can help her?"

04-30-2009, 09:53 PM
Though I write fantasy my ideas brewed from my experiences. I'm also a daydreamer. It was cool thinking of events in real life and how it would have been if there were supernatural things involved. All that was left was writing it all down on paper.

05-01-2009, 01:10 AM
About half the time, the main character appears first in my mind, and the story and setting develop from there. "I've got this really awesome character. Now, what matters to her?"

The other half, the story arises from the setting during worldbuilding, and the main character comes second. "I'd like to write a story about alpha, beta, and gamma. Now, who can play the part?"

05-01-2009, 01:14 AM
My sister's apartment had a roofed single-row parking area behind it, and whenever you went to your car, a bunch of birds would fly out of their nests in the roof and circle around and chirp over you. It was kind of intense, and weirdly inspiring. I started to feel a setting, a city, and then I started to see a character in it...

That sounds pretty cool.

Chauchat Butterfly
05-01-2009, 02:11 AM
It's a Frankenstein's monster formed from the parts of other stories.

05-04-2009, 05:16 AM
I actually have no idea where Shadowplay (my completed novel) came from I had horrible insomnia and I thought up Dresden first and he of course mentioned Alana and it all just came from there. The second book in my Shadowplay series was a seperate story I had thought of but then tied into first one.

I know my current WIP came from my bleeding heart love of Layne Staley, having read The Heroin Diaries and The Dirt back to back and me thinking about what it would be like to be in a relationship with someone who was slowly killing themselves and it kind of took off from there

05-04-2009, 05:45 AM
Over a conversation about elves as a friend and I browse the Internet...

"You got something techno rather than fantasy?"

"Not really, no. Don't like it that much. I'm gonna use that as my wallpaper I think..." *click*

"...Dude, you seen those ears? I bet she could catch an FM station with those."




05-04-2009, 05:51 AM
Okay. I'm going to kill the joy buzz, here. I plot my stories according to what I believe will make them marketable. I may begin with a random idea about floating purple puppies, but chances are it will morph into a viable tale about a woman who works at an animal shelter, or something. I have a few completed manuscripts that I wrote by just letting things flow from an initial idea, and they are still sitting in my files, while I have had a couple of nibbles on the stuff I wrote with the purpose of selling. Just me talking...

05-04-2009, 06:50 AM
The story I just started came from walking down a suburban street one evening and being overwhelmed by the atmosphere.