A recurring question writers are asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?” We get our ideas the same place everyone else gets their ideas. They arrive at odd moments, usually when we’re not trying too hard. When the left-brain backs off and allows the right brain freedom, ideas flow. This happens in the early morning, in the last hour before falling asleep, in the shower, driving, and while baking.
Relaxing my left-brain is my reason for shopping and making brownies. I had the idea for my novella in A Western Winter Wonderland for a long time. The first thing I knew was the first thing I usually know: The Feel of the Story. The atmosphere. The way I will feel while I write and the way I wanted readers to feel when they read the story. Unexplainable, actually, but for me atmosphere is the story skeleton, as much as plot outline or characters.
A character always comes next. For this story it was Marvel. I knew she was lonely and had spent her life caring for an elderly father. Life had passed her by, and she wanted more. She got the wrong man the first time. Sorry, Marvel. My bad. I came up with Brody, an Irishman with a sexy brogue and a son and a backstory about his wife and her unscrupulous father, plus a whole complex scenario where the father-in-law cheated him out of his shipyards yada yada. He was a nice guy. Probably would have made a good lover and husband. But he had too much baggage and something was missing. Chemistry perhaps.
So Marvel waited for her perfect man. A couple years passed. When I needed a Christmas novella, I thought of Marvel, still lonely, still wanting more. Story making can be better than real life, so I could fix that! If my character gets the wrong guy the first time, I just delete him. Poof! And find her a better guy. Along came the New Guy With No Name. Now what?
Give him character traits that will play off hers. Give him a backstory, give him something she wants. Give him a name….hmmm…. I put out a query to my blog readers: Please help me name my hero. They had great ideas! One of them had the perfect name. As soon as I heard Seth Paxton, I knew Seth was right. So I jotted down all the things I knew and plotted and made lists and a created a calendar. I’m working on strengthening timelines and transitions, so I use a calendar to keep myself accountable.
So you see, a story comes from jotting down resonating ideas and eventually assembling them into a plot structure. It comes from sleeping and reading, from watching television and shopping, from showering and eating brownies. That’s my latest story, and I’m sticking to it.