From Where Do Ideas Come?

Everyone asks writers, especially novelists, "Where do you get your ideas?" I've been asked this. I'd bet money that everyone who has ever published a book has had that question tossed at them.

Sometimes I've felt like saying, "Why, over at the local Wally World. But only when they're on clearance."

The Answer
Instead, I always say, "Writers get ideas from everything they've experienced. People they meet. Things they read. Stories they hear. Television, movies, eavesdropped conversations. Everything is idea fodder."

Idea File
I also keep an Idea File. That sounds pretty organized, but it's actually one of those expanding files with slots filled with items I've torn from newspapers or other print publications as well as things I've found by happenstance. For instance, in one of the slots is a scrap of paper I found in a used book I bought. The cryptic note talks about a woman who is a slut and lists some Bible verses. I looked them up in the Bible. Freaky stuff.

Also in there is a bulletin from a 1962 drive-in movie theater that lists what's showing that month. I think I found that in an antique cabinet I bought.

Another intriguing tidbit is an ad torn from a newspaper. It reads: "J.E.P. ALBUQUERQUE, CHA-CHA-CHA Lessons Needed. Hurry, he is dying. Call Julia @ (555)123-4567."

Oh, man! Doesn't your imagination just go wild with plot scenarios for that ad? I found it in a used book too, and I've had it for years. One of these days, don't be surprised if you see that in a book I've written.

Organized Ideas
Once I just tossed all this stuff in a storage box, but it's useless that way. During a January organization orgy a couple of years ago, I got the expanding file, went through everything, and categorized. Then I pulled some and placed them in a binder. These are the ideas that sparked manuscripts I've either written or am writing. The rest went into the labeled divisions of the expanding file.

Now if you ask me from where do I get my ideas, I can show you. Literally. Cool, huh?


  1. If you really loved us, you'd scan that 1962 drive-in bulletin and post it.

  2. Silly me! I didn't even think of that, Bill. I tend to think what I find fascinating doesn't necessarily fascinate the rest of the world. Going to do it. Look for it maybe tomorrow.

  3. I just got a visual of you responding to that question by whipping out your folder of ideas. LOL.

    I get asked that question all the time. Someday I'll come up with a pithy little response that won't take me forever to tell.

  4. Liz, you got me laughing. If only I were as efficient as I sound. *g*

  5. Thanks for adding me to your blogroll! I'll be returning the favor that next time I update my template.