Posted by: Kathleen Mix | October 1, 2012

Free Story Ideas

Readers and aspiring writers often ask me where I get my story ideas and if, after six published books, I worry about running out of stories to tell.
I don’t worry, because I’m rarely without a long list of stories to write. In fact, the more I write, the more frequently stories ideas appear. Every time I read a newspaper or book, watch television, or meet someone new, I find fresh inspiration.
Newspapers are a treasure trove of story ideas. The events reported in the articles are merely the visible tip of an iceberg, a hint at what came before, and will come after, in someone’s life. They can be the beginning or end of a book or a motivation for a character. A small piece about a woman’s drowning sparked most of my protagonist’s backstory in River of Fear.
Even newspaper ads or product reviews can provide interesting story props or tidbits. A piece about cremains (the ashes left after a person’s cremation) being subjected to extreme pressure and transformed into artificial diamonds gave me the idea for an important symbol in a futuristic manuscript.
Sometimes when I read a book, my imagination sees a different take on the story. What if a character did something other than the action they took in the book? What if events happened in a different order and completely changed the plot? What if there was a storm and the covert operative’s boat sunk? (A plot question I used in Secret Stranger) What if the plane crashed –or was assumed to have crashed? (A plot question I used in Deadly Paradise) What if a character’s spouse died? (A plot question I used in River of Fear) What if her business was on the brink of bankruptcy? (A plot question I used in Beyond Paradise)
Television programs try to hook viewers quickly by presenting an intriguing situation in the first five minutes. If I turn off the show at that point, I can imagine the rest of the story. My version rarely resembles the one told by the television scriptwriter, because every writer has a unique view of life.
I doubt I’ll ever run out of book ideas. Most of my ideas come from the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been, and the things I’ve done. Travel, whether near or far, always excites my muse. But simply eating out, watching a dance recital or soccer game, or attending a county fair can send my mind into overdrive.
A writer who chooses to take varied routes to work, or shop in a new section of town, or meet new people in places they don’t normally go, will never run out of ideas. Every new experience has the potential to spark a character, or setting, or plot.
As long as I keep my life from stagnating, I’ll have an ample supply of ideas. And I have no plans to stagnate anytime soon.


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