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Wednesday, May 17, 2017



Where do you find ideas for stories? Is any idea you or someone else might think of really good enough for a novel? Even I have listened to a simple tale a friend might be relating, and said, "That would make a good story." Really? Would it?

An IDEA is not a story. So, what is it? An idea is only a seed, a brief thought that might have potential...or be worthless.

Probably a thousand times I've seen or heard something and thought it would make a good story. But no, the large majority were just that--brief thoughts with nothing to flesh out the plot.

An author friend once told me, "Never let your husband suggest an idea for a story." Why? I asked. She explained what her husband said. "A guy is driving one direction on the interstate, and a girl is driving the opposite direction. They both stop at the same gas station, fill up their vehicles, and go in to pay with credit cards. When the clerk finishes with the credit cards and pushes them back, the guy and the girl inadvertently switch cards, get in their cars, and continue their journey." My friend said she asked him, "So?" His answer, as he pointed a finger in her direction was, "Go with it."

This became very funny to us, knowing the man and that he knew nothing about writing.

Yes, he had an IDEA. But not a story.

Writing a story is hard work, and to begin, we must have a kernel of an idea, yes, but other facets must pop up soon, or that seed will wither and die.

Red Smith, a once famous sportswriter said, "There's nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at your typewriter and open a vein."

I can identify, as I'm sure all authors can. Often, a flash of inspiration will spark my brain, and I think...this is it! I have the greatest idea for a story! But if I can't get past the brilliant idea, I have nothing.

I don't throw out--delete--anything that I begin. If the story has a decent beginning and I believe the next scene will appear, as well, then I save that document. Alas, I have a folder filled with brilliant ideas. But no stories.

What basics are missing from an idea? Two items: Compelling Characters and Conflict.

Here's an idea that keeps haunting me. I thought of it five years ago but never wrote a word. It's actually an opening scene. Why I thought of it, or what to do with it has never reached fruition. It's really just an idea--and I can't think past this part:

About 1940, in a dark farm house, two little girls, four and two, huddle together in a corner beside a bed. The door opens and a man and a woman step in. Still in the dark, they talk.
"What will we do with them?" he asks.
She replies, "I'll take the little one to raise. The other one will be easier for you to raise."
He says, "But what will we tell people to explain the whole situation?"

Very frustrating.
A good storyteller, though would:
~~*~~Move beyond the initial situation.
~~*~~Create a conflict that will propel the story without stopping.
~~*~~Cultivate the idea through frustrations, obstacles, near misses, and deletions as complex as the characters themselves.
~~*~~Open that vein.

Several years ago, I had a flash of brilliancy and thought of a story. I had an Idea. We were on the interstate driving along, and often I'll get some of my best ideas during those times. I told my husband the beginning of the story. I suppose I didn't explain it very well, because he didn't think much of my idea. So, I kept it in my head for a few months. But the Idea kept returning, and I was compelled to write. And I didn't stop, because by then I knew I had a good story.
The title: Crystal Lake Reunion
Where is this book today? Sitting in an Archives file for about 3 years now. It was published by a pretty good publisher, which was bought out by a bigger publisher. I had the option to take it--or let this big group have it. I chose to keep it. Why, I don't know. But maybe it will once again see the light of day.
Celia Yeary
Romance, and a little bit of Texas
My Blog
Sweethearts of the West-Blog
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  1. I find myself intrigued by the switched credit-card story, which is a great inciting incident but isn't at all what the story will be about. I also have a folder (and notebooks) filled with ideas that never graduated to stories, but now I'm motivated to review all those ideas.

  2. Perseverance isn't easy. It's fun starting a story, but lots of work to finish it.

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  4. I rather like the credit-card story too. Such a great place to start. That's how I usually begin when I'm writing as well, just with the kernel of an idea, or an opening scene. Crafting an entire novel around it is a lot of work but that's what the job of writing entails. Creativity is a messy soup and I've learned not to discount anything that might come my way. I've got folders filled with ideas too. :-)

  5. I like the idea of switched credit cards. I can see a romantic comedy easily developing: he looks for her and his credit card. And find while she's about to get married in a week. He's much hotter and nicer than her fiance. And she's prettier and sweeter than his girlfriend. After meeting her fiance, he thinks she should reconsider her engagement. And gives her the bone-melting kiss of her dreams. And...
    Or a romantic suspense with some thrill, if the guy is running away from the mafia to whom he owe money. Now they are after both the girl and the guy, but he'll try to protect her, and they fall in love while hiding from both mafia and police.
    When I have an idea I immediately try to create an outline. If I can do it, then I have a story. Great post, Celia.

    1. Wow--your mind is clicking right along! So, use the intro and "go with it." It left me cold, so I know I'd never make it work. I'm surprised more than one of you saw a story there. Good thoughts...thanks.

  6. I like the idea with two little girls. That could develop into a great romantic suspense years later when the older girl searches for her long lost baby sister with help from a handsome investigator. Lots of possibilities!

    I've had passing ideas many times, too, but they usually fly by without sticking. I'm a pretty one track minded writer. My current WIP drives out every other ideas.

    1. I actually did begin a doc with this scenario and got as far as what the man did with the little girl he took. I also imagined something that occurred in the adjacent bedroom..but that got a bit creepy, and I don't "do creepy." Maybe someday.

  7. Like you, Celia, I have a notebook filled with ideas, paragraphs for beginnings or endings, or somewhere in between. I even have outlines for stories--and yet, some of them will certainly never become a full-fledged story.
    What makes some of these story ideas turn into stories and what keeps some of them just ideas is beyond me. As writers we churn out these ideas because we can't turn off our creative genetics, our imagination. It's who we are and what we do. What we can't use for a story today may very well be in a story another day. We don't know until the time comes so we save them.
    I have plenty of unused story ideas. Funny how we intuitively know what will work. This is how crazy it can be: all I had was a title as my idea. But that title, Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride, turned into a time travel western romance and has been quite successful.
    On the other hand, I had an idea for a story in which a famous violinist would fall in love with a deaf ballerina and, by doing so, break a curse. I even wrote the opening scene. It's been several years and I haven't written that story yet. We just don't know when an idea might grow into a story.
    So, if ever I really understood one of your blogs, this one certainly was the one. Your words jumped up and spoke to me. Thank you!

    1. Sarah--you're welcome! Your creativity is great. I have probably 8 stories in the beginning stages, and I just shut down. I did revive one of them, but never finished the story.
      The fact is, we just know, don't we, when a story will be good or not.
      Thanks for your kind words and your attention--I always count on your comment.

  8. I have snippets of beginnings, middles, and ends tucked away in folders. Few, if any, of them will ever be expanded into a story. Some ideas are doomed to be just ideas, I guess.

    I'm intrigued by both of your story ideas, but it was the two little girls' story that took off in my imagination. Maybe they are recently, and tragically, orphaned, and are set to inherit a fortune when they come of age. The man and woman are an aunt and uncle. Or [since I have Depression Era gangsters on my mind because of a story I'm working on], the mother inherited a fortune and the gangster husband/father from whom she was recently divorced killed her in the heat of an argument. The girls will inherit, so to protect them, relatives hide the girls from dad...

    1. have a whole story there. I'd say use it, but it's mine. Of course with your expertise and talent, you could write something similar and make it your own.
      Who knows..someday I may pick this one up. If...oh, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Christmas!
      Thanks so much for your input..I do love to hear what others think.

  9. Late to the comments, but you make some very good points. Ideas are just that, ideas. It's the fleshing out that is the hard part.

    I like the two children idea. (I did something similar to another story) and having worked with 'children' I'm drawn to those types of stories. Doris