Mommy, Where Do Stories Come From?

It always starts with this feeling, this sort of low-voltage electricity near my tailbone that just hums along beneath my skin and along my nerves until it reaches my fingers. Once the inspiration hits, I have no choice, I must go write something!

The inspiration to write, to create a story from thin air, often comes from the strangest places. At this time of year it often begins with the sight of a dogwood tree in bloom. Their blossoms remind me of lace on a wedding dress. That naturally turns my thoughts to romance, and then to writing. Sometimes it’s fun to go to the mall, sit and watch the people walking by. It’s fun to metaphorically mix and match the people walking by into the most unlikely couples.

I once had a creative writing teacher who told me when she needed inspiration she would go to a cemetery, the older the better, then wander between the graves. She’d imagine the lives lived, the history witnessed; then become inspired to write.

I have a passion for music. I can’t play worth a darn and I can’t carry a tune in the proverbial bucket. But I appreciate those who can. However, I really admire songwriters. I am often inspired by the lyrics to songs. Have you ever listened to the lyrics of the Patti Page classic, Faded Love? Oh, there’s at least one story in that song. What about Willie Nelson’s Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain? And you can easily fishbone at least four or five stories from Nickleback’s Photograph or The Beatles The Long and Winding Road.

I live on thirty acres in rural Oklahoma. Just near the eastern edge of our property stands an old, gnarled oak tree. In the fall, the western sun gilds the tree at sunset. In the winter, the tree stands naked and bare. In spring, the oak shelters the blooming dogwoods and redbuds. And the summer, it stands tall, silent, and mysterious in its age. One day several years ago, my son and daughter were out using a metal detector near the tree. Near one of its exposed roots, they found a rusted spur buried six inches below the surface. Just a spur and nothing else.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many stories I have woven in my head about the rusted spur.

So tell me, what inspires you?


7 thoughts on “Mommy, Where Do Stories Come From?

  1. I love the tree and the story of the rusted spur! You need to write it one day!

    I live on five acres in the middle of nowhere in LA (Lower Alabama). Right now all it is inspiring me to do is crank up the lawn mower!

    Music inspires me. A photograph inspired the beginning of my GH finalist The Raven’s Heart. It was a black and white photo of a tree-lined drive shrouded in mist on the Suffolk coast in a town called Dunwich,the village that literally fell off into the sea.

    The book before that was inspired by a writing exercise that a friend suggested because I was having trouble on the book I was writing.

    That book was inspired by a character in a soap opera. I just transported him to Regency England, gave him a whole new set of problems and voila!

    My newest book was inspired by one of the oddest propositions I have received in my 50 years.

    I think as writers almost anything inspires us and therein lies the difference between us and “normal” people !

  2. The idea for one of my stories came from a comment from a taxi driver in Juneau, Alaska. But it wasn’t until the next year that the idea hit me. {Sometimes it takes me a while. Guess my ideas have to germinate a bit. lol}

    Like Louisa said, they come from different things, places, people. I have some non-writing friends that like to play ‘what ifs’ with me. Can get some good ideas there.

    With writers, you just never know what direction our minds will go. We can take a simply thought, comment, event, etc. and turn it into the most wonderful book.

    Good post, Lynn.

  3. Music and movies inspire me. So do books. And I will have to say my dreams inspire me. Although, I don’t have as many vivid dreams as I used too.
    A movie I watched recently, PUSH, had me thinking. So that could definately turn into something there.
    I love the story about the spur and the tree. That could be such a great romance story!! And historicals are not all that bad. I write them and love the research. 🙂

  4. I get inspired by everything and everyone. My first book, WITHIN REACH, came out of annoyance with another romance book in which the author painted the Border Patrol as heartless villains. We were living in San Diego at the time, where the BP had a strong presence, and I had a lot of respect for them, so I wrote a book with a patrol agent hero.

    THE LIGHTS OF HOME came from a country song called “The Lights of Albuquerque.” ROOM AT THE INN came out of a desire to visit friends in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

    I could go on and on. 😉

    I love old cemeteries, too. We were lucky enough to live on the N and S Carolina coasts, plus in Mobile and Augusta, where there were some seriously old cemeteries. Intriguing epitaphs. There’s reportedly a gambler buried in a crypt in Augusta, dressed in his finest, sitting at a poker table with a cheroot and a winning hand of cards. How cool is that? And in NC, there was a grave of a woman who died in the 1870s who was a doctor. How can a writer not wonder how what that was like for her?

    Gee, I’ve got a historical idea, too, but have been put off by the research. 😉

  5. Marilyn:

    Maybe at one of our meetings you could present a program on taking those great ideas and turning into stories??? I read once that Ray Bradbury had an index card file box full of index cards. He’d write story ideas down that he didn’t have to work on immediately. When he felt the urge to write, he’d flip through his index cards until something hit him.


    Maybe you could give us some pointers about historical research?


  6. I second the historical research pointers, Ash! I’m daunted by the dialogue more than anything. I can spot anachronisms in other people’s works, but I’m sure they’d slip right past in my own.

    Ah, Lynn, I’m not sure HOW I get from idea to story. Something makes me start thinking and eventually I ask, “What if . . .?” and go from there. I wish I did have a better handle on it; maybe plotting would be easier.

    Interesting about Bradbury. I have probably six or eight binders filled with pages/notes on ideas I’ve never written. A couple times, I have gone through and picked something out to write, but usually my problem is too many ideas at any given time. Wish I could hurry the process along, but it is what it is. 🙂

  7. Meh… I don’t have index cards, I have an expandable file with sheets of papers, newspaper articles and other things that have caught my interest. spw

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