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Conversations with Barb and Jann

April 2, 2012 by in category Blogs tagged as , , , with 6 and 0
Home > Writing > Blogs > Conversations with Barb and Jann

Where Do You Get Your Story Ideas?

Barb: Hey Jann, someone at work asked me where I get the ideas for my stories. Interesting question. I thought we’d talk about that subject, because it fascinates me to hear authors talk about all the different ways they’ve come up with their weird, wacky and wonderful plots and characters. I can blame OCC and Dean Koontz for my current WIP. I sat in an Ask an Author session at an OCC meeting awhile back and one of the ladies talked about her paranormal project. Something clicked, a witch was born, along with her familiar, a ferret who can disappear and reappear at will, like the dog in Koontz’s Relentless.

My Dream Makers trilogy, which sits awaiting a paranormal makeover, was inspired by my husband’s car club, the Orange County Mustang Club. They were approached by the Make A Wish Foundation to restore a Mustang for a teenager. The foundation’s representative said they don’t do a lot of makeovers because of the liability, and they especially don’t cover the engine rebuilds. That got me thinking about the children whose wishes are unfulfilled because they are either too expensive, too dangerous or pretty darn impossible. Well, my Dream Makers foundation loves a challenge!

What about your stories, Jann? From where do you draw your inspirations?

Jann: Most of my story ideas generate when I’m someplace new, especially when I’m on vacation. Seeing new places and being relaxed always opens a window of ideas. I know some people start with characters and some with plot. I seem to start with a location and think about what my characters are doing there. Recently I spent the weekend at The Oaks at Ojai. Entering the beautiful lobby, I found myself imagining my heroine coming back to the beloved family-owned resort and having to face the one man who broke her heart. He is now trying to steal the resort that has fallen into financial difficulties. From that point on, every experience I have has me thinking of another possible scene. It’s great. The only trouble is when I’m travelling with non-writing friends, they don’t understand why I’m always writing down a note or taking a picture of the restaurant dining room.

Your question got me thinking about how some of our mutual writing friends get their ideas, so I asked them.

Linda O. Johnston, who I’ve known for years and writes a Pet Rescue Mystery series as well as Romantic Suspense and Paranormal for Harlequin, says, ”Ideas are everywhere! I read. I eavesdrop. I ask questions and brainstorm with friends. I look around me and think how things I see might fit into a story. I usually have a theme in mind, or at least the kind of story I intend to write–cozy mystery, paranormal romance, romantic suspense or whatever. I let my subconscious mull on what I’ve seen or heard… and then I spill it out in stream of consciousness onto the computer to see how it fits!”

Laura Drake, who we met through OCC and just recently sold her debut novel The Sweet Spot in a three-book deal to Grand Central, says, ”Plots come to me many ways — riding my motorcycle, watching bull riding, seeing an old wreck of a house, talking to a friend. It’s a spark – something that catches my attention and fires my imagination. What if . . . And I’m off!”

Tessa Dare, 2012 Rita finalist for A Night to Surrender, finds that she’s ”very much a character-driven writer. Many of my stories originate when I think of two people on polar opposites of some personality trait or issue. For example, a woman for whom family and hospitality are paramount, paired with a man who can’t stand social gatherings (One Dance with a Duke). Or a shallow, charming rake paired with a scholarly, socially awkward geologist (A Week to be Wicked). The more my hero and heroine are opposites on the surface, the more fun I can have pushing them into uncomfortable situations that reveal their deeply-buried similarities.”

Barb: Linda Johnston is right. Ideas are everywhere. The trick is finding one that resonates long enough to finish the damn book!

Let us know where you get your story ideas.


  • Anonymous
    on April 9, 2012

    Thanks, Barb!

  • Anonymous
    on April 9, 2012

    Don't agonize over the typos. You posted a comment, Ger! That's the main thing. Jann and I are trying to write things of interest – we'll get better at it, hopefully! Then others might leave their comments (maybe). Loved your post on our Slice of Orange blog site!!

  • Anonymous
    on April 9, 2012

    Don't agonize over the typos. You posted a comment, Ger! That's the main thing. Jann and I are trying to write things of interest – we'll get better at it, hopefully! Then others might leave their comments (maybe). Loved your post on our Slice of Orange blog site!!

  • Anonymous
    on April 8, 2012

    Another spelling error! I'll let this one stand because really it is a typo. I wrote "out" instead of "our" in the last paragraph.


  • Anonymous
    on April 8, 2012

    Barb and Jann, I deleted my previous comment because I just realized it had a mortifying spelling error. So here it is again.

    Ideas are everywhere! Flannery O'Connor once said something to the effect of surviving childhood is all you neeed to have a lifetime worth of material to write about. And I think I read once that JK Rowling said that one day, Harry Potter just popped into her head, fully formed.

    As out own OCC authors have testified, ideas come to us in so many ways – and it's all good!


  • Anonymous
    on April 2, 2012

    This comment has been removed by the author.

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