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Decisions, Decisions: The Prequel

So, obviously, the first decision you have to make when you're writing a novel is . . . what to write.

Where do your ideas come from? Did your novel come to you in a dream?  Strike as you were people watching? Do you have more ideas than you'll ever have time to write? Notebooks crammed full of sticky notes and thoughts scrawled on the backs of Starbucks receipts? Or do you find yourself staring at a blank page straining to come up with anything to write about?

What comes to you first? A thread of plot? A theme? A character? A scene?

Today, I want to share with you some ideas about where to get your ideas.

Admission time. Most of my ideas come from TV, movies, and books that I've seen/read. Sometimes it's a side character that makes me wonder more about their story. Sometimes it's a plot twist that I wish had gone another way. On my current Work in Progress, I read a back cover blurb for a book, and when I read the book, it was NOTHING like what I thought it would be. So I decided to write the book I wanted it to be. 

A new twist on an old story. The market is full of fairy tales and Bible stories re-rendered, set in a different time, with characters who are cyborgs, set on a different planet. The possibilities are endless. 

The news is another great place to get current ideas. There's always a place for a "ripped from the headlines" story, and there's always more to the story than what you hear on the news. It can be fun to explore that.

People watching. Have you ever overheard a tidbit of conversation or seen an interaction that made you wonder what was really going on behind the scenes? Tell the story.

Music. Sometimes music evokes a very specific emotion. Or maybe it tells a story you can expound on. Even just one line can inspire a story all its own.

Finally, maybe the easiest one, your own life. Do you ever have one of those moments when you realize in the midst of a personal drama, this would make such a great scene in a book? That's one of the surest ways to know you're a writer. Harness those. No moments are wasted.

These are just a few examples. There are tons more. How about you, readers? Share with us where you like to get your story ideas in the comments below.

*Thinking Woman With An Idea by Kittikun Atsawintarangkul and The Desperate Anxiety by Naypong courtesy of


  1. Erynn, I almost always get my ideas from real life. I watch the news a lot, and sometimes a freaky story on the news will prompt a "what if" situation. I keep notebook paper nearby for just this reason!

    I've often thought about retelling a Bible story. So many great stories of betrayal and redemption.

    1. Truth tellin', Julie. I love to think about all the details left out of the biblical narrative. I often wonder how those people felt about what was going on. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is my most favorite re-rendered Bible story of all time. I never really understood Hagar when I read Hosea. But reading Angel's story, I was so angry with her, until I realized I WAS her. That's powerful.


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