I get this question a lot from readers and fellow writers. For me, ideas are everywhere: websites like Post Secret. Snippets of overheard conversations. Weird stories on the news. “What if” questions. Real-life situations, like the other day, a woman from my building came running up to me in the parking lot with her three kids, one in a stroller. She was begging me for a ride to work because her car wouldn’t start.
At first, I was going to drive her, but then I realized she wanted to take the kids, and my car didn’t have a car seat for the baby bucket. She told me she’d hold onto the baby carrier. I told her I couldn’t take the chance because what if we were in an accident? She pleaded. Instead, I gave her car a jump and we got it started (with the help of another neighbor). But the scenario launched a whole bunch of what-if scenarios in my head.
As you can see, I’m never at a loss for ideas.
I’m going to go through my existing titles and share where the idea came from:
- What Happened in Granite Creek is based on the short story “Support Our Troops,” which is about a woman who has an affair with a quadruple amputee who lost his limbs while serving in Iraq. Back in 2007, I saw a clip on TV of a soldier returning home and how he was assimilating into his “new” life without arms. Don’t ask me why, but my mind went into a rather “odd” direction. I didn’t wonder about things like how he would brush his teeth or put on his pants. Nope, I wondered about more prurient things, if you catch my drift. The story evolved from that prurient thought into something that is (I hope) so much more.
- My short story “Crush” is about a woman who is mourning the death of her son — a son who died tragically after falling into a hole on the beach. The hole collapsed and the sand crushed him. This is based on real stories I hear about every summer. Freak accidents that result in death have always fascinated me.
- “A Touch of Charlotte” — this is my story about a woman suffering from severe postpartum psychosis. I actually reveal the seed for this story within the story itself — it’s based on a secret that was sent to Post Secret. (Go ahead — read the story to find out what the secret was!) There’s also an unusual syndrome that I talk about in the story — it’s real, and I had heard about it and it always fascinated me and it got stuck in my memory. Came together in this story.
- “The Object” — I used to teach public speaking (same as the narrator in the story, and no, it’s not autobiographical). The core event that involves the “object” in question is based on a real story I’d heard about from a social worker friend of mine. But trust me when I say that this little piece of flash fiction is just that…fiction.
- “Orange Pineapple” — we hear about inappropriate relationships between adults and teenagers…is it always black and white or are there ever shades of gray? That’s what this story explores.
- Forgotten April — I think it’s been said that one in 10 Americans is adopted. In the late 90s and early 2000s, I began hearing about lots of people who were discovering half siblings they never knew existed. That’s fodder right there.
If you’re a writer, where do you get your stories from? As readers, do you ever think about the genesis of the story? Would you rather not know or do you like hearing about where the author draws her inspiration from? Share your thoughts in the comments.