Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Story Behind Your Story

by Jill Williamson

Where do your story ideas come from? I've shared some of the ways I have brainstormed new stories by combining two completely unrelated things or coming up with a "What if?" question. But there's always a little more to it than that.

I'm going to be totally honest here, okay. So, no judgment. *grin*

My first book (which became The New Recruit) came from my attempt to copy the format of Harry Potter. I made all these charts, trying to figure out exactly how J.K. created such a brilliant thing, and I tried to copy the "formula" of the books. So I had a male main character, who was orphaned, who found out he was chosen for something special, who had to go away for training, who made two friends: a boy and a girl. Yeah. All that's still there, but one of my super cool critique partners talked me into changing Arianna from being British. This was a good move because she was way too Hermione-esque. *head desk*


My second book was the sequel to my first book. So, The New Recruit 2, which is getting an overhaul right now, because it was so desperately terrible. I'm talking REALLY BAD!

My third book, Emily of Big Lake, was inspired by Anne of Green Gables. I was watching Anne one night, enthralled by how much I truly loved it, and I thought, "What if this story happened in current day?" So, I came up with a contemporary Anne and Gilbert and Diana and Marilla and Rachel Lynde. It was totally fun to write. But it didn't really capture me to the point of finishing it. I filed it away.


My fourth book was inspired by Alaska. I thought it might be fun to write about some of the things I experienced in my childhood, but I did this in a very non-me way. The story was called Seagulls are Plain, and it was about a girl named Nauja, which means seagull in Inupaiq. Nauja lived in the Alaskan bush (the exact place my uncle lives), and she gets the chance to move to Wasilla (where my family went for groceries) and live with her cousin and go to school in "town."

Since Najua wants to be a fashion designer, she jumps at the chance. She is in seventh grade, and joins the FCLA where she gets to do creative clothing design competitions. (All this FCLA/clothing competition stuff happened to me in junior high school. I even put my own Home Ec teacher in the book, and my high school bff Kim, who gets a crush on Nauja's older brother Amaraq, which means wolf. TMI, I know.)


I miss Amaraq. He was one of my first favorite characters. So fun. I really like this book, but it's totally normal. Amaraq is Inupait, yes, but he is not a werewolf. And Nauja is not a vampire. Since the book is not spec fiction and I am now a spec fiction writer, the book stays in the file until I'm a millionaire and can do what I want.

I got the idea for my fifth book when I was going to pick apples with my sister outside of Rochester, New York. We passed farm after farm after farm, and I thought, "What if there was a farm that grew people? Clones? It could be called Jason Farms!"


That book got published eventually and is called Replication: The Jason Experiment, and now has a groovy new cover with a really buff kid on it, who I think must be Iron Man since Martyr wasn't that buff. I'm just sayin'. This book was a NaNoWriMo book. I wrote it on the month of November, 2007. That was pretty sweet. I was in a hurry because of the fantasy novel I was dying to write.

I was walking my kid in the stroller one day in Burbank, California when I got an idea for my sixth book. We came upon a house that had burned down. And there was a tree in the yard. And the part of the tree that hung over the fence was leafy green and rustling in the wind. But the branches that were inside the fence were charred black. Dead. And I thought to myself, "What if there was a land that was half cursed in darkness?" And I booked it home, pushing the stroller at light speed, and I Photoshopped the tree you see below. And that was the very first hint of Bloodvoices, which became By Darkness Hid and it's sequels, the first of my books to be published. Sweetness!



Then I was at women's Bible study one night, listening to Beth Moore, whom I adore. Such a fun lady. And she was talking about Daniel and how he was only a teenage boy when Jerusalem was conquered by Babylon and how he and several other young, handsome royals were taken captive to work in the the Babylonian palace. And Beth said, "Imagine some teen boys you know. How would they have held up in such a place?" And I thought to myself, "Yes ... How would they have held up?" And that thought started the book that became Captives.


So, sometimes it's part of your life, like me in most of Seagulls are Plain, which is probably a really bad title, by the way. Sometimes it's an attempt to emulate an author you admire, like me with The New Recruit and Harry Potter. Or it might be a random thought that crosses your mind, like what if there was a farm that grew clones or something you see, like a half-charred tree. And if someone says something to you that sparks an idea, that works too.

There is a small part of me in every story I write, but that doesn't mean that all my stories are inspired by my life or by real people I know. But every story you write comes from somewhere. Ideas are everywhere. Are you looking? Are you listening?

What are some of the stories behind your stories? Care to share?

119 comments:

  1. Fun, Jill! I love learning how stories came about. =)

    My first book was a blatant rip-off of Lori Wick's The Hawk and the Jewel. Blatant, LOL. My second was inspired by a friend who greeted me with a random comment every morning. One morning it was, "China has taken over the world, we just don't know it yet." He then walked away. But my mind started churning.

    My third one was actually sci-fi (weird for me!), about a family on another planet that could see thoughts and, eventually, control time. Inspired, sadly, by my grandfather having a stroke--and wondering what would happen if someone had a stroke who had world secrets trapped in their brain and no way to communicate them...

    And so on. =) I think my favorite nugget of inspiration came from a James Bond marathon. I saw a scene where one of the villain's arm-candy women passed through the room. All we saw of her was her bathing-suit-clad body. No face. Which made me think, "Who was she??" That combined with a friend's challenge to write a present-day pirate story. This one isn't finished, since I then got historical contracts, but it's an idea I love!

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    1. I think many of us start out ripping off something. We just don't know any better. All we know is that we are inspired.

      Wow! You've got a sci fi and a pirate story in you? I'm intrigued. LOL That's cool about the James Bond girl. I often find myself curious about all those poor girls.

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  2. My first project, and the project I'm still revamping and fixing, was pretty much me trying to be Cassandra Clare without the demons. I had magic swords and everything. Now it's different, but it started out something kind of like City of Bones. Not much of a story behind that story...

    Another one is a book based on this fictional world that me and some friends came up with. It started when one of them misspelled "alcoholism" as "atholocism." We're still not sure how it happened. But it was a fun word and at first we though of a ridiculous religious cult with all manner of silly rituals, but then we decided to make it a world instead, called Atholica. Now Atholica has over ten countries with strong, developed characters just waiting for a story, and me and another co-creator of the world are working on a saga. It's so much fun, and I adore my characters to death :D

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    1. LOL I think that's normal, H. We think, "That's so great, I can do that too." But it's great that you're changing it now.

      That's hysterical about the atholocism/Atholica. Friends are the best. :-)

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  3. My MC's series came to me when I was trying to figure out what made Harry Potter so popular (this sounds familiar... I think I just read a blog post similar to this...:))
    I don't remember how the plot (a boy cursed so he turns into a dragon every night) came from. I wrote book 1 for NaNo 2011 and I am finishing book 2 in 100-4-100.

    ~Robyn Hoode

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    1. That sounds like an awesome book! But then, I love stories about curses. :D

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    2. Howdy there, Robyn. ;)

      Sounds interesting!

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    3. Cool! Yes, HP is very inspiring. And yours, like mine, isn't really a blatant rip off. Sounds like we both got really clever about it. LOL

      I agree about it sounding awesome. Keep at it!

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    4. Thanks! Hopefully you guys will be able to read book 1 in the next few years. I'm almost ready to query an agent!

      ~Robyn Hoode

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    5. Sounds a little like Shrek, maybe that subconsciously inspired you? :) It sounds pretty cool!

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  4. OK, am I so comforted to know that other people's idea for their first book was inspired by another book... Because so was mine! My friend and I wanted to do a role-playing game based off a book we really liked (using our own characters instead of the book ones.) but we needed a plot. So I was like "Well, want about a witchhunt?" And she was like "GENUS!" The roleplay itself only lasted a short amount of time, but I became obsessed with the idea. Later, after I started writing, I saw someone else mentioning they were writing a similar idea, and it jogged my memory of the old witchhunt story, and I thought "Oh! I could convert that into a book!" And so I did, and I just finished the last rewrite. :P Anyway, my idea bares no resemblance to the book my friend and I were originally role-playing, but I've always felt really self-conscious, knowing that my book wouldn't exist if it weren't for the fact that someone else had a similar idea. I know it's *not* stealing since all they did was remind me I had a similar-ish idea first(And clearly it doesn't matter since so many people here got their first idea from other books/premises.), but it's always been something I've struggled with.
    The idea for my other WIP came from driving by a cornfield. I thought "What if there was a secret battle going on there that normal people couldn't see?" and it inspired my current WIP, even though the corn thing isn't in the actual book anymore.

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    1. And Jill, could you combine the Alaska story with something spec fic? Because it sounds AWESOME.

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    2. That's fun, Allison. Nice job taking that inspiration and making it your own! And the cornfield story sounds cool too.

      As to spec fiction elements in the Nauja story... I dunno... I love that little story. It's a middle grade story that, in the end, encourages girls to be themselves and not conform. I'll think about it, though. ;-)

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    3. :D Thanks Jill! :D

      ha, it's okay, not every story works dumping in "weird" stuff.

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    4. I wish there was a "like" button for posts. I wanted to "like" what you said here, Allison. Ha ha. :-)

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  5. The story I'm currently working on is probably based off of something I saw on a crime show (though I can't really remember what gave me the idea for this story). In my story a little girl gets kidnapped and is killed and the story follows the life of the girl's sister and the girl who witnessed her kidnapping ten years after the killing. They don't find out who the killer is until the end of the story.
    One story I haven't started writing yet but really want to write someday (maybe when I get better at writing) is based off of Beauty and the Beast. It has a modern twist to it and I'm really excited about writing it sometime.
    Another story I though of is based off of a real life experience. When I was in middle school, my mom volunteered to serve ice cream to some sick kids in the hospital and she took my brothers, sister, and me with her. All the kids we saw were so adorable and it was extremely sad to see them hooked up to machines or IVs. But one little girl (who I think had some kind of cancer) was really cheerful that day. After we gave her some ice cream and left to go to someone else's room, she came out into the hallway and started taking pictures of the nurses, who modeled for her. And that was how I got the idea of a teenage girl regularly visiting a girl with cancer in the hospital and learning how precious life is.

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    1. Crime shows can be totally inspiring. I've gotten all kinds of ideas from those. Usually plot twists. Your story sounds intriguing and sad, but really powerful.

      I love Beauty and the Beast stories. Totally fun.

      And your last idea is lovely. I'd totally read that book!

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  6. I love reading about what nudged you to write your books!
    For the first novel I completed, my sister came home from the fair one night and her coat smelled like the camels at the petting-zoo tent. Being her sister, I shared that information with her. That night, I really wanted to write something other than school papers, so I wrote a short-story that began with the comment I made to my sister. That eventually grew into an entire book (I "accidentally" wrote my first novel...), and the story has absolutely nothing to do with camels, other than the first line (which has now been changed).
    I'm convinced it's evidence that God works in mysterious ways.

    For the one I'm working on now, I got the idea when my family went to Vegas for a convention (without me...the downside of being a responsible student). I started wondering what it would be like for a girl who lived in a place like Vegas had to move to a small, Southern town like the one I live in. The plot snowballed from there, and I'm still working through all the crazy details.

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    1. That is an awesome story, Anna. :)

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    2. LOL I love that you accidentally wrote your first novel. It's like, "Oops! I wrote a novel." :-) And that's fun that it all came from the smell of a camel.

      Keep at the Vegas story, Anna. You never know when you'll come up with the perfect missing element and everything will fall into place.

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    3. Hahaha an accidental novel - I wish I could do that ;)

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    4. Oh, and does that mean the first one is done?! :D :D :D If so I really want to read it!!

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    5. Thank you! It was originally supposed to be a stand-alone short story, then I decided to make a couple of short story sequels, but by then, the plot was too big for a couple of little stories. I just kept writing it in sections until one day I realized I should go ahead and make it novel-length. I told a friend I'd written a 67,000 word sequel to the first story ;)
      So it was "accidental," but once I decided to keep going with the project, it took an incredible amount of effort and planning and stuff. Countless hours spent on something I hadn't intended to do. But It's been an invaluable learning experience!

      Amanda - It's complete. I'm actually about to begin the third draft.

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  7. My WIP was supposed to be real life with a little more to it. At school, we'd been taking an overwhelming amount of random government tests and I was thinking "what if there was a government system that ran tests on people to collect data?" So that turned into a dystopian novel where my MC, Esper, tries to overthrow the ironically named GOOD. (It's. little cliche) looking back at it, it looks like I've modeled it after Matched and Divergent (even though I hadn't read those books until after I wrote it).

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    1. Dystopian novels all seem the same because of the whole government plot thing. So, it's probably not you, just the genre. Way to use your imagination, though. Ideas are everywhere!

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  8. My first book happened in November 2011. I did YWP NaNo and wrote a short novella about a girl who read to much Jane Austen and tried to pair all her sisters off. The book was the product of... guess what? To much Jane Austen!

    My second book happened after lying complacently in bed and thinking of what a witty person I was {shocking I know} I was thinking of all the other witty people I knew and the sort of conglomeration in my head became the Young Sage with all his annoying philosophic tendencies.

    The Care of A King was the brain child of wanting to write a medivalish book with no magic. That and thinking about George the third and wandering what it must feel like to take care of a king who can't take of himself. You wouldn't recognize the plot now but that's how it started.

    Fox Rose began with thinking wouldn't it be fun to smash a detective story and a fairytale? These last two have been put off until a later date.

    A Legend of Honesty was born when I watched the Horrible histories Dick Turpin song. I thought what if there was a boy who was forced to join a group of highwaymen and he was the only person in the whole area who didn't think they were romantic heroes? First of a five book series.

    Stonebound {my current novel} Came out of some lessons I've been learning in my own life about love and my old fascination for King Arthur. It is the first in a five book series of which Care of a King is to be the last.

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    1. LOL I don't think there is such a think as too much Jane Austen!

      The Young Sage. I love that too.

      Anne-girl, you have some fun ideas. Keep at them because I want to read them someday! :-)

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    2. I would love to read The Princess and the Sage. I've already read snippets from your blog. :)

      ~Robyn Hoode

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  9. Wow, learning where all these people's stories came from is so cool!

    The first "book" I finished came from a coloring page. That's right, a coloring page. One day I printed out a bunch of "princess" coloring pages for my sisters. (Not Disney princess. Just generic girls in a ball gown.) My sister colored one with blond hair and a green dress. And somehow...that girl screamed "I need a story!" So I tucked her away in my writing ideas file until it was time. And she has a story now. Not a very impressive one. I wrote it when I was 10 and 11. It has hardly any plot, plenty of stuff that needed to be changed, and it is just a mess. But it was my first book finished, so it's full of memories. :)

    My current book idea just came from an observation. I noticed there weren't any books I'd read about homeschoolers or big families (basically, people like me). So I decided the best way to fix that was to do it myself! Some of the other parts of the story (the "theme," the goal, some elements) came from stuff I've been learning, and I'm sure they'll be some funny stuff from this big family of mine in there, too. ;)

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    1. "I need a story!" --I love that. :-)

      And a homeschooler story. I love that too. It's a needed story. Good idea!

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    2. The homeschooler story sounds really great! I would certainly read it :)

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  10. Ack, thank goodness I'm not the only one! When I was eight or nine, I wrote these carbon copies of the American Girl book series. Like, down to every last detail, except I changed the names.

    And then when I was 11, I read this book I loved and wanted to make my story that perfect, so I tried to do everything like the book.

    Now, I'm working on a book about a girl named Willow whose brother died. It's basically a story about letting go.

    Piper♥

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    1. Sweet! I love American Girl stories. Your new story sounds really powerful. Keep at it!

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  11. This is awesome! I love hearing where everyone's stories come from. It always amazes me how stories can come from the most random settings.

    I had just started my first semester at college, and they were hosting a picnic out on the lawn so the incoming students could learn about all the different ministries/opportunities. They had a petting zoo set up on the side, and naturally, one of the piglets got loose, and all of the guys started chasing it. So the pig made a bee-line right past me...and I snagged it. I handed it off to the sheepish guys and they put it back in the pen, and my friends and I had a good laugh about it - that's what happens when a country girl goes to college! ;) But the incident got me thinking and a picture of a "petting zoo" or "exhibit" with live mythological creatures popped into my head. Obviously just a spark of an idea, but over the next couple of days it grew into the premise of a fantasy that I'm currently plotting and will hopefully be able to write soon!

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    1. Fun, Gillian! I love that you caught those boys' pig too. Now you have two great stories. The real one, and the one the real one inspired! Can't wait to read it. :-)

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  12. I love the idea of modern Anne of Green Gables. And Seagulls are Plain seems like a good title to me!

    For one of my latest WIP's, here's the story. During Christmas time, when I woke up, and when I was getting ready for bed, I would turn the radio on to listen to Christmas music. One evening (or morning) I was sitting rather drowsily, when the song 'Baby, It's Cold Outside,' began to play. I've never been a fan of the song, but I listened anyway. All of a sudden, the lyrics, 'Say what's in this drink?' hit me, and a boatload of ideas fell on my head. Say what's in this drink? Had the girl in the song been drugged? So was the guy some kind of creepy criminal? Or what?

    And that was the beginning of Baby, It's Cold Outside.

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    1. That's an interesting idea.

      ~Robyn Hoode

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    2. Thanks Robyn! I thought it was interesting lol.

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    3. LOL! Love that story, Bethany. Have you been writing it?

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  13. This is such a good post! Cool stories, Jill. :)

    Two Roads came from a feeling, actually. I'd been going through an emotional time and I needed an outlet - so two characters were born who solidified how I was feeling, who helped me to understand and move on as they did, during the book. The plot came later (as mine usually do) but that's the story behind my characters. :)

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    1. That's cool, Olivia. Feelings are powerful, and if you can engage your readers emotions, you'll have won them over!

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  14. I generally write fanfictions for The Chronicles of Narnia. My latest story idea came from considering why Aslan would let the Telmarines invade Narnia. Was it because they turned away from him like the Israelites did before the Babylonians conquered? Would they still have done that if their beloved Kings and Queens (the Pevensies) hadn't returned to England through the wardrobe? From there it spiraled into a massive plot, including some important elements from the story of Queen Esther, because of listening to a song by Mandisa, called "Born For This".

    The original story (I'm not sure if it will be a full novel yet) that I am toying with currently came from For King & Country's music video for their song, "The Proof of Your Love". Watch it and you'll understand why I want to write a story about it. I have two main guy characters currently, Michael and Jay, and then they have a little sister, who reminds me of Prim from "The Hunger Games" but I can't think of a good name for her! I thought about Violet, but I don't know.

    I tend to find inspiration in songs. The majority of my works are inspired by good Christian music. I wrote an entire story from Sidewalk Prophet's "The Words I Would Say". I also get inspiration from nature. My sister and I recently invented a new land because we saw these two huge old trees that bent together to form a doorway. Then in the creek we found a perfectly round stone, which is the key to the door.

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    1. Asking "why" is a great way to brainstorm story ideas. Great idea, Heather.

      Songs and music videos can be really powerful too. That's clever. And I like the name Violet. :-)

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  15. Oh! I ended my comment too soon and there's now way to edit. Bummer.

    I want to tell you how my favorite WIP started. I read a friend's story about a girl that steals from rich people, or some such thing like that. I'm not sure if that contributed to my idea or what... but my idea came in a scene. I had this little scene in my head of a boy- a prince- walking down a line of girls, searching for someone. That was the beginning of The Prince's Quest.

    I'm not sure where all my other little ideas have come from. There was one my brother and I were writing when we were younger called Perish Island. It reminded me of a modern-day Swiss Family Robinson with a monster. I miss that little story... That was actually the first book I wrote and finished, but it was truly awful! The ending was, at least.

    One last idea is kind of interesting, because I thought about it before I ever read By Darkness Hid. When I was about thirteen, I had the idea for a country who's royal family had left, and evil men had taken over. They encouraged things like the worship of false gods, and sacrifices. A terrible darkness spread over the entire land for nineteen years, until one day, a young man showed up, and stars began to appear. It's actually in my to finish writing ideas, but it's weird how some of it is similar to your book! :)

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    1. You can always rewrite old stories, Bethany. I love Swiss Family Robinson, too, btw.

      I love that idea with the stars! Is the whole land dark? During the day too? I think you could make it different enough, Bethany. Sounds fun. :-)

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  16. Mine was inspired by an actor in The Chronicles of Narnia :P But also by The Lord of the Rings (the book).

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    1. Narnia and LOTR... Love them! When I get to heaven someday, I'm asking Lewis and Tolkien how it feels to have inspired so many people. I wonder if they were surprised. Hmmm.

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  17. This is an awesome post! Anne of Green Gables has always been a favorite of mine so when I was like 11 or 12 I wrote a book just like it. It makes me cringe now! But a modern twist on that sounds so cool!!! But since then I've gradually gotten my own voice and ideas. I have so many story ideas filed away but my current WIP came about when I was reading in my economics book about the stock market crash and so I wanted to write a story set during the great depression.

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    1. The Great Depression would be a fascinating era to write about. We're so spoiled today. I think that would be really cool.

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  18. My idea came from a favorite quote of mine, "It's better to be in the arena getting stomped by the bull than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot." I take it as it is better to fight for a life worth living for than die never having fulfilled your dream. When I first heard it, I was watching the movie Spirit for the first time and whenever Spirit gets captured, I always loved thinking about what was going on in the other horse's heads. I loved when they cheered and frowned depending on Spirit's situation because I felt like I WAS them watching MY last hope fight for ME. Between hearing the quote for the first time and watching the movie for the first time in the same day, I was really just struck by inspiration and like never before, my whole story just BOOM. Was together. I wrote the ending and am now just starting on the beginning.
    Totally pumped by the way that I am starting my second 60000+ word story with the 100 4 100! I joined the 100 4 100 last Fall and let me tell you, it was so amazing! I finished that book I worked on because of the 100 4 100 mid last month and am feeling just so amazing! So thank you so much! I hope that by next year, I will be done with this book and ready to start editing before I might just seek publishing!

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    1. I love Spirit! Probably my favorite animated movie ever :) And I totally get that.

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    2. :D Yeah! Another Spirit junkie!

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    3. I REMEMBER THAT MOVIE!! :D Only saw it once, but I do recall LOVING it! ;D

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    4. That is an awesome story, Leorah! Love it when things come together like that. Keep at that book. I can't wait to hear how the editing goes!

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  19. I love hearing about those "story spark" moments from everyone! You know when you're a writer when... ;-)

    The idea that sparked my latest story was when I was at a baseball game with my sisters. While everyone was distracted by the game, I started noticing all of the people who were keeping the show going. Whether it was teens handing out cotton candy, camera crew guys, the mascot, or just some of the field workers, they fascinated me. The urge to write their stories was so strong I wouldn't shut up about it for the rest of the night(I think my sister's were pretty sick of listening to me... ;-)) My brain kept getting pummeled with those "what if" questions and I could barely keep up. So, now that's the setting of my story. A baseball field. :-)

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    1. Cool! Love how an author's brain works. You just can't turn the thing off and people thing we're crazy, but we understand each other, Clare. I think that's awesome!

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  20. We're you able to see Russia from your house? Lol! I love hearing what sparks stories and even more how they develop that spark into a plot which is what I struggle with.

    I tried to rewrite Anne of Green Gables too. It was set in the Outer Banks and her name was Skylar Ann O'Malley. This was before Stephanie's skylar. I never finsihed it though.

    I have sort of tried to copy books I love. The last one I tried didnt work out well but maybe I'll try it again sometime.

    I notice I get feelings of what I want to write from country songs a lot. It's putting turning those feelings into words and plots that's hard. Like I want to use "she's a wildflower" by Lauren Alaina.

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    1. Humph, cut my comment off. I'm most excited about your talking a out fccla here! I've never heard of it but looked it up and am going to learn more about it because my current WIP the MC is into fashion & fashion illustartion. I've wanted to use some sort of contest all along but have had a hard time ironing it all out. I've been using an art show but I see fccla uses a different class. This is intriguing.

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    2. Nope. No Russia from my house. LOL

      Country songs often have a lot of emotion in them, so it makes sense that they could be so inspiring. They also tend to tell stories more than other musical genres.

      FCCLA-- yes! It was called FHA (Future Homemakers of America) when I was in school, that's how old I am. I went to the national convention and they were discussing changing it, but they didn't the year I went. Your character could likely enter clothing construction competitions in FCCLA and I think I entered a fashion marketing contest too. You could probably learn a lot on the FCCLA website. My bff in high school became a state officer and she got to make friends with the other officers from all over the state. That was cool for her. I was jealous, but too chicken to run for office myself. lol

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  21. I tend to start writing my stories by describing a setting, and I choose settings with a strong 'feel' - something that's vivid and clear in my mind and not something you'd usually come across. And from there, characters and ideas that I didn't even realise I had just end up in there too. So my stories either come from who knows where, or from settings inspired by places I've been.
    I've also had moments where I've started writing stories, only to realise that a similar story is already out there. I had the beginnings of a story similar to Eragon, and another similar to Avatar: The Last Airbender, before I'd read/seen either. Nothing more disappointing than having to drop an idea because someone beat you to it :P

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    1. That's very true, Kate. It stinks when you realize your story is already published. But that's okay. You might have to put the story away for a while and pull it out a few years later. Or you might be able to tweak things enough that you know the story is different now.

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  22. Reading all of these story ideas is so fun! Jill, I would love to read your Seagulls are Plain story :)

    My ideas often come from observations and people watching. For example, during the summer Olympics, I came up with a character seriously training for the Olympic games. My current story came from an interesting historical fact I came across in research for school.

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    1. Aww, thanks! Someday, maybe. Someday. *sigh* lol

      People watching. Great idea, Jill! People are fun to watch. Airports are great for that.

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  23. OMG, I loved The New Recruit one... I'm still trying to control my laughter here... And Good. Lol, I've got to be honest, the book that I just wrote has a huge feminist side to it, and -wait for it- it's based off of super hero movies... Ouch. Okay, as cheesy as it sounds, it's true, and, not as cheesy. Though, I did have to make my FMC a bit more realistic to make it a book of its own(No super powers, and she's not always winning...). I mean, the reason, is possible the fact that Super hero movies always agitate me! Lol, like, has anyone ever notice how in almost every one, it's all like the brave male-super hero, and the weak female who needs saving? Or, when there is a female, it's usually her appearance that makes you go 'wow'(Natasha Romanoph is coming to mind...). So yeah, a lot of thought comes to the making of my books... :P

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    1. Yes, my addiction for Photoshop wastes a lot of time, but occasionally pays off. LOL

      I think your idea is cool, Marie! Yeah, there are always a ton of superhero movies, because they sort of sell themselves. But you could make it different. I think that would be fun. It makes me think of the backstory in the Incredibles how the two parents met, or the parents in Sky High. Both those moms were pretty awesome superheroes.

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  24. I love this topic! :)

    My book Forgiven was inspired when I was sitting in a lake. I was thinking, "what if someone did something so bad that, that people ran when they heard about it? Why if this girl had a secret so deep that she couldn't tell anyone, or they'll run from her?"

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    1. That sounds cool, Natalie. And are you dragging it out, making the reader wonder what she did until the very end? It makes me think of how the author did that in Speak. I think your idea is amazing! Keep at it.

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  25. I get a lot of inspiration like this, but its mostly for characters rather than story plots. How would you go about plotting a book if you have a perfect character in your head, but you have no idea what you can have happen to them?

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    1. I have that problem a lot too. This blog is actually what's inspired me to start writing something instead of daydreaming. I'm not Stephanie or Jill, but what works for me is 1, to write (this sounds simple but is actually super helpful) and 2, figure out what your character is trying to do. Yesterday's post might help with that, as well as this: http://goteenwriters.blogspot.com/2012/10/when-you-cant-get-past-beginning.html#comment-form

      And some of the stuff in "How to Write a Novel is really helpful with this as well. I hope this helps. Good luck!

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    2. Well, you have to find out what problem you could introduce into their life that would cause the most conflict. Discover your character's faults or fears and use that, perhaps.

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  26. Let's see...

    My firstest-story-ever came in the days of 5th grade. It had just snowed outside, and we had a sweet-gum tree in our yard (you know, the one with the prickly little golf-ball sized seeds). The sweetgum seeds had these little snow-hats, and I wondered *what if they were sentient?* (except I probably didn't think the word sentient, 'cause I was a 5th grader and all). I wrote maybe three pages, abandoned it, and picked up my next story: *what if there was a girl who could hop to other planets*. I wrote maybe two pages to this one. I meandered for a few years, then got my rear in my chair and finished Hopper (the planet one). 11,000 words, two characters--with the same name!--and 30% of a plot. But it was my first finished piece, and I loved it, and still plan on rewriting it one day.

    The next big project I undertook was a high fantasy-esqe story about a land I originally called "Irulia." (Don't ask). It was inspired, to be quite frank, by the pretty staffs of Gandalf and Saruman in the LotR movies. I thought *what if a mage's power was contained in their staffs?* And then I added the dogs, and the villages, and the Fever, and it all kind of snowballed from there. Its hovering at 20,000 words right now, but I still plan on finishing it.

    My two (yes, TWO) current WIPs are linked. The first one was partly inspired by Nicole Ciacchella's indie novel "The Eye of the Beholder," which is, hands-down, THE best fairy tale retelling I have ever read. Ever. It retells Beauty and the Beast, and reminded me how much of a redemption story that is. And around the time I started writing my own retelling, I re-stumbled on some decent Christian fiction (the lovely authors here included!). And somehow, without me realizing it, Tybalt's story turned into Christian fiction. I'm working on it for 100-4-100, and it is rolling right along. While writing Tybalt's story, I got bitten by the high fantasy bug, a bug by which I periodically get bitten and from which nothing decent ever comes. But I had dropped a few geography hints into Tybalt's story (Froth Duchy, The Northern Mountains, you get my drift), and I found myself wondering what the world looked like. And somehow, a map got made, and battling religious factions started staking their claims, and the politics began developing...and I began Egen's story.

    Oh, yeah. My brain is random.

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    1. Diana, isn't it amazing when your story takes over your imagination. It's so fun. I adore maps, too, though I say that all the time. I love how you got inspired by something so small as staffs. Love it! Random rocks!

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  27. My first book was patterned off of the games my sisters and I played as kids (hey, I was 12 when I wrote this full-length novel, so It was current stuff) wherein anything and everything happened without regard for plot. Scarlet fever, broken legs, schoolhouse fires, odd-jobs, berry picking, saving the day, finding an orphan, and all that other hooplah.

    My second book was built off an idea of what if there was a family whose kids all were named after herbs, and lived in India.

    Third book was literally family stories thrown back a 150 years and written like that.

    Fourth book was inspired by a picture I saw online of a girl with a cheerful smile who looked like she belonged in the Depression era. Not well researched, I soon scrapped that book.

    Fifth book was inspired in part by a friend's blog, in part by fairytales in general, in part by Richard Armitage as Sir Guy of Gisbourne, and in part by the idea to want to write a book with kids whose names went in alphabetical order. (scrapped that idea eventually, but the book became a favorite!)

    Sixth idea was....let's see..Oh yeah. It came from a short story I wrote which, in turn, came from one tiny scrap of dialog: "How About Coffee?"

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    1. I want to read the one about the kids named after herbs. From what you posted on your blog about it, it sounds really interesting.

      ~Robyn Hoode

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    2. RICHARD ARMITAGE!! I love that man. XD

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    3. I like Richard Armitage, too, but in everything I've seen him in, he's been on the border of mean (Guy of Gisbourne, Mr. Thornton, and Thorin... good stuff, but I didn't finish North and South)


      ~Robyn Hoode

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    4. I've never seen North and South, but I really want to watch it! :D and yeah, but.....he's so awesome, I think we can forgive him his characters' dispositions! XD lol

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    5. Rachel, have I read some of the book about the kids in India? Are you a part of Cleanplace? Trying to remember when I read some of your book. Hmmm.

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  28. My first book actually came from a writing prompt in seventh grade comp class. We had to write a ten-ish page story about getting stranded on an island and then getting rescued. I didn't even think about continuing the story until a year later. Now it's done and I don't even think I have a single line from the original version (it was embarrassingly bad). I even have queries and a partial out for it.

    I have a lot of potential second books that are all beginnings from 5-40 pages. Most of these beginnings are based off this real life scientific movie "6 Degrees Can Change the World." It's all about how a six degree increase in global average temperature can lead to collapse (a six degree decrease would cause an ice age). I love weather and climate and global warming stuff so this is really interesting to me.

    My 100-4-100 story is a 40 page beginning just like the ones above, and it focuses on two best friends who are the last survivors of their town three months after a super hurricane demolishes the east coast. I like to think it's going somewhere, but a lot of my end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it ideas aren't big enough and don't have endings.

    Thanks for the post Jill! I like hearing where everyone's ideas came from.

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    1. Sounds epic! As for not big enough....why not MUSH all the storylines from your different "end-of-the-world" stories together?

      *Free Idea* (free to have, and free not to use!) X) What if you followed the different characters from the different stories separately at first, or even for most of the story, only to have them all band together at the end to defeat/overcome whoever/whatever?

      JUUUUUST a random thought. ;D

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    2. That sounds cool. I'll think about trying it. Thanks for your idea!

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    3. No problem! :) good luck in your writing! :D

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    4. Fun ideas, Kaitlin! Love that 6 degrees one. Very clever.

      Perhaps with the end of the world stories, the ending needs to be a fresh start/new beginning. Kind of show that life will find a way to keep going. *shrugs*

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  29. In elementary school my friends and I would play this game in the playground that we called "Power Adventures" (genius, I know). Each person had a power and we were all living in "Power World" (our creativity was limitless) while trying to fight the White Witch, the evil tyrannical ruler. We would use legos to build our world and our houses, and we would make charts with drawings of us and lists of the extent of our powers. I recently started thinking that I could use this as an idea for a book, but I never got around to it. My current WIP is a fantasy about a girl spy in another world that vaguely resembles futuristic New York. I'm having a lot of fun writing it (:

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    1. That sounds like an epic game! :D Aren't childhood memories just the BEST?!? ;D

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    2. That's super fun, Celeste. Love it! The charts, especially.
      My son and his friends have created their own storyworld that mirrors Pokemon. It cracks me up how similar it is. They keep asking me to help them make a website for it. lol

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  30. I had no idea that the New Recruit was inspired by Harry Potter! As for me, the first book I wrote I sort of forced myself to come up with the idea because it was the first day of NaNoWriMo. But recently my sister was driving me home and we were talking about books, and she told me about a book she read where the main character was EXACTLY like her. And that made me think, what if you are the main character come to life? So the book I'm working on now is about a character who came to life. And I LOVE it. :)

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    1. Yeah... It doesn't really have too many parallels anymore. But that's how it began.

      Fun idea, Margaret. The character come to life. I like that. Cool.

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  31. Great post!
    I started my first story when I was 12ish because I hoped my mom would let me write a story instead of a book report. That didn't fly, but I kept writing the story (with input from my friend and sister), and it turned out to be this dinky (I think it was only about 5000 words long), really pathetic little thing with really flat characters. My big dream back then was for my MC, Lizzie Evans, to become a modern-day Nancy Drew. Yeah, so not happening. I spent the next two years writing the 17,000 word sequel, which was equally bad. That October, I found out about NaNoWriMo, and I rewrote the first story, which is much better than the original, but still needs a lot of work.

    My current story was "inspired" when my mom asked me what my dream pen name would be. I said Gwendolyn Copperstone. That was the summer before my first NaNo, so when NaNo rolled around, I used that as my username. Gwen rolled around in my head, and somehow turned into a character. At some point I decided her story should be a fantasy-set mystery, and I wrote the beginning of it for last year's NaNo. I'm hoping to finish it with 100-for-100. Thanks to this blog and other resources, it's not half bad :)

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    1. Gwendolyn Copperstone....THAT IS AN AWESOME NAME!!! :D

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    2. Agreed! I love that name. How fun that your pen name came alive. Ha ha. Sweet. Love mysteries too. There aren't enough of them in YA, so keep at it!

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  32. My current novel is a combination of Little Red Riding Hood and Eve and Adam (by Michael Grant). It's cool being able to track the ideas, but also a little freaky, because I don't want to copy! My fantasy series was inspired by...Narnia! ;) Typical.

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    1. That sounds fun, Cait!
      And it's okay about Narnia. It's just too awesome. :-)

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  33. I've finished two novels so far, and I got the idea for each when I was at a car show/museum. One came to me because I was bored and brainstorming, but the other definitely was influenced by the place I was in. Needless to say, I no longer pass up opportunities to go to car shows with my dad and brother. ;)

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    1. HA! My father-in-law is always trying to make us to car shows and we're always bored. One time in Burbank Jay Leno was there, so that was cool. But I love that you brainstormed a story. That's great.

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  34. My current story was inspired by a dream I had that was a sort of combination of myself and my best friend and Portal 2. It's been a lot of fun fleshing the idea out :)

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    1. Sounds fun! Dreams can be a great source of inspiration. Part of By Darkness Hid came from a dream I had. It was just enough to inspire me with a plot idea.

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  35. I don't think I've had any obvious copycat ideas, except for in fourth grade, when I thought I was this crazily awesome writer (spoiler alert: I wasn't). Those were all too terrible to be based off of anything obvious. Now, I don't get inspired by current books as much as daydreaming, people watching, etc. My novel ideas have all been based off of post-first-draft (for another book) inspiration. The craziest story I came up with was this really dark short story about a girl who tries to commit suicide--and it was inspired by wood chips when I was on a playground with my friends. Naturally, I couldn't just tell them, "Well, I've got to go write this dark story . . . You see, I don't like wood chips very much and . . . "

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    1. LOL! Love that author's brain. Inspiration is everywhere. Even in wood chips. Who knew? :-)

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  36. My story came from a lot of places but I'll just name the main ones.
    The Russian side of it came from my Russian background and I am currently learning the language. My story also has lots of betrayals. these came from Taylor Swift's new song "I knew you were trouble" (hands up if you love the song as much as I do!)

    Thanks for the post Jill!! It really made me think!

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    1. *Puts hand up as high as it can go, Hermione-style*

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    2. LOL! Sounds like a fun story, Fire. *hand up*

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  37. That's interesting! Thank you for sharing how you got your ideas!

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  38. Well, my so-far-favourite story came from where I live. I'm a Georgia dweller, live right near Atlanta, and one day I was wandering around an art museum with my brother and we started discussing how this museum would be an ideal place to live if we survived the apocalypse. I took the premise and ran with it, and now I have Ashway ^_^

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    1. Nice! A museum would be a good place to go. All kinds of neat stuff in there. Love how conversations can be inspiring. :-)

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  39. My current WIP was inspired by the imaginary land i created in my little kid imagination. It has gone through some big changes just in the first draft, but the land still is populated only by children and teens, they are ruled by a Queen, and the Oceen's can't go back to the regular world.
    Part of me is sad that i based the book off my childhood fantasies, because the book has changed them so much, but part of me is happy. If i ever get published, others will finally be able to share my imagination.

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    1. That's really sweet, Raquel. Love that you created that when you were so young and are still working on it. Fun.

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  40. LOL and awesome to everyone's idea! :D I read them all, because I'm a creeper like that. A creeper with too much time on her hands. X)

    Once, when I was much younger, I read a book (from a series)about this girl who was the daughter of a veterinarian, and she and her friends had to find a lost hamster before it froze to death. Well, I started thinking, "What if the hamster was just trying to go on an adventure?" And it sparked a (hilariously horrible) story of a family of mice in a town of rodents. I never finished it, but good gosh was it awful. XD

    Another story idea came from when my family and I were driving to Florida, and we were passing through this mountain range, covered in trees. And I thought, "What if there was a town in there, that you couldn't see? What if it was still operating as though this was the year 1800?" What if someone found the town....but couldn't get back out?" Sadly, I never wrote that story. Anyone want it? You're welcome to it. ;) I called it The Town That Time Forgot, but you can probably come up with a more interesting title than that.

    Most of my story ideas start with a single, random scene that pops up in my head for no discernible reason. I can't even remember how my WIP got started. Just, BAM, there it was.

    I won't go into any more detail than that, because that would be a VERY long comment. I've started...(1...2...)...14 stories. STARTED. lol. Actually, I have finished one! Lol, I almost forgot. It was the first story I ever wrote. 4 pages long, two of them being pictures, all of it done in crayon. It was about a family that got angry, so they threw their food on the floor and flushed the toilet. Then I think they got over it. XD

    So sorry for the long, tedious comment! Loved the post, btw! :D

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    1. Your forgotten town story reminds me of this city in Italy, San Gimignano. It's from, like, the 1500's and after a war it basically shut down and froze in time. It isn't still run as though it's the 1500's, but it looks the same as it did then. It sounds like a good idea!

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    2. Ooo! I'd like to visit that town someday, it sounds epic! It also sounds like it would be really good inspiration for a period drama, or really any fantasy-type story. ;)

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    3. "What if the hamster was just trying to go on an adventure?" --I love that.

      There was a mouse in my daughter's room and she freaked out and couldn't sleep, so I told her, "Hey. What if the mice were down in the basement and they'd come into our house because it was so cold, and they needed food, but we'd just killed one of them in a trap, so they were all scared, and then one little mouse volunteered to go upstairs and look for food, and he went to the little girl's room because they'd all heard how very badly the little girl wanted a pet, and the mouse figured that for sure the little girl would like him."

      etc. lol

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  41. This was a great post! I loved reading it and all of the comments :)

    The inspiration for my first *real* book was actually a sign. We were driving through the city and I saw this place called Firestone (I'm actually not quite sure what the place is. I think it has to do with cars and tires. Forgive my ignorance!) and I started wondering what an actual fire stone would look like. That started a whole story, which (of course!) I've named Firestone.

    Another book I've worked on is called MoonFire. It's kind of about the origins of the country Firestone is based in. Both books have quite a bit to do with dragons (a favorite subject of mine!) I also was working on a sequel to Firestone, called The Golden Celeste (it will probably end up being renamed). Eventually there will also be another book called Moonstone that will come after Firestone at some point.

    Most of my inspiration comes from music and movies, and occasionally books.
    Love this blog!

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    1. DRAGONS ARE AWESOME!!! :D I think every story should have dragons. X)

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    2. I love dragons!

      ~Robyn Hoode

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    3. Love that. One little sigh inspired a whole world. So cool.

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  42. Oh no! Now I cannot read "Replication: The Jason Experiment" because my newest WIP involves clones being 'grown' on farms. Though, from what I can tell, it's probably not too similar to your novel in any other way, I still don't want to unconsciously take ideas from your novel. :( So I guess I'll have to wait until I publish mine. :)

    How I thought up mine? Well, I have limited time on here, so I'll just talk about my current one, from NaNoWriMo 2012. I was trying to think of something to write for it, and I was discussing it with my sibbies, and they helped me make it up. But now, I'm changing it by meshing it with some things from a sci-fi my sis and I were collaborating on. (The sci-fi was way too cliche, but adding elements from it to my WIP will improve my book, I hope.) It will be different, because if I do this change, it will involve killing off a character that I really like. *sniff* This is really going to be terrible. But, some of the best characters are the ones that die for what they believe in (even if you hate the fact that they died). I've never written a death scene before, and I'm wondering if I'll really have to write it, or if it will end up that I need to write about the other characters finding out. Maybe just show right up to when he's going to die.

    Which gives me an idea. I was wondering if maybe one of you ladies could do a post on writing a character's death, and the different things that involves? :D

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    1. LOL! That's funny, Cari.

      Yeah, sometimes you have to kill off characters. It's hard. But it sometimes makes the story more realistic.

      Good idea on character's death post. I'll think about that. :-)

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