Tag s | Creativity

In Search of Ideas

Authors, I’m guessing you’ve heard this question over and over: “Where do you get your ideas?” I know I’ve heard it more times than I can count. Now, if you’re like most writers I know, ideas for possible stories come fast and furious—most of the time. But what to do when you feel as though the idea well has run dusty and dry?

Well! Let me share a few standards that I, and other authors I know, rely on:

The Media

That old saying that the truth is stranger than fiction has stood the test of time for one reason: It’s true! I’ve discovered that the news, whether on TV or in a paper or online, is a veritable mine of ideas just waiting to be…well, mined. <grin> It just happened to me again this morning. My dad was reading to me from the local paper about a hit and run accident in our area. At 3 am day before yesterday, a woman driving a pickup ran a red light, slammed into a van carrying workers on their way to a job, then jumped from her truck and ran away. One worker was killed, three others seriously injured. The police finally caught the woman at her home, and when they did so she was suffering from a multitude of injuries, probably, the authorities said, from the crash.

SO, I’m listening to him read, and this is where my mind goes:

What if the woman they arrested wasn’t the one driving the truck? What if it was someone who wanted to kill the driver of that van? So she stole the pickup of a woman she’d been watching, a woman who lives alone, who is known to drink excessively, who has received at least one DUI. Just before she steals the pickup, what if she attacked the inebriated woman, causing her injuries? Then she takes the pickup, T-bones the van to kill the driver, then takes off. Of course, when the authorities come after the woman who drinks, they won’t believe it wasn’t her, that someone just “happened” to attack her and steal her pickup.

And on it goes from there.

Okay, I’m not saying the idea is perfect, but what I am saying is it’s amazing how many real stories can spark a “What if” scenario, than can then become a book.

Personal Experiences

Some of the most powerful nonfiction I’ve read has stemmed from what the author, or someone close to the author, really experienced. Who are the people around you? What are their stories? What about their stories gets your heart pumping, sparks your outrage, warms your heart? Listen and ask questions. There are stories just waiting for you to discover them.


One of the best things you can do when you’re looking for ideas is people watch. Seriously! Go to the mall, an airport, the park—any place that’s busy. Then sit down, and watch. Watch the interactions between people. Watch expressions and body language. Look at how folks are dressed, what they’re doing, how they act.

We have a bohemian community not too far from us, and it’s a veritable feast of odd characters to observe. There’s the man trapped in his own world who sits on the same bench every day. He’ll watch people passing by for a minute, then suddenly he freezes in whatever pose he is in. He sits like a statue for five minutes or so, then comes back to life. A few minutes later, he freezes again. It’s as though he just catches some inner bus to another destination, then comes back. I’ve watched him a number of times and wondered…

What happened in his life that brought him to this place?

What does he see, hear, think, feel while he’s checked out?

What if he’s not really crazy, but he’s some researching watching to see how people react? Or what if he’s an undercover cop, and this is a persona he’s created to keep an eye on the bad guys? OR, what if (and this shows you how bizarre my brain is) what’s going on in his head is reality, and I’m actually a part of the delusion??

Watch people, let your imagination run wild. The ideas and stories will follow.

Okay, those are a few suggestions for sparking ideas. Now, your turn! Where do you find ideas for the books you write?

Can’t wait to read your responses!

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Are You a Storybird?

I’m always hearing about authors who get stuck. Whose creativity has hit a wall. Who have hit a point in the story that they’ve lost interest.

Or there are the down times. When emotions have them hogtied. They’re too sad or depressed or frustrated or overwhelmed to write.

Well, I don’t have a cure for all of those things, but I do have something that can help. It’s called Storybird, and it’s wonderful.

On Storybird, you can choose the most wonderful art, and then write a story. Short or long, funny or serious, it doesn’t matter. Just write what’s on your mind, what the art inspires.

I just wrote a Storybird because I was upset with myself for letting a friend down. In fact, that friend was Steve Laube. I forgot to send him my blog post for the agency site. And I knew he was disappointed in me. Thing is, I’ve forgotten to send the blog post before, too many times. Fibro has shot my short-term memory full of holes. So when I get stressed or overwhelmed, I tend to forget things. Even important things. I don’t like it. In fact, I hate it. But I can’t change it. So I’ve learned to work around it, using notes and alarms on my computer, and enlisting the help of friends and family. But when it affects something important, like making sure I do what I’m supposed to for Steve, I feel terrible.

So when that happened, I went to Storybird. And I wrote a story. For me. For Steve. For all of us who struggle with changes we don’t like. And it helped. A lot.

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Any Name Will Do?

Have you ever been asked by an editor to change a character’s name in your novel? If so, I promise you are not alone. It happened to me too. One thing I used to like about writing books is that I could christen my characters with names I thought whimsical but my husband would have never let us call our children. But a writer still has to be careful.

Same Syllables

Awhile back, I ran into an issue with names bearing the same number of syllables. I once named the sisters in my novel Norma and Mabel. I was able to distinguish between them in my mind, but my critique partners got them mixed up. And they were nothing alike! But based on their advice, I changed their names and am so glad I did.


Sometimes it’s hard to resist naming characters with the same letter of the alphabet, especially siblings. But three brothers named Zach, Zed, and Zeke, for example, can confuse your audience. It is easy to throw off your reader by minor characters sharing too many name similarities. If Barney is your main character, and then you have a minor character named Barnabas with one speaking line readers may wonder if Barnabas and Barney are related.

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Reader Expectations

Guest blog by Robin Lee Hatcher

Robin Lee Hatcher and I (Karen Ball) have been friends for a lot of years. One of the things I most respect about her is the respect and love she has for her readers. She doesn’t write just for the sake of telling a good story. She writes to uplift and encourage her readers, to remind them they’re not alone in their struggles and challenges. Robin tells stories right from the heart, and her readers love her for it. With good reason.

So welcome, Robin, to the Steve Laube Agency Blog. I can’t wait to see what you’ve decided to share with us!

And in case you are wondering, best-selling novelist Robin Lee Hatcher is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. She makes her home in Idaho where she enjoys spending time with her family, her high-maintenance Papillon, Poppet, and Princess Pinky, the cat who currently terrorizes the household. Her latest release, from Women of Faith Fiction, is Heart of Gold, set during the Civil War in the gold camps of Idaho.

Robin can be found on the Internet in the following places:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/robinleehatcher
Write Thinking blog:http://blog.robinleehatcher.com
Twitter: @robinleehatcher
Web site: http://www.robinleehatcher.com


I write genre fiction, and I say it without apology. I write what is often called “popular fiction” (to which I always want to ask, “Why would I want to write unpopular fiction?”). My 65+ books fall into such genres (or sub-genres) as historical sagas, historical romance, contemporary romance, and contemporary women’s fiction. All of my books since 1999 are also Christian fiction.

Writers of genre fiction often bristle when someone says the word “formula.” To many, that equates to saying all of our books are the same, that if you follow some predefined formula anybody could write one. But all historical romances, for instance, are not the same. The journeys of the heroes and heroines are unique to a book’s plot and to a writer’s style and voice. There isn’t a formula to be followed. (Sometimes I wish there were!) So if that is the meaning when someone says “formula,” then I’ll bristle too.

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News You Can Use – Mar. 6, 2012

Your Average Facebook Post Only Reaches 12% of Your Friends – Exposing yet another challenge to the world of marketing, either through traditional means or through social media.

New French Law Seizes Digital Rights – “Any book published in France–which would include translated foreign-language books–that went out of print in France–not necessarily elsewhere–before 2001, can be scanned into a database.” And then be made available without compensation.

It Has Come to This in Hollywood – GCB. Fire up the TiVo for that one… Good grief.

From Idea to Store Shelf – I love these kind of stories. Shows the incredible “curation” it takes for a good idea to become great and then what it takes to bring it to market. There are many parallels to the writing and publishing industry here.

Give it Five Minutes, Then React to an Idea – A good reason why appointments at a conference are 15 minutes long.

Free Mac Tools That Make Writing Easier – Agree or disagree? What tools do you use? And if you are on a PC, what do you use?

Anatomy of a Successful Press Release – Try writing one for your own book. Discover that is ain’t easy.

Eight Basic Don’ts for the Beginning Novelist – Steve Moore provides some great stuff. Good reminders for those who think they know this already.

This is a very clever ad for the British newspaper, “The Guardian.”
Click to view “The Three Little Pigs.”

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A Gathering of Twitches

This blog is from one twitch to another. Let me explain…

My husband loves that I’m a writer. He loves my creativity and passion. And he loves how happy I am when I’m writing. He knows when I’m writing because I get “twitchy.” Translation: Distracted. Otherwise occupied. Caught up in scenes and conversations no one but I—and that multitude in my mind–can see or hear. He knows that when the twitchies hit, he’s only wasting breath to ask me things like, “Did you pick up milk today?” or, more true-to-life, “Why is the milk in the oven?” He knows when I’m lost in twitchiness that I don’t realize what’s happening in the here and now. And so he just sighs, checks to see if the milk is still cold, then puts it away. Or goes to the store for a new gallon.

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Let Creativity Flow (Part Five)

As promised last week, when all else fails to spark your creativity, give one of these a try. They almost always work!

1. Do something relaxing. Take a pad and pencil or a mini-recorder along to capture ideas when they spark. Some relaxation ideas:

A nice, long bath Play with your pet. If you don’t have one, go to the dog park and borrow one! Go to a movie Cook something you love garden look through old family photo albums take a nap
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Let Creativity Flow (Part Four)

Great discussions on creativity, everyone. Just reading your comments is sparking my creativity! So here are the last of my thoughts on what you can do when that well of ideas seems to have run dry:

Take a Time Out. Remember how that works? Time outs? When you were a kid and got a little out of control, Mom sent you to the Time Out chair to cool off. Well, this is a similar principle. Too often we try too hard, which only makes creativity that much harder to find. So take a time-out. Give yourself time to play, to move, to get out of the house, away from your everyday life. Get out in nature. The woods, the ocean, a local park. Go to the library. Go to a museum and let the beauty of other people’s creativity wash over you. Go to the gun range and, as my hubby calls it, “plink.” Take a break from being an adult. Getting away from “it all,” at least once in a while, is restorative.

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Let Creativity Flow (Part Three)

We all know how elusive creative can be at times. You’ve shared some great ways to get those juices flowing. Here are a few more ideas.

Keep an Evidence Journal. Write down your God Stories. The times you saw God act. The times you felt His touch and presence. Do it with story or just key words. But get it down on paper. When God moves in your day, write it down. When someone speaks truth to your heart, write it down. When you struggle, write it down. Remember the children of Israel were told to write these truths on the doorposts that they might not forget all God had done for them. Then, when you’ve done that for awhile, go back and read what you wrote. It’s so easy to forget God’s faithfulness. What a blessing to have solid, firm evidence of His action, His presence in our lives, in our passion.

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Let Creativity Flow (Part Two)

I love the ideas you all shared about finding and sparking creavity. It’s fascinating to see how we’re all wired different. My next few blogs will share some additional things you can do to refill the wells of creavity. Have fun!

1. Disconnect from technology. Okay, don’t hyperventilate. But think about it. We have to be the most connected, available, interruptable people ever! Give yourself a break–literally. Shut off the phone, the computer, and anything else with an on/off switch. Focus on the silence. And what God has to tell you in the midst of it.

2. Regain Perspective. Remember, it’s not about you. Sure, it feels like it is, but it’s really not. It’s about what God wants to accomplish. So step away from yourself. Got mountains close by? The ocean? Anything bigger than you? Look at it. Let the sight of something truly huge and majestic remind you of your place in the world. And then remember that the God who created ALL of that beauty and majesty, not only created you, but CHOSE you as his child. And breathed into you His Spirit. And His creativity.

3. Go the other direction. Study something smaller than you (on a physical plane, that is). To to a playground and watch the kids. Take closeup photos of flowers, insects, leaves…whatever is around you. Look at the intricate way they’re made.

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