Where do stories come from? The magic of writer inspiration.

It’s time for another Round Robin, where a group of authors each post on the same topic on the same day (but not necessarily the same time zone :) )

round robin, helena fairfax, romance editor

This week’s topic has been chosen by author Rhobin Courtright…

Where do stories come from?

I’ve always found it fascinating how we can imagine whole stories in our heads and tell them to someone else in such a way that they can picture it, too. And we start to love stories from such an early age. The photo here is of a story my daughter wrote in Primary School when she was about six years old. I really liked the punchline, so I saved it. You might not be able to decipher the spelling mistakes and the handwriting, but the story is lovely. It’s all about a man called Mr Mean, who “didn’t live in a nice house at all, because he never wanted the windows mended.”

She writes, “Do you know what he gave his brother for Christmas? A piece of clay.”

Mr Mean is visited by a wizard, who punishes him for his meanness by turning his money to potatoes.

“No, no,I’ll never be mean again,” says Mr Mean, and his money is money again.

Then he went to town, and an old lady asks him if he’ll carry her bag. “No,” says Mr Mean, and she turns his nose into a carrot.

Mr Mean goes through a character arc and learns his lesson. At the end of the story, he is a changed man. There is a witty punchline: “Because he is so generous, he gave his brother two pieces of clay.”

What a great story – and how amazing it is when you think about it, that even small children are able to use their imagination and make something up out of their heads to entertain others, and that even though there are only a few words in this story, we can picture it exactly in our own minds, using our own imagination in turn.

As writers, we have the power to make readers feel a whole range of emotions, even though what we are writing is completely made up.

But this doesn’t answer the question, “Where do stories come from?”

My own stories come together gradually, and they are part inspiration, and mainly a great deal of work. There is also a lot of what I like to call “mulling”.helena fairfax, felicity at the cross hotel, feel good romance

Here’s an example of how one of my stories evolved. I was watching the Channel 5 TV series The Hotel Inspector  and I was fascinated by how Alex Polizzi, businesswoman and hotel expert, transformed the fortunes of an ailing hotel. I loved the cast of real-life characters in the hotel she was staying in – their personalities, their enthusiasm, their stresses, their relationships with each other, and even the wonderful setting by the sea. I imagined how a setting like this would make for a great story, in which a hotel is transformed, and so are the hero and heroine. And this was the seed of the idea for my novel, Felicity at the Cross Hotel.

Romantic conflict

Once the seed was planted, the “mulling” began. In the back of my mind all sorts of characters and scenes slowly began to take shape – while I was walking the dog, cooking the tea, or just sitting staring into space, thoughts and ideas were forming. Of course writing isn’t just inspiration. If only…! How easy it would be just to write my ideas down. Writing is a craft, too. And to craft a romance, you have to have a hero and heroine who are unable – or at least strongly believe they are unable – to be together. This romantic conflict is at the heart of the story. (And the art of creating conflictt was the subject of a previous Round Robin, which you can read here.) Once I have an idea, and things start to come together through “mulling”, I then have to sit down and work out who my hero and heroine are, and what exactly is keeping them apart. My stories come partly from inspiration, and partly from working on the details as though they were a puzzle to be solved.

A book of ideas

helena fairfax, editor, freelace editor, romance editor
Image courtesy of Pixabay

I have so many ideas that are just waiting to be stories. I wish I had time to write them all. I have a folder with cuttings from newspaper stories that have taken my eye, or else interviews with real people, or jottings about a real event that friends and family may have told me about. When I flick through this folder, I get excited thinking about how these tiny snippets could possibly become full-blown stories, with characters who are fleshed out and real, and interact with one another, and have lives and hopes and dreams. Creating a story out of your imagination is like a form of magic.

But the main thing about a story is to entertain someone else, and I constantly find it wonderful and amazing that characters and scenes from someone else’s mind can come alive in my own – even with just a few sentences, like my daughter’s story as a child.

* * *

And now I’m very curious to find out what the other authors in the Round Robin have to say on the topic. If you’d like to read how they find their own inspiration, please click on the links below!

If you’re a writer, where do your stories come from? If you love reading, do you ever feel that characters you’ve read about are actually real life people?

If you have any comments at all, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you!

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Anne de Gruchy https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1dm
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

16 thoughts on “Where do stories come from? The magic of writer inspiration.

    1. Thanks so much, Paula! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I really enjoy our monthly Round Robins, and there is always a thought-provoking topic. And I’m really thrilled you enjoyed Felicity! Thanks very much for dropping in, and for taking the time to comment!


  1. In my case, Drusilla the fictional vampire grabbed onto me like the tulpa of lore with the desperation of a drowning woman and the stories – her stories – just tumbled out naturally as if they were meant to be written. Which I think they were. The only pity is that they were never published…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Like you, I have a file filled with story ideas and I’m equally convinced I can’t ever write them all – there simply isn’t time. Fleshing out these snippets is such an exciting journey, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is exciting, Skye, you’re so right! Interesting to see how the other authors in the group find their inspiration. I really enjoyed this topic. Thanks so much for dropping in!


    1. That’s interesting you say that, Margaret. I find my imagination works far better when I’m away from my computer. I like holding the physical file and looking at the photos. It’s fascinating to see how other authors work. Thanks for dropping in!


  3. I loved your daughter’s story! She must be learning from her mom. She had a well thought out and humorous ending, intentional or not.
    I also now keep a folder of story ideas. It’s overflowing, but with all the thought and work needed for each one, I’m sure I won’t complete them all in this lifetime.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s exactly what I think, too Rhobin – that I won’t ever be able to expand on all of these ideas. I have managed to turn a few into short stories, though. Thanks so much for setting another great topic. I really enjoyed writing about it!


  4. My thinking is that once I’ve written a story, and the characters can now live in a reader’s imagination, they leave me alone. Then the next group starts to demand I write their stories also, so they can live in more brains than mine. Makes for a noisy, crowded head sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the idea of a noisy, crowded head, Fiona. That sums it up. I wish we could magic all our ideas into life, but being a writer involves hard graft, as well as inspiration. Thanks so much for your comment, and for dropping in.


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