Monday, January 3, 2011

In the Beginning - The Genesis of Story

It’s the beginning of a new year. 2011.


Wow. Can you believe it?

Welcome to The Writers Alley’s first post of 2011.

It’s the beginning of a New Year.

The start of a new page in our lives.

The first sentence (or paragraph) of a new story in the book of You (or Me).

All this ‘beginning’ thinking got be to pondering on the origin of some of our stories, sooooo

I asked a few of the Alley Cats from what inspiration did their story-ideas come?

We ALL get inspired by something, someone, somewhere, somehow – sometimes in the oddest of places, ways, or situations.

Then…

Stories start.

But how?

Personal Experiences?

Interesting novels, research, facts?

Overheard conversations?

Add to those things, the ol’ WHAT IF and BAM – you have the beginnings of a story.

Here are a few examples from our very own Alley Cats about what inspired their story ideas.

Sarah’s wip originated from personal experience, but bloomed from the ‘what if’ question. Here’s what she had to say when I asked her how her story started:

My latest wip idea started with my experiences working in a small Amish-themed diner. I thought it could make a fun setting, and the characters and plot grew from there. I was trying to develop a person who would struggle around the simplicity of the Amish and a shopaholic seemed like the antithesis of the Amish. Figured it could make for lots of good conflict. :-)

Doesn’t that sound GREAT?!? I’ve read it, people. It’s a really fun story with loads of conflict (and a super-hunky hero, btw) Did I also happen to mention that Sarah’s wip was a finalist for the Genesis. Did I? What a treat for her 2010.

Sherrinda’s historical wip started with some simple reading-gone-wild. Here’s what she has to say:

Pepper, for my first story, I remember reading about girls being sent to convents to live. Sometimes to get them off the families hands due to financial contraints, and sometimes for an education. Then I had a thought of what if...what if a girl was sent who did not want to be there and tried to escape. That snowballed into my medieval story.

Oh, btw, I’m reading this one right now and it’s a WONDERFUL story!! I love it. FILLED with conflict, adventure, and suspense…with a promise of some super-romance too. Btw, did I mention that this is the same novel that won FIRST PLACE in the Touched By Love writing contest in 2010. Her FIRST contest!!! Isn’t that awesome?!? And it all started with an idea that sparked her curiosity.

Curiosity is one of a writer’s most important commodities. Without curiosity, stories fall flat.

For Mary, her idea sparked from a challenge. A self-challenge. Check out her answer:

My inspiration came from a recent historical fiction writing contest. I took a gamble and tried to write one. I couldn't believe how easy and exciting the research, writing, and ideas became. I thought, maybe I could write a historical fiction novel. I picked a period of time I hadn't seen anything written about, incorporated successful ideas: adventure, strangers meeting, mystery, and poof, the novel was born....not finished...enjoying the growth.

Now, I haven’t had the pleasure of reading Mary’s work, but I hope to get the chance this year :-) Go, MARY!!!

Nowhere in all the writer books or blogs I’ve read does it say an accomplice cannot help inspire a story idea- and that’s exactly what happened with Krista’s Sandwich book. Let me just say, this story starts off with a BANG (and some laughter). Here’s what Krista had to say:

My sandwich book came from the fact that I was born in Sandwich IL and well… it just has a cool name. My daughter and I were in the car one day and for fun I told her we should brainstorm up a book. So we talked about our heroine.. named her… Karalynn decided she was a hair stylist. Then we thought it would be a fun way to start a book by her cutting a guy’s hair and doing a really bad job… thus creating conflict… and the rest is history :-)

Creative helps comes in all shapes and sizes, doesn’t it, Krista?!? As a matter of fact, I got a great idea from my 11 year old yesterday. I’ll totally steal any creativity my kids want to share with me.

Julia’s response is fascinating. The way she became inspired isn’t all that different than many folks – reading something that sparks the curiosity- but the story idea it started (the ‘what ifs that followed) are amazing.

Check this out:

My book came out of reading a bio of someone who was in a polygamous cult and watching a TV show interview with her. After finding out she became a born-again Christian I found myself thinking: What struggles would a former cult member have after becoming a Christian? How would they transition to the outside world? What would be their greatest fears? What would it be like understanding God's love after coming out of a background where God is seen as only wrathful?

Whew, Julia, I can’t wait to get a little peek at this story. What an idea!

Casey’s story ideas come from observation coupled with the ‘what if’ question. Transporting real situations or real people into a fictional realm where you, the author, mold a story.

Inspiration may come from various different sources, but the commonality among them all?

What if?

Samuel Johnson said, “Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous mind.”

When said that curiosity ‘killed the cat’, Arnold Edinborough replied – “But the cat died nobly.”

So – what has your curiosity gotten you into? What is the inspiration behind your wip? Care to share?

Walt Disney – “When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.”

28 comments:

Sherrinda said...

Oooo, I'm the first! I've got strong coffee with lots of creamer ready for anyone up as early as me. Gotta go back to work, you know. No more goofing around. *whip cracking* ouch!

Isn't the "what if" concept a great tool for writers? Curiosity coupled with a vivid imagination leads to such fun in the writing field.

Great post, Pepper, and I would be remiss in asking what sparked YOUR vampire story? ;)

Pepper Basham said...

Going back to work myself, Sherrinda.
Sigh.
WAY TOO SOON!!!

I'm gonna add some donuts to the list of breakfast treats, since I can't have REAL ones right now. I'll stick with cyber-food :-)

Oooh, Vampire story Inspiration?
Twilight! What else? (if you're a Twilight fan do not read my comments any further)

I thought 'what if' the heroine had a backbone and wasn't vampire-crazy! What if she was meant to destroy vampires instead - her innate calling. What if she'd been 'perfectly content' without the assistance of a handsome hero- and THEN the one person she's supposed to hate, is the one person who can change her life forever. :-)

In fact - she's the one who ends up being 'heartless' in the beginning. Afraid of any emotional intimacy. So... too much info?

Julia M. Reffner said...

Wow, I'm definitely interested in reading all of these stories.

4:45 and 4:59 am...goodness you girls are starting off the New Year with a bang. Is that when you get your writing done? And Sherrinda, I don't even think you're in my time zone...so that's what 3 AM? :) I need to learn some writing habits from you gals :)

Pepper Basham said...

Julia,
The computer clock is WAAAAY off. As much as I'd love to be as productive (insane) as all that, I posted my comments around 8am and Sherrinda posted hers somewhere between 7:30-8am (EST) which would be 6:30-7am for her in TX :-)
Don't go thinking 'great things' about us ;-)

Sherrinda said...

Oh no, Julia, I got up at 6 a.m. this morning. Starting tomorrow, I will get up at 5 a.m. I have to be at work by 7:15 a.m. usually (today is just a staff work day, so I don't have to go in until 8 a.m.).

Oops, I need to quit reading blogs and go jump in the shower. :)

Sherrinda said...

Actually, I think the time stamp is set to...hhhmmm, I'm not sure. How do we pick a zone to post in? We all live scattered across the US!!!

Pepper Basham said...

Yeah, but I don't think any of us are set for 4am. LOL...wait - maybe Casey set if for Mountain Time. LOL

Wendy Paine Miller said...

What a cool post. Not sure how I didn't get to answering this one. My WIP story idea came from a sign in my doctor's office. And my next one came from an article I read that I couldn't get off my mind.

Happy New Year ladies!
~ Wendy

Pepper Basham said...

Wendy,
A sign in your doctor's office?!?
Okay - so can you share what was on the sign, because my curiosity is going haywire!

Btw- I sent the email to all the alleycats, but sometimes my emails go to spam. Not sure why :-)

Steve Finnell said...

you are invited to follow my blog

Keli Gwyn said...

My story idea came from some old photographs--very old ones. One day while browsing the shops on Main Street in my historic Gold Rush town, I spied a big basketful of cartes de visite, which are those little wallet sized sepia pictures on stiff cardboard dating back to the second half of the 1800s.

I spent a blissful two hours studying the photos as I let my mind wander. When I came to an image of a person I liked, I set it aside. My stack grew, and so did the number of story ideas bouncing around in my brain. Four of the pictures I purchased that day served as inspiration for my story.

Pepper Basham said...

Oh Keli,
What a great way to come up with ideas!
do you like to rummage through antique stores?
I found a set of lovely, white embroidered gloves that were probably early 1900s - maybe older - and I started asking questions like...
What sort of lady wore these?
Why would she wear them?
How would she feel about them?
I love the imagination of writing - don't you?

Mary Vee said...

Keli,
My teachers used the same technique to get us to write stories. She placed a stack of pics on the table, we picked one, and off we wrote.
Pepper,
You've inspired us...yet again. I will have 4 days off work (sitting with hubby..he has surgery Tue, in hospital until Fri). I plan to rat-a-tat many words on that WIP I told you about.
Too excited.
To the other Alley Cats, may I read your finished works mention in this post?

Sarah Forgrave said...

SUCH a fun post, Pepper! I love reading all these inspirations. I'm headed to Starbucks tonight for a writing date with a friend, so maybe a peppermint mocha will fire up my inspiration (unless they did away with peppermint mochas now that the holidays are over, in which case I'm sunk).

Sherrinda said...

Sarah, where do you live? :) I wanna go to Starbucks for a writing date! That sounds like too much fun to get much writing done!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Sherrinda, I live in Indiana. You can go to your local Starbucks and we'll have a virtual writing date. How does that sound?

Casey said...

BLAME ME WOULD YOU?? I will have you know that I had nothing to do with setting the time on the blog. I stay faaaaar away from that side of the blogging business- at least this one. And if I remember right SHERRINDA is the one who set the blog up. :)

Great first post Pep. Don't all stories start with a what if? Where would we be without it? See authors are really just overgrown two year olds asking, why? Why? WHYYYYY??

:)

Beth K. Vogt said...

I loved reading this post! The Alley Cats are creative, inspiring writers!! One of the books I want to write came from a "what if" question as I walked out of a bank.
A lot of times, though, my story lines are begun because of I'll hear about a real=life dilemma and think, "Is what that person saying about life true?" And I run off with the idea to prove it wrong--or right!

Angie said...

So neat to see everyone's inspiration! I was inspired by a National Geographic show for my latest wip...not exactly where I would have imagined finding inspiration, but this novel has been so fun to research for and write!!
Great post, Pepper!!

Pepper Basham said...

Mary,
I hope you get some 'what ifs' while on your 4-day break.
I bet a hospital would be a mine of 'what if' possiblities.

Pepper Basham said...

Sarah,
I hope you had fun on your 'writing' date. Ooo, what a treat. I totally agree with Sherrinda. WHAT. AN. IDEA.
Cyber writing date?!?
Sounds awesome to me!

Keli Gwyn said...

Pepper, when I'm in the middle of a story, I've been known to wander through antique stores. It's a fun way to imagine myself in the past.

Pepper Basham said...

Case,
Of course we'll blame you.
You ALWAYS blame the youngest person :-)

Pepper Basham said...

Ooo, Beth - what a neat way to get inspiration for stories.
It also starts even the idea off with tension.
Very cool!

Pepper Basham said...

Angie,
National Geographic!
Oh how fun!
I have about 20 copies of National Geographic magazines from the 1950s-1970s.
Ideas come from all kinds of places :-)

Patti Lacy said...

I'm really proud of you, Pepper, and all the fun ladies of this blog!!!

Wow. National Geographic! Wish I would'a heard that while at my in-laws' last week. They have a book shelf bulging with them!

Blessings for 2011!

Pepper Basham said...

Oh Patti,
You are so sweet!!
Thanks for stopping by and giving an encouraging word.

Blessings right back atcha!

Kathy said...

This What if? rant ,if I could call it so, really helped me get through my writters block... found it odd to read comments that I understood so well to find out most seem to be my mothers age! Yes I am a minor niner in highschool that loves to write stories and happend to find this site!

Working on a story called "The hidden world of Centaurs"...those are the half people half horse creatures.

Awesome sounding story Pepper! Sounds like it would be very intresting.