How do your stories begin?

There’s no right, wrong, or even singular answer to this question—I’m just curious to see where other writers have found inspiration.

A story’s conception is a curious thing. For me it is almost always different. Sometimes it begins with a prompt (duct tape + drunken cheerleader + ninja + Bally Total Fitness); sometimes with a dream (shapeshifting / doppelgangers / manipulating appearance); sometimes with a sentence (“Going to see the secret eater was like going to confessional, except the secret eater was not a holy man and those that came did not seek forgiveness.”); sometimes with a concrete object (pearl earrings); sometimes with an idea  (madness); sometimes with a character trait (ridiculous swears); sometimes with a name (Anne De Manda & Peter McBunterbeans—coined after my friend Amanda and her rabbit Peter, both of whom were proximate at the time).

Sometimes one, none, or all of the above.

How about you: where do you draw or have you drawn your stories from? Do you find one source/starting point to be more common than another?

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34 responses to “How do your stories begin?”

  1. My story ideas hit me when I least expect. I’m usually doing something very ordinary and daydreaming a little, and then I think, “What if?” It’s always very surprising but pleasing nonetheless.

    1. Ah…in combination, “what if” are two of my most favorite words of all 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  2. I get inspiration from so many things, it kind of feels like almost anything can spark inspiration. I’ve had songs give me inspiration, book titles, poems, images, the hairdresser telling me her friend’s baby’s weird name. Sometimes a name or character will just pop into my head as if from nowhere and will reveal their story to me slowly over time. I’ve been awoken in the middle of the night by an idea that demanded to be written. There’s no pattern really.

    1. Haha, the hairdresser’s friend’s weird baby name…brilliant! I think you’re right Rochelle…anything is game! The imagination works in mysterious ways. That’s amazing that you even get revelations that wake you from your sleep!

      Thanks for weighing in!

  3. My blog is inspired by marital issues but my real writing is inspired by so many different things. Sometimes I think of a funny scene and write a story around it or come up with an interesting character and put them in a strange situation. I enter a lot of writing competitions where they assign you specific prompts like genre, subject and an object.and you must incorporate all three into your story. It’s a great writing exercise, gets you thinking out of your comfort zone and really works your imagination. 🙂

    1. Hi Nicole! Ooh, yes, definitely agree– it is fun to put characters in bizarre/amusing situations and watch them chart/dig/sashay their way out. Love the prompts, too– those are especially fun to do with a group: like snowflakes, no two prompt-inspired stories are the same!

      Thanks for sharing your experiences 🙂

  4. A lot of times, it will just be an image in my mind or a phrase that intrigues me. Other times, it will be an “if” statement along the lines of “It would be funny/cool/interesting if…”

    1. Ah…there is that magical little word, ‘if’ again…

      Cheers– thanks for sharing, Marc!

  5. It depends on what kind of story, I think. If it’s a short story, I like to start sort of in the middle of the action. If it’s longer, like a novella or novel, I like to give a little backstory and introduce the characters before the action happens.

    1. Good call. Starting with the action (or as close to it as possible) is a classic hook!

  6. Fredrik Kayser Avatar
    Fredrik Kayser

    For me it often starts with pain. Not half as dramatic as it might sound though ^^ a need to distract my mind. Fills up blank pages in no time at all, my ideas and stories tend to grow out of that as foundation. Afterwards, I cling on to everything that inspires me. 🙂

    1. Fair play! Yes, pain is definitely a creative fire-starter…well done for making the most of it!

  7. My ideas always hit me on days that are different… or if I have a strong emotion… That’s kind of the purpose of “small stones” too- to be able to turn something ordinary into something different!

    1. Well said, Jodette! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  8. You see, there is this stork that flies by once a month and delivers this shining silver pouch overflowing with ideas. I deposit organic fruits and veggies into the pouch and he picks it up when he drops off the next time. 😀

    1. Now THAT’S what I call a system! I wish I had a story stork!

      1. I asked him if he would fly by your house and he just pouted and said ‘it’s sooo far…like O M G….” So whether he shows or not, I’m not sure…. 😉

        1. Lol, your story stork speaks valley girl? 😉 Well, I’ll keep my fingers crossed and let you know if I spot him!

          1. Julie. Doesn’t everyone speak valley girl? Even Pennywise and Randall Flagg spoke valley girl…. 😀 Let me know!

          2. Pennywise?? ‘IT’ must not have scarred me as deeply as I thought because I don’t really remember anything he said. Thanks, though– and valid point. We all have our ‘like, OMG!’ moments 🙂

  9. Reblogged this on The Ranting Papizilla and commented:
    How about all of you? Check it out and let Julie know how you get ideas…. great post.

  10. for me I just think of a name and then let it all encompass around that word as I go down the paragraphs

    1. Wow– everything unfolds from a single word? That is incredible to me. Well done, Terry!

      1. that is the way I have always written. thank you Julie!

  11. Inspiration for me comes from raw emotion. The emotion elicits the story and characters.

  12. Movies and TV inspire me. Heh, that rhymes.
    I get ideas from media and music, and it inspires me to think of characters or specific scenes. Then I come up with plots to work around them.

    1. Awesome! It’s great to find inspiration in one art form and channel it into something else– even better when you can connect separate pieces from separate places to make new ideas.

      Also, I like that you noticed the rhyme in your own sentence 🙂

      1. Thanks! I tend to come up with things on the fly and brainstorm how to work them into my stuff. Inspiration rocks! And so do rhymes.

  13. Really nice insightful post 🙂

    Okay, now to bore you with the details of my current WIP.

    I was in a writing group and we all came up with a premise and it evolved from there. The last few days I’ve been born in my sociology class and I just began daydreaming more about the story and coming up with who the characters are. It started with their names and now I can feel who they are. It honestly just came out of nowhere. Sometimes, I’m really amazed by it.

    1. Yeah, it really amazes me too– how much can develop from one detail or a starting point! And even more comes out in the writing process (and revisions for us novelists ;)) It’s so cool to watch characters come to life!

  14. I have found that I tend to start my stories with dialogue. One of my novels starts with “You’re ugly, so you mustn’t be seen.” Apparently starting with dialogue is a somewhat of a taboo, but it works for me! 🙂

    1. I think it’s a fun hook! 🙂

  15. For me, stories often start with a picture or a scene in my mind and then the rest builds from there as I try to figure out the why and the how. I have been inspired by dreams before as well. The smallest thing can hook my imagination and make me wonder how someone else would react. Then I begin to form characters.
    My friends are use to me stopping in mid conversation to scramble for a pen and something to write on. I can’t tell you how many stories began their lives on napkins or the back of receipts while enjoying a cup of coffee with a friend. Being around water seems to trigger that creative spark for me too, and it doesn’t have to be a river or a lake. The shower works just as well. lol

    1. A fellow napkin scribbler! Well, I started carrying a minute notebook around with me (and pen) so I always have that when something hits me now 🙂 I like that your ideas come from such eclectic places!

      Interesting what you say about water, too. I think the presence of water is calming. Maybe it helps coax the creativity out. Actually, the shower is one of the best places to think things through for me and let my mind jump ahead!

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