The Idea Store

March 24, 2009 at 1:05 am (General)

Writers are often asked “Where do you get your ideas?”  We’ve learned a few quick answers: “From the girls in the basement”, or “I steal them”, or even “WalMart”.  Every writer is different, but I’m sure we’re all alike in that it is difficult to define exactly where those stories come from.  It’s a blend of many different sources, methods, ideas, etc.  

I generally start a story with a basic idea of character, plot and where I want to see the hero and heroine go.  But recently, my editor asked me for an idea for a new paranormal romance story.  I drew a blank.  I had no idea, beyond the vampires and werewolves I’ve been writing lately, what I wanted to write about.  So I went to the Idea Store.

I’m a very visual writer, and usually after I’ve got that hero and heroine in my brain, I’ll look for pictures online that closely match the image of that person in my head.  But for this new story idea, I had no idea who or what I wanted to write about.  So I had to go shopping!  Visuals always get the creative wheels turning in my head.  One of my favorite things to do is surf artists’ websites.  I like a lot of the computer-generated artwork, and most of it translates well to the fantasy/paranormal.  So I thought I’d post a few of the pictures that struck me hard, and helped me decide ‘what’ I’d be writing about.  What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you look at this pic?

Something darker than angels came to my mind. And that set those story wheels turning, and then this next pic really put some interesting plot twists in my brain.
Doesn’t he look nasty? But what if he were the good guy? You see what kind of fun a writer can have playing with pictures and the ‘what if?’ game? Here’s one more that I love for my hero…

After an hour of collecting various artwork I had some great ideas brewing in my brain. Angels and demons rose to the top. And from there I began to plot. But it all started with some pictures and a couple ‘what ifs’.

So what about you?  When you’re writing do you incorporate visuals to get ideas?  As a reader, do you cast the characters?  Do you think of movie stars in the various roles of hero, heroine and other characters.  I do!  



  1. DinahT said,

    “What ifs” are important to everyone who does anything in an artistic sense.
    I am a reader not a writer. My art is lately working with fabric and paints not words but the “What ifs” are still very important.
    I see the visuals are in my head until I get on to something else whether paper or in a quilt for someone else to enjoy also.

  2. Sabrina said,

    I originally wrote a novel length post about how I generate my ideas and decided that since none of my ideas have actually made it into any form of writing fit for human consuption, I’m probably not the guru that I implying by the sheer length of my reply.

    The short answer is, no, I have never incorporated visuals to get ideas. I think it’s a neat idea though and I will try it and see what spawns.

    I only think of movie stars in the roles of characters in books in two cases. One, if I see a movie before I read the book, in which case I’m usually really resentful to have that thrust upon me. Especially if they took liberties with their selection and the actor has absolutely no physical resemblance to characters. Does Hollywood not think I’m going to notice that they swapped genders or race? Sweet zombie Jesus.

    The other instance is if I really like the actors picked for a book. The best example is the made for TV movie for Stephen King’s IT. Not the best movie ever, but I really loved all the people they picked for the parts. I read IT at least once every couple of years and I just can’t read it without picturing Jonathan Brandis as Stuttering Bill or John Ritter as grown up Ben.

  3. Estella said,

    I am a reader and I get my visuals from the author’s description of the hero or heroine. I f their description is not good, then the book usually doesn’t appeal to me either.

  4. Juliana Stone said,

    It’s funny, but I’ve never really thought about it. What an interesting question. For me personally, the idea for my first book wasn’t an “idea” per say, but an opening scene that I visualized in my mind. It totally drew me in and I had to write it and the rest of the story just kinda happened.

    The current book I’m working on I had a general idea, something at the back of my mind, but then one day the opening line just came to me. I wrote it down and then got to work. Man, I love when that happens!

  5. Teresa D'Amario said,

    Oh I love this method. I too get ideas from looking at art. You get a “Feel” for something, and you start dragging it out of your head. SOmetimes it’s the mood of the piece more than the specifics. Because I write primarily shifters at this time, I peruse YouTube and search out kewl video about my topic. 🙂 But if I was creating something all brand new, that’s harder. I have a race I created. It’s not published yet, and it took a very long time to create. Sometimes I Find it still in the creation process, which is ok, since it’s still unpub’d. 😀

  6. Michele Hauf said,

    I think this can relate back to school and how we learned as well. I know I was a more visual learner. Show me a lab experiment, and I could learn from it. Make me read about it in a dull text book, and I probably wouldn’t grasp it as well. I think that some people are more visual, and some are more…I don’t know what the word is, but they pick up more info from words.

    I guess whenever I write a story, it’s a movie in my head. And I can’t have a movie without a cast. It helps me to have a picture of the characters to reference, even if it’s only vaguely what I think the character really looks like. I might have a pic of a woman with dark curly hair, but her face is different, in my mind.

    Music is another thing that gets the creative wheels spinning. I cannot drive anywhere, with the music cranked, without getting some idea, or a conversation snippet between my current characters. It’s weird.

  7. Sabrina said,

    I’ve read something like that elsewhere… that listening to play lists of songs that your characters would listen to is very inspiring and can put you into your characters’ heads. I can see the merit to this thought, but I haven’t really found it to help me much. I always end up paying more attention to the music than the words on the page. So now I just listen to the same music I always listen to and it becomes a background hum.

    I’m a little weird (I think) in the way I think. I tend to think of things in the terms of words rather than pictures. Even my daily interior monologue is like a murmuring voice in the back of my mind, but when I actually LISTEN to what it has to say instead of seeing images of the thoughts, I see the words like they were printed on a page.

    When I read I see it like it’s a movie though. So I don’t think I’m entirely crazy yet. Just working my way there at a good clip. 🙂

  8. Cathy said,

    I’m a very visual person. I’m a reader and I “see” the people through the descriptions in my head. I don’t know how many times I look at the cover top put a face to the character(s) before and during reading. I listen to musical lyrics, look at artwork, read clothing descriptions in books and draw designs to get ideas for embroidery and formal wear clothes. I’m a seamstress and creative design ideas is what gets me up in the morning.

  9. gloria said,

    Love the art work, I like visual things like this but tend to be more a hands on learner, whoops can I say that.

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