Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

When I was in college, I let my friend Kathie read early versions of Bo and Blade’s story. Without fail, when she finished reading my most recent pages she would look up at me and ask, “Where do you get this stuff?”

That’s a question I’ve been asked a lot as a writer. Ideas and inspiration come from so many sources, it’s hard to narrow them all down. Some are an amalgam of several completely unrelated bits and pieces, others I can trace with pinpoint accuracy to their inspiration.

Here are a few lines from SOVRAN’S PAWN along with the images and places that inspired them —


“…Bo absently studied the domes and spires of Cormoran’s skyline. “

University of Tampa/Cultural Arts District – photo by Matthew Paulson


“Because with the sun behind you like it is, your dress is virtually transparent.”


“…Bo…followed the hostess as she rounded the corner to the east side of the terrace overlooking the glistening bay. Colorful boats danced across the waves. The view was breathtaking. “


“Brilliant sunlight spilled through the massive wall of large-paned windows that lined the gallery. Behind his sunshades, Blade’s eyes flicked over the parade of Marin ancestors whose portraits lined the opposite wall. “


“He stepped out onto the sidewalk from the mass-transit station, leaving the cloying odor of exhaust fumes mixed with stale urine behind him. “


These are just a few of the images and places that have inspired scenes, settings, and even story lines.  Movies, television, magazine articles, paintings, music videos, off-handed comments from friends and family all have made their way into my subconscious and my writing.

There are several more I could post today, but there are some things I just don’t want to share.

Where do you get YOUR ideas?

4 thoughts on “Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

  1. It’s interesting to see how those pictures translate into your story. I particularly like the picture of Princess Diana. Personally, I don’t feel like I draw much inspiration from anything. Places, scenes… they always seem to just be there in my head. They’ve probably been festering there all along from all the things I’ve seen and I end up using the final product.

    1. The only image that doesn’t come from personal experience is the picture of Princess Diana. I remember the scandal that photo wrought at the time. I liked the way Prince Charles is purported to have handled it by saying that it just proves what he’d known all along – that she had great legs.

      I think inspiration comes from personal experience. Sometimes it announces itself with a Heavenly choir and other times it’s a subtle whisper, teasing the back of the subconscious and we don’t even realize its influence.

      The Tampa skyline is an integral part of my life. Driving in to college each morning, I noted how filthy my car was when I drove back to my suburban home. Certain times of year, tropical weather brings clouds in varying shades of gray and blue. The brown haze of pollution would hang low over the city creating tan clouds that looked out of place and clashed with the natural colors of the tropical weather. They made a startling backdrop for the distinctive minarets of the University of Tampa. When I described this sky on the first pages of my book, my editor tried correcting the description claiming it sounded like I’d confused my descriptions. I left it, because it was exactly what I’d seen. Until she’d challenged me on it, I hadn’t realized where it came from.

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