Seven sources for story … where do writing ideas come from?



Where do ideas for writing come from?


Last November, 2016, while I was busy working on a manuscript of poems about one room school houses, another idea intruded. Within a few days, I was writing a science fiction long poem about two characters adventuring on an alien planet. The sudden urge to write this story surprised even me.



'horizon' Nov 10 2016 (2016_12_30 00_28_35 UTC)
‘horizon’ November 10, 2016 … one of the first drawings I did to accompany the story. The date says how early my ideas about Meniscus began to gel.


Looking back, I can identify several precipitating factors:

  • For the previous three or four months, I had been thinking, off and on, with no intention of ever writing it down, about how humans might survive on an alien planet.
  • I have always been interested in science fiction; first on TV with series like Star Trek and Firefly; then in reading of the various Star Trek series, and books by Douglas Adams, Orson Scott Card, Stephen King and many others.
  • I keep a file of older writing – including a few pages of my scribbles from the 1990s about character encounters on an alien planet.
  • My writing group, Fictional Friends, planned to hold a Saturday workshop in sci-fi and fantasy and I had nothing new to present.
  • The weekend before, for the first time in a decade, I participated in a Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game.


With this background, I wrote the first chapter of Meniscus:Crossing The Churn and read it at the Saturday writing workshop. I think my friends thought I had lost my mind. Three weeks later I had completed most of the first draft of Crossing The Churn.


Some of my own interests and knowledge became basic to the story:

  • my knowledge about edible wild plants.
  • my interest in parkour; I have arthritic knees but I have watched practitioners of parkour in Halifax and I have never forgotten the impressive way that they move through the landscape.
  • my interest in geomorphology and landforms. One of the first things I did was create a map of Meniscus and much of the plotting and writing was done with the map in front of me.


meniscus march 2017
Map of the part of the planet where the story unfolds


Now, eight months and three published books later, other writing demands are tugging at me. So I will take a break from the Meniscus Series for a few months (four more books are in draft form and I intend Book Four to go live in January 2018).


Writers are inspired in different ways, but my experience tells me that ideas flow from six places:

  • Keep the ideas that float around in your head; jot them down.
  • Keep older bits of writing you have done; someday they may become part of something bigger.
  • Keep having new experiences; you are never beyond learning something new.
  • Join a writing group; their encouragement or incredulity may urge you onward.
  • Mine your own skills, experience and interests.
  • Read, read, read, in a variety of genres.


These six points only scratch the surface of where stories come from.  I think there is an important seventh point.


In each of us are basic principles and beliefs we hold important. On the surface, my Meniscus stories are fanciful adventures on alien landscapes. But deeper motivators are at work: the desire to build strong, independent female characters; concern and respect for the human condition; the need to champion diversity; and distain for those who would enslave people and minimize their importance as individuals. I would like to think that these ideals and others like them are the basis of all stories. They are certainly the underlying motivations behind my writing of the Meniscus Series.


Best always,


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