In this post, I’m going to offer a couple examples of how I came up with ideas for stories. I will go with the most recent examples since they are fresh in my mind.
Idea #1: Brainstorming session with a friend.
Books in the Marriage by Necessity Series:
I believe it was in 2020 when I hit a dry spell with new ideas, so a good author friend (Stephannie Beman) helped me brainstorm. This particular book stemmed from that brainstorming session. We bounced ideas around with fresh new characters I had never done before in any of my Regencies. That is how Byron was born. Sometimes having the stories in a series figured out in advance helps you to set the stage for the overall series. You get to do a better job of developing the characters’ backgrounds so that when their book comes along, you already have a foundation in place. This is why I brought Byron into the other books in this series.
I had introduced the foundation for Miss Eris Tumilson’s story with a sentence I wrote in The Marriage Contract (Marriage by Fairytale Series: Book 1). In that book, one of the characters mentioned Miss Tumilson (a notorious spinster) finally getting married. So I thought I’d write her story in A Perilous Marriage and begin a new series. Yep, sometimes one little sentence is all it takes to spawn an idea for a new book.
Byron’s character was born before I started A Perilous Marriage, but A Perilous Marriage is where I introduced him. The plot of A Perilous Marriage is that Eris’ first husband died, and the hero (Mr. Charles Duff) suspects her of murder. So I thought it would be perfect to make her brother a Runner since he would have a hand in helping solve the crime. I didn’t feel that Bryon’s story was ready for the Book 2 slot. I wanted to give him a little more lead-up time, so I inserted Algernon and Reina’s story into this slot. (I’ll speak more about this book in a moment.) I got the chance to bring Byron into this story when it became clear that someone was trying to get rid of Algernon. When writing a series, I do look for opportunities to bring in key characters of that series to give them more “screen time” so people have a chance to develop an attachment to them.
In case someone starts looking for this book, it’s not out yet, but I do have it on pre-order. It’s due out January 7.
Idea #2: Inspiration from movies. (And how the idea will spin off into something else.)
Anyone hear of the Don Knott’s movie, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken? Sometimes a movie will give an author an idea for a story. This particular movie made me think, “What a cute romantic comedy this would be for one of my characters.” This book was supposed to be a gothic romantic comedy where the hero is out in a secluded country estate with the heroine, and he is supposed to believe the manor was haunted. If you read The Cursed Earl, you’ll think, “The Cursed Earl is NOTHING like that.” It’s true. This one went off the rails pretty much right away, and it just kept zooming off into the abyss. Halfway into the story, I gave up and embraced the fact that I would have to give this plot idea to someone else in another story.
As a fun fact, I tried this plot in the past with Perfectly Matched, too, except in Perfectly Matched, the hero was supposed to be worried the place was haunted in a house located in Omaha.
If you read Perfectly Matched, you know that I never went into that plot idea at all, though I did try to build up to it with that house Mark Larson showed Jim when he first moved to Nebraska. I had originally planned for the original owners of that house to be pretending to be ghosts to scare him and Patricia out of the home. (The motive never came to me since I didn’t go in the direction with the story.)
BUT, I have good news. I didn’t have to throw out the idea because of this book I’m currently writing…
Midnight Wedding (Marriage by Obligation Series: Book 2)
After all this time of waiting for the right character to come along, I finally found a home for my plot, except I dropped the “ghost” idea because the hero is already superstitious and doesn’t need the “haunted” element to be paranoid that something bad is lurking around the corner. So I did adjust the plot to fit Lord Quinton (the hero). This is a book that definitely has some comedic moments, but unlike the movie that inspired it, this book has turned dark along the way.
The thing with ideas stemming from other forms of entertainment (movies and other books) is that a writer will start with the original idea presented, but as the story is being written, the execution of that idea will change as the story progresses. This is why you can give 100 writers in a room the same prompt but end up with a different story when they finish writing. Every writer will have their own interests in how to execute the tale. So when you read Midnight Wedding, you won’t recognize the movie this is inspired from. The setup is different. Instead of a town where the goal is to spend one night in a haunted house, the hero of my book has been hauled off to a remote country estate by the heroine and her two brothers, and they spend the entire book out there. The characters are all different. The hero isn’t goofy. He is serious. The brothers, while exasperated with the hero at times, aren’t trying to ruin his reputation. In fact, one of the brothers believes there might be a monster lurking around the manor, and the others are led to ask if the brother is getting drunk when he’s supposed to be sober or if his fears are based off of nightmares (rather than reality).
Idea #3: From the current work-in-progress.
Book has not been started yet so no cover or title to show.
This brings me to my last idea. While writing a scene in Midnight Wedding, I got an idea for a book that I will write in the future. Most ideas come to me while I am writing a book.
Sometimes a character or a scene will spawn a new story. For example, I fell in love with Dave Larson’s family, so I wrote about his siblings. I wasn’t planning to write other books about the Nebraska Larson family, but while writing Eye of the Beholder, Jessica talked about how clumsy Tom was and how she fell in love with him anyway, and I thought it would make for a cute story. Then I wrote about Joel in Tom’s story and loved how Tom and Joel interacted and had to write Joel’s story. It’s harder to come up with stories based off of characters because I have to wait until the right plot comes along to fit their personalities. This is why I can’t just write about a certain character, even if someone is interested in it. To this day, I still haven’t received the right plot to go with some past characters. And if I can’t get the right plot, I don’t write the book. The book will feel forced, and forced books end up boring.
To give a recent example, I wrote this paragraph in Midnight Wedding earlier this month:
Oscar blinked as if he’d forgotten he’d brought the topic up. “Oh, well, shortly before we left London, Felix got drunk and made a lot of accusations about a gentleman’s sister. While there’s nothing to prove Felix’s claims, it did tarnish her reputation, and she lost a couple of suitors. Last time Felix saw this gentleman, the gentleman tried to haul him out of London to have a duel with him. Had I not been there to stop him, I’m sure he would have succeeded, and Felix would be dead. This gentleman is going to move to another country with his sister in hopes of preventing her from having to deal with the horrors of spinsterhood. They’ll be gone by May.”
As soon as I wrote this, I knew that Felix would end up going back to London and marrying this gentleman’s sister. I don’t know if that book will be in this current series I’m writing or if it’ll be in another series, but this is something I’m exciting about writing.