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  • Writer's pictureDale Thele

Where Do Story Ideas Come From?

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

This is probably the most asked question of writers. Without a story idea, the writer has nothing to write about. The only occurrence I can recall a writer wrote about nothing was The NeverEnding Story (Die Unendliche Geschichte) by Michael Ende. He wrote of The Nothing.

Writers find inspiration in diverse ways. Some writers get ideas from something they see, a result of brainstorming, and some have found inspiration from reading other writers' works and they sense the story should go in a different direction. There are infinite ways a writer comes up with ideas. As for myself, I find my ideas in real-life situations or through nighttime dreams.

Let’s take Harvest Moon my favorite piece of writing to date. It’s a short piece of fiction, a whopping 1300 words. The idea came in a dream. When I woke up, I jotted down as much of the dream as I could recall. One marvelous fact about my dreams is they repeat each night until I get all the details down on paper. Some folks may call it my muse. I accredit my dreams as being stubborn. Whatever the case, the dream reoccurs over and over until I get all the details recorded, Once I’ve got all the details, I never have the dream again. That’s how Harvest Moon came to be.

Another short story entitled Roadhouse Friday came while dining at a local family restaurant. I was people-watching, which is one of my favorite sports. But, when I watch I enjoy making up their backstory. There was one autumn evening at one of my favorite restaurants when I found the customers to be more diverse than usual. Maybe it was the fried mushroom appetizer, but backstories just popped into my head as I watched the patrons. That’s how Roadhouse Friday came to be.

My novella, Masked Identities came as a dream. However, the story idea came in two parts making it rather complicated to understand. The first part was the story of 1890 London of two gay men. The idea was intriguing but seemed to be an incomplete story. It replayed night after night and each morning I jotted down the details. Then the dream stopped. I tried to force the dream to return, but it wouldn’t come. Instead, a new dream took its place, a contemporary story of a college girl and her boyfriend. Again, each night the dream replayed and each morning I captured the details on paper. This went on for about a week, then that dream stopped.

Confused. I racked my brain trying to understand the two story ideas and what did they have in common? After several days, I realized their connection, two unique stories from different time periods, different locations, with different characters yet they were similar stories. At that point, I visualized structuring one story within another story. That’s how Masked Identities came to be.

My current WIP (work-in-process) is my debut novel, Clipped Wings. The underlying idea came from real-life experience, while the fictional parts came from dreams. This is the first manuscript I’ve written where the ideas came from both real-life and nighttime dreams. Combining the two has been interesting and challenging, but it is making for one helluva story.

I suppose the lesson to learn is that it makes no difference where story ideas come from, as long as the ideas evolve into a story in which a reader can lose themselves in the writer's imagination.

I would like to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment in the Comment Box at the bottom of the page.

Dale Thele, Bestselling Fiction Author

Bestselling Fiction Author

Stories with an LGBTQ+ Twist

corrupting readers since 2008

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