Thursday, October 23, 2008


One of the questions I get asked the most about my writing is "Where do you get your ideas?"
I wish I could answer, "I stock up when they put them on sale at Wal-mart." Wouldn't that be great? A ready supply of fresh ideas available on your pantry shelf whenever you needed one?
Unfortunately, creativity doesn't work that way. In fact the question of how the seeds of stories develop into fleshed out characters and plots is a pretty big mystery even to me. How do I do it? It just comes– or not, as the case may be– at unexpected moments.
Where inspiration comes from is an easier question. Ideas are everywhere, and I never know when I'll cross paths with one and plant it in my brain to nurture and take root.
I feed my ideas with music. Sometimes it is just the melody or mood of a song that will stir the creative juices. Other times a line of lyrics will trigger an onslaught of story ideas or character history. I think music, being another media born of the right side of the brain, serves as a prime to the creative well. Just the mood of Evanescence's Bring Me To Life helped me write the climax scene of TO LOVE, HONOR AND DEFEND. A tense, bass-driving version of Carol of the Bells conjured ideas for a new book I'm working on.
But while I can coax ideas out of hiding with a movie soundtrack, other ideas spring out of the shadows and yell "Surprise!" when I'm not paying attention. Many times while I'm driving, I'll see something on the side of the road that triggers a "what if..." series of questions to roll through my mind. Whole novels have started for me from a single sighting. A hitchhiker spurred CHASING A DREAM, and an inmate transport van evolved into IN PROTECTIVE CUSTODY, even though the transport van never made it to the final incarnation of that story.
I've had dreams that stayed with me and elements of those dreams later became the basis for a book. I've sat down and pulled ideas out of the air, structuring a story around characters that intrigued me. I developed the plot line for DUTY TO PROTECT and my upcoming release TALL DARK DEFENDER because I wanted to craft a story for characters that I felt deserved a happy end. Necessity was the mother of invention for those books.
I really can't remember the inspiration for my upcoming Sourcebooks release SECOND CHANCES (September 2009). It probably had something to do with my love of the Florida Gulf coast, my fondness for Beauty and the Beast plots, and the appeal of writing about a family of hunky men. (Wink) I do remember my heroine Abby wanted nothing to do with my original concept for her character. She had her own ideas about who she was and what her temperament would be. She quickly showed me her true sassy colors and changed the tone of the book I'd intended to write. Turns out she was right. Luke needed a woman with plenty of grit and cheek to stand up to him and fire his desire.
So while I know inspiration can come from anywhere or anything, how those ideas evolve and change is a process I can't explain. But then I don't want to explain it. Understanding the process might just ruin the magic and break the spell....
Have a great day! Beth Cornelison


  1. Sometimes I think writers, artists, and creative people of many stripes are born with an extra organ--an idea generator.

    Obviously, yours is in good working order.

  2. I agree with you, Beth. Knowing too much where inspiration lurks might spoil the fun. Nothing feels as good as a hatched idea, and the surprise is all part of that.

  3. Hey Beth,

    One of my favorite things abtu working with authors is learning where they get tehir inspiration for their novels. You are all so diverse--but I think one thing stays the same: you never know when the inspiration will hit you or where it will fully take you.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hi Beth,
    I had one of those side of the road moments, too, when a guy in a Mercedes with Massachusetts license plates bearing his name and MD. I wondered where that handsome doctor from Boston would be going on a Friday night in August. The answer to that question became a book! Thanks for a great post!

  5. If you go looking for inspiration, you'll probably never find it. It's one of those things that has to find YOU!

  6. If I could I would open one of those idea stores for all of us! But, of course, it is as you say Beth: Inspiration hits us at the weirdest of times. The first few times I was asked the question of 'where or how' I was baffled and really struggled to come up with a logical answer. Having an analytical mind in general, it seemed like I should be able to plausibly and definatively explain it. But, of course you can't, and thank God for that! The fun is in the unknowing, miraculous aspect of it, Amen?!

  7. Last night I went to see Dial M for Murder, a play. The suspense author said he came up with his scenarios by having boxes--in one, the crime: revenge, money, passion, etc, and in another villain types, in the other, hero types. And that was it. LOL I sure had to laugh. I thought if only we could come up with ideas that easily. :)