Where Do Ideas For Novels Come From?

A Sudden Storm

Ideas from novels can arrive from anywhere. They can come from reading, lectures, true life experiences, or anywhere. I’d like to share the two sparks that started my novel below.

If I’m honest, my first novel began a long time before I had a desire to write. The first moment of inspiration came when I was throwing a softball around in preparation for a softball game at my parent’s church.

It was a magnificent day like most Michigan summer days. A slight breeze was in the air. It was not too hot or too cold, just perfect. No one mentioned the weather. I had no clue that it might change and I get the feeling none of my team members who tossed the ball around with me had an inclination of what was to come.

In what seemed like less than an instant the sky was dark, then from beyond the horizon of tall maple trees came a deafening roar. It was the sound of gallons of rain drops falling from the blackened clouds above.  Lightning forked across the sky and I ran and dove into my car just as the immense rain drops clattered on pavement and pummeled my car with such force I thought it was hail. I imagined what it would have been like were there no cover at all and how the cold heavy drops would have felt had they pummeled me instead of my trusty Chevy Cavalier.

This sudden unannounced storm would be the first ingredient that would ignite my novel.

The second happened a few years later.

My friend Matt suggested that I read a book he had just finished. It was a book of popularized history call How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill.

How the Irish Saved Civilization

I picked it up and immediately I was hooked. As I read, I came to a part where Mr. Cahill talked about the viking raids on monasteries in Ireland and the surrounding countries. It sounded terrible. I imagined the monks in the sack cloth robes gardening in the beautiful summer morning. Then just as the change of the weather I experienced a few years before, the countryside would be filled with enemies that rushed forward from the undergrowth and cut down everyone in the monastery.

When thinking back on my first novel, The Tale of Calelleth, I realize that there are many things that formulated the novel in my mind. These are the first two experiences that I can remember that cemented the idea of an enemy showing up unannounced. It has since changed from a faceless pure evil to something more complicated, but the storm and Mr. Cahill’s book forever impressed upon my mind the idea of this horror that some in the tangled history of the planet had to live through. They had no refuge as I did in my Chevy Cavalier.

So how about you, reader? Are there any particular experiences or things that you have read that were the seeds to a novel you are now working on?



11 thoughts on “Where Do Ideas For Novels Come From?

  1. My novels are mostly from life experiences, or even spinoff from a television show or movie, or even a song. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to read a novel since I was fourteen (long story, don’t ask), I am handicapped by the immature thoughts I had at that time, which was the exact time I decided to become a writer.

    1. J, those are great examples of where to get an idea for a novel. Those magical snippets of inspiration can come from nearly anywhere, not just books. The most important thing is to be open to and looking for them and it sounds like you are doing just that. Thanks for the comment!

  2. The seeds for my dystopian 3-day novel entry, Silent, were from a church service where kids got up to sing in front of the congregation. One of the kids was dancing around and doing a kind of fake sign language and waving to his parents. I wondered what it would look like to have all of the kids doing that kind of enhanced sign language. And then I thought about the kind of situation needed for such a kids concert to exist. Thus entered my totalitarian government who outlawed sound from society in order to control the citizens. All I needed was a main character to get swept into the resistance movement and bam, novel. Thanks for sharing this, Bob!

    1. Josh, great reply, so you were daydreaming in church??? Just kidding. Your blog has been an encouragement and inspiration to me. Thanks for the post and thanks for sharing the origin of your mega novel!

  3. While I’m not a novel writer (yet), there have been moments I can remember that have really inspired me. Most interesting is that these moments are sometimes the most simple or unexpected – it really teaches you to keep an open mind!

    1. Stephanie, I think that is the beauty of being inspired in a flash. You are not thinking about being creative, it just happens! Keeping an open mind is the crux of it, I believe. The world needs people with a sense of incurable wonder. Thank you for your comment!

  4. Summer road trips to my grandparent’s house and my first year of marriage inspired one story I’ve written.

    Another story was inspired by the urge to sleep less and get more done.

    Another story was inspired by a mix of Batman and A Christmas Carol.

    Great post, Bob. Writers should be “on the lookout” for inspiration from unlikely sources, I think.

    1. Andy, we should indeed be on the lookout fro those unlikely places of inspiration.

      I didn’t know Midtown was inspired by Batman and A Christmas Carol. To let you know, I can still get the feel of the story and now that you mention it, that makes perfect sense. Well done capturing the atmosphere of a story. Dust that off sometime will you!

  5. Pingback: Work In Progress Challenge « Part-Time Novel

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