Wednesday, July 31, 2013

But That's Your Story Idea

Authors, have you noticed how people give you story ideas? “Oh, you’re a writer. You should write this story about . . .” Fill in the blank.

Like I am not inundated in my head with story ideas already! Should I be insulted? Do they think I am out of ideas?

When I respond, “But, that’s your story. You should tell it.”

The protests begin. “I’m not a writer.”  “You could do it better.”  “No, I am giving it to you.”

And sometimes, you know, they’re pretty dang good. And I might choose one or two of them to develop. But what’s the protocol?

I decided I would recognize the source of the premise or story strand in the acknowledgements section. That seems fair to me. After all, it’s not like a premise is the realization of the story. It’s the germ, the yeast, the focal point. But that’s a long way from a novel.

Recently, someone was responding to a FB post about a book release. Her comment was that she had a story idea but found a book in which someone else had already written it.

Are you kidding me?

A story premise (and there is a finite number of them, btw) can take so many twists and turns. That is a huge part of the planning process for me--the “what if’s” I generate and spin out. Brainstorming with someone for her novel is great fun for the same reason. Love it!

So don’t tell me someone wrote your book. The characters you choose and their reactions and interactions would be unique to you and your storytelling. The obstacles you put in the way are your plot points. When you put it together, no one would write your story in your way.

So, Doug, thanks for the idea about how a killer could throw off the police investigation because of a DNA change due to a concealed blood transfusion.

And, Sandy, love the idea of writing a play with two seniors discussing their medical marijuana misadventures over lunch.

I think I’ll put those on my to-do list. Let me take you two to lunch when they are blockbusters. It’s the least I can do! Truly. The least.


  1. CONSTANTLY. And people get offended when you don't--or can't--use their ideas. What they don't seem to understand is that you have to "feel" the story to write it well. And most of the time, I don't feel a story enough to write it as well as the originator of the idea is feeling it. I don't write on demand. I can't take just any idea and run with it. I try to take it as a compliment, though, that they think I'm just that good enough to do that.

    1. Yes, Brea! It's weird how often it happens. You're right, I should take it as a compliment. But it is one of those things that bugs me. Get over myself, right? LOL Thanks for dropping in.

  2. I agree with Brea. While I do get a lot of ideas from people, if I don't feel the story, it's never going to make it to the page.

    1. That's exactly right, Evelyn. For me the stories are organic. I live them along with the characters. Still, those two ideas were ones that resonated. Not so much the one about Marine stories in Viet Nam! lol Thank you for commenting.

  3. Interesting story ideas. Like you, I always have new ones racing through my mind.

    Love your state of Arizona!

    Mary Montague Sikes

    1. Thanks, Mary! We have an open door policy here! You're welcome anytime!