From Idea to Story by Zara Keane
People often ask me where I get my ideas. The short answer: everywhere! Real life (something that happened to me or to someone I know), an overheard conversation in a café, news stories, books, TV, films, and so on.
Whenever an interesting premise occurs to me, I make a note of it and put it in my Future Stories file. Most of these ideas never make it out of the file, and some that get as far as the brainstorming phase fizzle fast. The story ideas that truly hook my interest once I start writing an outline are the keepers.
I wrote the first draft of my debut book, ‘Love and Shenanigans’, back in 2010. At the time, I’d just finished reading Jane Graves’s romantic comedy, ‘Tall Tales and Wedding Veils’, and I thought it would be cool to give the Vegas wedding trope an Irish twist. The idea for the scene in which Fiona, the heroine, accidentally splits her maid of honor dress was inspired by a real life event! One of my friends split her bridesmaid dress…while walking down the aisle behind the bride!
Ideas in my Future Stories file can prove useful even after I’ve rejected them. Depending on the situation, an idea might not lend itself to an entire book or novella, but might make a strong subplot, or even work on a micro level as a single scene. For example, I had a wonderful idea for a historical romantic suspense set aboard RMS Lusitania on her final voyage. Try as I might, my historical voice wasn’t right, and the characters were flat. With great reluctance, I abandoned the book after a few chapters.
Fast forward to 2015, and I’m using the suspense plot idea in my adventure romance, ‘Her Treasure Hunter Ex’. The story features underwater archaeologists exploring the wreck of the Lusitania just off the coast of Cobh in County Cork. It will kick off my Ballybeg spin-off series, the Ballybeg Bad Boys. All those research notes are finally paying off!
I’ve started keeping a pen and paper near my chair when I watch TV series. I get so many ideas from them, and not just in terms of plot. Seeing how characters are developed, how subplots are handled, and how cliffhangers keep viewers invested in watching the next episode are useful tricks for novelists. My romance novels don’t end on cliffhangers—Happily Ever Afters guaranteed—but my chapters often do.
Another place I make sure to keep a notebook and pen is my nightstand. I’ve often woken up with a fantastic idea for a scene. If I don’t write it down straight away, even if I’m still groggy from sleep, I risk forgetting the details. The scene where Fiona crashes Gavin’s wedding came to me in a dream, as did a boat chase scene that occurs in my most recent Ballybeg novel, ‘Love and Shamrocks’.
If you write, or would like to write, get into the habit of recording your story ideas. It’s a little like exercise. The more you do it, the more ideas occur to you, and the better you get at sifting through those ideas for the true gems.
Thanks for inviting me to guest post on your blog, Jonel!
Zara Keane grew up in Dublin, Ireland, but spent her summers in a small town very similar to the fictitious Ballybeg.
She currently lives in Switzerland with her family. When she’s not writing or wrestling small people, she drinks far too much coffee, and tries – with occasional success – to resist the siren call of Swiss chocolate.
And in honor of St. Patrick's Day...
Be sure to enter our giveaway for 2 X 2 book sets of the 1st 2 Ballybeg stories: Love & Shenanigans and Love and Blarney.
Contest is open internationally, where applicable by law.
Entries close at 11:59pm March 27/15.
Winners will be drawn March 28/15.
Winners will be notified via email to the email provided to the giveaway and will have 72h to claim their prize or another winner will be drawn.