Have you ever wondered where authors get their ideas from? Does a story concept simply come out of the blue or is there something more to the creative process? The truth is: All story ideas are a combination of imagination and real-life experiences.
When you read a book, you usually get more than just a good story. You get a glimpse of the author’s thoughts, fears, hopes, dreams and personality. The reason is that all authors, no matter which genre they write, draw on their personal experiences in order to craft a story. That doesn’t mean that the events in the book actually happened to them, although sometimes that is the case. What it does mean is that the author may had a vivid dream, taken a memorable trip, developed a fascination for a particular topic, learned something interesting, dealt with a major struggle or life challenge, or fell in love. These events and their accompanying emotions spark an idea – and a story is born.
Take my book Echoes of Paradise. The story follows Celeste, a woman who finds out her one true love has passed away. Like many people, she wonders exactly where he went. Does his spirit live on somewhere or did he cease to exist? After a series of bizarre happenings, she sets out to discover the truth about what really happens after death and what became of her lost love. Although the novel is fiction, it wouldn’t exist without an experience that happened to me.
After a friend died, I began hearing songs and noticing many things that reminded me of him. At first I just brushed them off as coincidence, but when they continued, I wondered if there was something more to it. Was he reaching out to me? One day I decided to ask him for a sign to prove or disprove what was happening. I asked for a pink rose. About a week or so later, I was at a park about to have lunch with my family. I started to sit down on a picnic table bench when something on the ground directly beneath my seat caught my eye – it was a pink fabric rose! I was so amazed and inspired by this event that I ended up writing Echoes of Paradise.
The point is: I used my life experience as the basis for my book. Without that key event, my story would not be compelling or believable. Do you think Nicholas Sparks would be able to write such deeply moving love stories if he had never fallen in love himself? An author can’t write convincingly about something if he or she doesn’t know what it feels like. We all need a point of reference before we can tell a story. Then, with a little creativity and some imagination, the story can really come to life. And when it does, you’ll be able to relate because no matter what the topic, the book’s driving forces – the emotions and insights – are in fact real.
Want to read more about the unusual experiences that inspired me to write my second book? Check out "My Overnight Visitor."