The Birth Of An Idea

From the first spark of inspiration to the first words of a novel there is a bit of magic that happens. Whether you're an outliner (writer who works off an outline) or a pantser (writer who flies by the seat of their pants without an outline) there must first be an idea that comes from some type of inspiration. The idea can be based off something that amuses, entertains, frustrates, angers, or inspires you. Regardless of the motivation it must strike a cord within you. Keeping that in mind later as you write the novel will help keep it focused and strong. It will also help you write a one-sentence logline or pitch if that's something you'll need or want.

The next part is where the magic comes in, the discovery or creation of the story. I like to think of it as more of a discovery because the way I write is by letting the characters tell me their story. This keeps it organic and natural. If you write this way be careful not to let it distance you though. Telling someone else's story can start to feel that way. If you are a creation type of writer then you probably pour a lot of yourself into your writing. That can be very powerful but you have to be careful not to do the opposite. Remember the reader, your audience, and tell the story for them as well.

Once I have the idea I like to get to know my characters before I write a single word. It helps form the story for me. Some writers are the opposite, they like to get to know their characters during the process of writing. That's excellent as well, you have to do what works for you. Just don’t forget to get to know them because if you don't, neither will your readers. The magic is making the story come alive and for me that comes from my characters because without them the story is only an empty shell.


  1. Excellent points, Heather, about the magic and the character development (I have to let my characters tell me about themselves as I go after I meet them. . . they won't have it any other way). And that part about how the idea has to strike a chord is so insightful! Without that, the work won't be powerful, and when you're writing something as long and complex as a novel, you can get lost if you don't have that chord resonating within you. Great post, thanks!

  2. Heather, this is beautiful. I love the birth of of an idea and how inspiration arrives.

    We all have experiences in life... thoughts, fears, what ifs, dreams, wishes, fantasies, etc., that inspire our work. When they come to life, it's what we do with them that matters.

    We must nurture and feed them for growth. And there must be love. Love of the good, and the bad in our characters. Yes, we must know them so the readers will too. Excellent point!

    I'm thinking that writing stories is the best therapy that anyone can do for their health. Mental and Physical, and for others too.

    Thank you for the great inspiration this morning!

  3. Linda, thank you! Resonating, I like that. That's exactly how it feels to me!

    Karlene, so true, it is what we do with them that matters! I love that. Writing is great therapy, you're certainly right about that!

  4. So well said, Heather. I think it's important to try and get to know your characters a little first. It's possible to discover who they are in the process of writing (and surely, we learn more and more about them in the writing), but preliminary brainstorming, outlining, etc beforehand can help prevent a lot of rewriting! Love the notion of letting your characters tell you their story!

  5. Great post Heather! I am learning that I need to know or get to know my characters before writing. I realized it far too late but I am making it up to them and getting to know my characters. Once I do, I will go back and edit and reedit my novels to give my characters more umph!

  6. Carol, it has helped me tremendously! I can't imagine starting a new book without brainstorming!

    Saba, don't feel bad. I did that with my first few books too. It's all about trial and error. As long as we learn and keep moving forward it's all good!

  7. Funny, I often try to do character questionnaires before writing, but by the end of the book, they are often different from what I originally conceived. Great post, Heather!

  8. This is EXACTLY how I do it. It's the snowflake method. :D

  9. Lydia, at least it gets them talking to you!

    Stina, a writer after my own heart! The snowflake method huh, I like that!

  10. That last line is PERFECT. Without the characters your story is just an empty shell. <33 You probably figured this out already, but I get to know my characters by writing them. It's so much FUN!!!!! But yes, whatever works for you, you should do.

  11. Thank you Lisa! I did know that about you and I love it! That's when you really get into the meat of the character and start to feel them. I'm looking forward to that stage!

  12. I just recently got inspired to write a new story. I have a WIP to finish first, but I did allow myself to do a bit of research for it since a large portion of the future novel will take place in the ocean. I'm definitely going to be a plotter for this one. (And I can't wait!) christy

  13. Great post! For me, it always starts with the characters and a situation. I usually can't "see" much more than that, and I go from there...

  14. Christy, that sounds intriguing! I can't wait to hear more about it!

    Jennifer, me too! The characters always flesh out the plot for me!


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