Where Do Your Ideas Come From?

As writers and artists we are often asked where our ideas come from. The answer is complex and usually never just from one place. Take for example, Felicity in my latest Getting to Mr. Right series. What made me choose to have her interested in fashion rather than music, sports or photography – all interests of mine?

The answer lies in part, I think, with my mother and her love of fashion. Whenever she watched television she commented on what the women were wearing, just as after an outing she would give a critical expose on how the women were dressed. In the last years of her life I would visit her and we would watch together What Not To Wear, a show I haven’t watched since her death seven years ago.

One of her favorite movie actresses was Audrey Hepburn, especially the role she played as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I suspect what my mother loved about the movie was not the gangster/call girl plot of the film. Nor Holly’s capacity, in her femme fatale manner, to seduce the men in her life in order to get what she wants. Nor was it the script’s chick-lit style of presenting Holly as an independent woman, unafraid of thwarting feminine customs. What made my mother love Breakfast at Tiffany’s was most likely Ms. Hepburn’s wardrobe.

My mother’s own style was more of the sensible cardigan and slacks (who uses that word these days?) as she puttered around the house. But on those rare occasions when she dressed up she was meticulous about what she wore adding a string of pearls around a plain dress  which, in the imagination of my memory, she might as well have been wearing the sheath black dress or double breasted orange wool coat which Ms. Hepburn wore in the movie.

In Truman Capote’s novella, Holly Golightly (don’t you just love this name?) … was always well groomed, there was a consequential good taste in the plainness of her clothes, the blues and grays and lack of luster that made her, herself, shine so. One might have thought her a photographer’s model, perhaps a young actress.”

Along with my mother’s influence and my love for the novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s  I was likely subliminally drawn to creating a character who is involved in the world of fashion.

In this scene Felicity, is with Eduardo, a gallery owner:

This is the second time in less than twenty-four hours that I have been asked if I love Marco. “Absolutely? Can we ever be absolute about our feelings?” I say aware that I’m avoiding answering his question.

“Enough about your love life,” he says almost impatiently. “Tell me about your art project. How you combine it with fashion.”

As he sits beside me, I tell Eduardo about the project with Tina and show him pictures from my cell. “They’re painted graffiti jeans. It’s  a lot of fun to do.”

“These are incredible,” he says. “Do they make these jeans in my size?”

Eduardo is a hefty man and I really can’t see him in a pair of these jeans, even though many of them are made wide and loose. Still, I say, “I’ll make sure to get you a pair. Which design do you prefer?”

He chooses a dark indigo jean with designs inspired by Miro on the legs and back pocket. I feel myself beaming. It’s wonderful getting recognized for my work.

 

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Photo courtesy of The Laurent Brisson collection 

 

I’d love to hear about where you get some of your ideas.

 

 

54 thoughts on “Where Do Your Ideas Come From?

  1. Thank you, Carol, for sharing your own inspiration! I think the thing about writers is that we get ideas from all sorts of different places. If you really look and observe and notice, just about anything can be an inspiration. I appreciate your telling us about yours.

  2. My ideas come from dreams when I was a little girl….the things I never had…the things I swore I would have some day….which I never write about. The other ideas come from dark and twisty places…where I have been and to a certain extent, still reside…which I don’t write about either. I could technically, write a short story every day….if I had an imagination.

  3. Oh dear, I still use the word ‘slacks’, both in my writing and my daily speech. No wonder my kids make fun of me. (Among other reasons, I’m sure. 🙂 )

  4. Ideas are like seeds, aren’t they, which then to sprout and multiply once sown. My come and sometimes I have no idea from where.
    Interesting post, Carol. Nice to hear about YOU. 🙂

  5. Generally my ideas come straight out of left field leaving me to pick up the pieces for the next 300 pages. However I do draw on places I’ve visited when it comes to the actual setting for a story. A great post Carol –as always– and fascinating to see where your ideas come from xxxxxxx

  6. As far, all most all of my ideas come from my own past. It isn’t always from something about me though. Yes, like you, traits of my mother are a great influence, but also friends, other relatives, rivalries, and true adversaries are used. Sometimes I get ideas from books I’ve read, although that isn’t even close to the number of things from my past. I have yet to be inspired by someone or something at a store or anywhere else in common daily life. Does this mean a lack of imagination? Maybe, but I muddle through.

  7. What wonderful memories of your mother; the warmth between you shine out and I’m not surprised fashion founds its way into your book along with her and the other influences. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the extract and must admit love the sound of the jeans. Felicity must be speaking for us all when she thinks, ‘It’s wonderful getting recognized for my work’. Thinking about it places strongly lead in many of my stories, also some develop following an unusual news report, others just by overhearing a couple of sentences or seeing someone walk along a road.

    • Interesting, Annika how setting finds an important place in your stories – probably even is a character. As writers our minds tend to always be on the alert for something fresh and new or something that sparks our passion. Have a Happy Weekend. 🙂

  8. This is a beautiful post, I love to hear about your mother’s subtle influence on the themes in your writing. My ideas can be totally imagined (like travelling in Peru, which I have never done), but the things I care about myself (music and poetry) also go into my fiction, or the things I admire – people coping with disabilities.

    • Thanks, Hilary. I think that imagination and experience are often ingredients that drive our writing. I hope you’re able to tend to your inner and outer garden this weekend. 🙂

  9. Lovely post. I love that you wrote a character who shared an interest with your mother. My ideas come from so many places. People I’ve known and loved, current events, and fairy tales can all blend together to make a story I long to tell. Sometimes I use prompts, or a picture or poem will spark an idea. It’s interesting how that happens. 🙂

    • Yes, the process is fascinating. From the comments I’ve received so far, it seems that genre is not a factor in how or where one gets ideas. What’s also fascination is why we choose to tell our stories in a certain way. In other words, what draws us to our genres.
      Happy to see you here, Cathleen. 🙂

  10. Thanks for sharing some of your secret inspiration Carol. So nice you mention Breakfast at Tiffany’s, one of my favourite movies. I adored all of Hepburn’s movies, she certainly had a style all of her own. And I’m looking very forward to reading your new book! 🙂

  11. I am not a big Walt Whitman fan in all his versions of Leaves of Grass, each pivoting down a downhill path. BUT…one of his early versions is my favorite quote (and of course, you can never misquote him because of the myriad of changes, lol). Anyway, your posting brought this to mine in characterization. “I am a part of every person I have ever met. And what I assume, you assume. I separate myself and sing myself, and we are but Leaves of Grass.” That’s how I hope to build my own character (personality/professionalism) and definitely my fictional characters. Those few lines from dear Walt reveal we are the same and how we are separate, but all a synergistic part of a whole far beyond our grasp. My characters are a part of “every person I have ever met”.

  12. Great topic!

    Though I’m not an author, my ideas for blog posts come from everyday life.

    Inner Ramblings came to being as a way for me to heal and cleanse after a traumatic event a few years ago. In many ways it’s a journal, a way of helping me to remember important things that happened in my life.

    I kept diaries as a teenager and into early adulthood, but thanks to a few nosy boyfriends digging into my past, I had no safe place to keep my innermost thoughts, so I started tossing them. Then came the advent of digital Journaling which took on a life of its own. I could share the bits I didn’t mind others being privy to, while keeping the rest to myself. This became very useful since I lost a few close friends over the years, and with that I also lost people with whom I could share the tough personal stuff.

    Blogging has helped me circumvent the harshness of lost connections, since we learn from early on to not get too attached as people come and go quite often in the blog world as time allows for their habit/hobby.

    As you will notice, very few of my pieces are fiction, and even those have a bit of truth mixed in, so my inspiration is mostly my kids, personal relationships, my faith and my desperate attempt to find balance as a single parent. The style of my writing may take on various forms, but the basic inspiration is usually as previously mentioned.

    Great post! Look forward to stopping by your page more often.

    Have a great week ☺

  13. Carol, my Mom wanted to teach Home Economics. Her Dad talked her into teaching English, Spanish and concentrating on language development. So, she sewed, invented and created fashion for herself and me. 🙂 We wore matching jumpers and dresses. Having two brothers meant she did make them outfits. Your talking about Audrey Hepburn and your mother wearing pearls to dress up reminded me of an elderly woman who did this for a Cleveland jewelry store. If you ever have a moment on my blog, there is a row of tags, push “pearls” and the “true story” post is special, I think. 🙂

      • Thank you, Carol! 🙂 So glad you liked the idea of my Mom and I wearing matching outfits. There was a plaid jumper which she wore a black turtleneck under and I wore a red one which we never got photos of. She made ornaments using the old leftover, but nicely kept, fabric for the grandkids’ Christmas tree. 🙂

  14. My ideas for my blog come from the every day madness around me. Since I write a lot of time travel novels, the places are usually ones I live in or visit. And I have a thing for middle aged women finding their own strengths and personality..which is probably what I’m continuing to do in my own life.

    • We both have common interests in our writing. I do love to write about middle-aged women and trying to overcome the problems we face. I love to set my novels in different places because it allows me to travel vicariously through memories and research.

  15. That’s a mystery, because I have no idea where almost all my ideas come from…. If you count short stories, I’ve written hundreds, and the vast majority have no relationship to any situation I’ve known about in real like… But I guess writers pick up and develop truths about life, and in turn, these find their way into our stories.

    • Your answer is interesting, Margaret. I also think that it might have something to do with a collective consciousness and that, as you say, writers pick up on these vibes and allow their imaginations to take over.
      Thanks for your visit. 🙂

  16. Oh Carol, how I love the way you write from the heart. I feel you are destined for even greater glory in the future. This is yet again a lovely tribute to your mother as well as a view into your own soul. No wonder you turned out as lovely as you have. So grateful to have you back writing again! Blessings,

  17. Some of my ideas come from my own experiences and interests, but others seem to come out of left field—brought by folks from another universe wanting me to write a story about them in mine! 🙂

  18. How wonderful to read about your inspiration here, Carol! Your note about the show “What Not to Wear” made me smile too as I watched that with my mom too when it was on TV 🙂 As for my inspiration, sometimes it comes from reading blog posts and I think, hey wait, that reminds of the time when I… And then I’m off writing!

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