Don’t You Run Out of Things to Write About?

April 4, 2011

Whether it’s non-fiction or fiction writing, this is the number one question people ask me. Don’t you run out of things to write about?  Where do your ideas come from? The question always surprises me. The problem isn’t finding things to write about…they’re all around you. The problem is having enough time to write about all of them!

When I was writing non-fiction it was easy. I just wrote about things that were part of my life, things I was living at the moment or wanted to know more about. How can I save money while putting healthy meals on the table? Well, let’s write a budget cooking column. Interview great budget cooks, research economical recipes and budget shopping…start saving money, and—bonus—get paid for doing it. Can’t afford etiquette lessons for my three rowdy boys at $350 per boy? Let’s go interview the expensive experts, do some research, and write an article. Hopefully I now have well behaved young gentlemen, and either way…I got a paycheck!

Without a doubt with fiction it’s a little different. And, there are times when I have no idea where the ideas originated. I wrote a dark story about a stripper, and suddenly the few friends that I shared it with looked at me differently. “Sweet little Tari? You have some dark secrets hidden away that you’re not sharing!” 

Not really. I’ve never been a stripper—amateur or otherwise. (Well, unless an audience of one qualifies. One being my sexy husband of course!)

And NO, I didn’t live any of the dark things that happened in that story. They are fiction, pure and simple.

Yet, to some degree, the ideas come from my life and experience…although, not necessarily firsthand experience. I’ve lived most of my life right here in Los Angeles. I have a pretty stereotypical all-American life, but sometimes dark things are visible on the fringe of my life. I know people who have done things I’d never have the guts to do. I’m out meeting people and living life, talking to people, asking questions, and most people love to tell you about their lives…sometimes even their secrets.

Some of it does come from personal experience or wondering about ‘the road not taken’ or which fork to take in the road that lies ahead. Some of it comes from living a rich fantasy life just creating situations in my head, asking questions about what might happen, and almost always—as I’ve said before—just letting go and letting my character tell the story. After all, although she may be a composite of me and other people that I’ve known, she has none of the restrictions of my values or circumstances. My characters are able to live lives that I never could and often wouldn’t want to lead.

Reading, watching movies and television also feed my writing. Good books or movies leave me wanting more, inspire me and make me look at my own work differently. There is nothing like a good book to make me itch to pick up my own pen and a fresh notebook.

So where do your ideas come from? Do you ever run out of ideas? What inspires you to write?

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2 Responses to “Don’t You Run Out of Things to Write About?”


  1. Tari, I don’t run out of ideas either. In fact, like you, I don’t have time to “run” with all of them. I concentrate on the ideas that won’t stop badgering me. And most of my ideas come from my daily life, too. I sort of mutate the people I meet and the situations I experience, see and hear about, and I have a novel in no time.

    It’s as close to playing God as I’m ever going to get. 🙂

    Elley

  2. KimberlyFDR Says:

    I’m the featured writer over on dGeek this month, so I just answered this question yesterday 😀

    The source of inspiration varies. When I was writing exclusively Southern fiction, a lot came from family history. Warping the stories that were told to us in youth into something more was always fun. But ideas can come from anyplace. The other day I passed a car while driving and it had an Obama sticker, which spurred an idea about the Executive branch of the government and I jotted it down really fast so I didn’t forget it (saving it in my “maybe another novel” file). Pretty much every story I’ve ever written starts with one line of dialogue. A character will just spout out a line and I go “tell me more!” (Yes, the characters have their own voices in my head…I’m not crazy, I’m creative 😉

    In regards to the ideas not coming from my real life experiences, I was talking to my coworker last week and she asked about the progress of my novel. I told her the last scene came out really well, but in my edit I needed to go back and flesh it out more because I didn’t feel like the knife fight was as smooth and realistic as it could be. She looked at me in curiosity and asked me where in the world the inspiration of a knife fight came from in my life. It’s not me who is telling the story, it’s my characters, and they are having these experiences. I’m just trying to make sure I type fast enough to keep up with their telling of it.

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