Cooking Up Story Ideas

ACFW Advice, Authors and writing, Brainstorming, Friends of ACFW, tips, writing 2 Comments

by Ann H. Gabhart

Where do you get your ideas? That’s a question most writers are asked at one time or another. Here’s an answer one writer, Sarah Zette, gave that might make you smile.

My joking answer to this question is that I leave a bowl of milk out on the back porch every night for the Idea Fairy. In the morning, the milk is gone and there’s a brand-new shiny idea by the bowl. ~Sarah Zette

Most of the writers I know might try a chocolate bar instead. That would surely attract more idea fairies. But all kidding aside, where do you get your ideas is a fair question. It’s a question I sometimes ask myself when I’m looking for something to grab my imagination and lead me down a new story road.

Some writers claim to have a whole treasure chest of ideas they can reach into for inspiration. Others like to brainstorm with friends to come up with ideas. When new ideas tickle my imagination, I like to think about dropping those ideas down into big stew pots that I can scoot to the back of an old wood cookstove to let them simmer there until I’m ready to bring this or that idea back to the front of the stove where the heat is stronger to start really cooking up a story.

The imagination is an amazing thing. You mix it with all those memories and impressions that have buried themselves in your brain and out pop ideas. That makes the question about where ideas come from rarely have a simple answer. Oh, we can say things like ideas come from all the things you’ve experienced and from all you’ve read in stories and newspapers. They come from things you’ve witnessed in the lives of your friends and families.

At times, they come from out of the blue. You can’t trace them to anything. Ideas can be like mosquitoes buzzing in your ear or butterflies floating by on a breeze. They might come like a thunderclap shaking your house or they might be a mere whisper in the wind. So many wonderful ways to have inspiration awaken inside you.

One of the best ways for me to feed the idea mill is by reading. Many of my stories were inspired by some bit of history I stumbled across while reading. That was true with my new release, An Appalachian Summer. A few years ago I read Wide Neighborhoods, the autobiography of Mary Breckinridge, the founder of the Frontier Nursing Service in Eastern Kentucky. So I wrote my book These Healing Hills, but I felt there were more stories there. The history of that nurse midwifery service kept simmering in my imagination until I cooked up yet another story to share more of the Frontier Nursing Service history.

It’s while I’m researching that my ideas deepen and expand. So I definitely can agree with the following quote.

A library is the delivery room for the birth of ideas, a place where history comes to life. ~Norman Cousins

However you capture that initial idea, if you can cultivate it and make it grow and put out branches, your readers will have story fruit to harvest.

How do you get ideas for your stories?

What grabs your imagination and helps you cook up new story ideas? @AnnHGabhart #ACFWBlogs #writingtips #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet

Ann H. Gabhart, bestselling author of over thirty-five novels, writes stories using Kentucky history and locations. She writes about Shakers, small town life, mystery (as A.H. Gabhart), and Appalachia in her new release, An Appalachian Summer. She enjoys country life on her Kentucky farm. For more about Ann, visit


Comments 2

  1. I wish I knew. This morning when I looked at what the storm did, I said, “Mercy, me.” Immediately it gave me an idea for the heroine of my next book…

    But you’ll have to wait until it comes out to discover what the idea was. lol Good post!

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