Simple Story Starters

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by Jordyn Redwood

Most authors I know are people watchers. Sitting and observing people is a fascinating way to generate story ideas. If you haven’t just let your imagination run wild doing an exercise like this-let me offer a few examples.

On the flight home from the ACFW conference that just happened in Indianapolis I was seated next to a business type who seemed to be preparing for a meeting. He had all sorts of spread sheets he was perusing until the plane took off at which point he pulled out a non-fiction book (sigh-why not fiction?) on sailing.

Even though it wasn’t fiction I asked him about the book and what he liked about it. The other things I noticed was he was a very fast reader. The last thing I noted was his bookmark and that got me thinking about a story.

His particular bookmark was a torn piece from a Curious George coloring book. You could just make out half of the infamous monkey’s body. It was solely colored in orange and very sloppily at that-perhaps lending to a younger child’s hand. What was noteworthy was how it was protected. It had been covered with strips of scotch tape-perhaps the girls out there can relate to this archiving method of their youth. However, the sticky strips were organized in such a way that the same hand who had colored the picture could not have possibly finessed the tape in the same fashion to preserve the picture-side by side with perhaps a one millimeter overlay so if it got wet it wouldn’t be ruined.

I stared at that bookmark for a long time as the gentleman would move it to each new page he read. I wondered about the story behind it. I thought about my own girls (who are ages nine and eleven) and all the things they make for me and how I hadn’t once preserved their doodling in such a way.

Perhaps because I see them every day.

And perhaps this man didn’t see this child as often as he liked.

Which of course got my suspense wheels turning.

I get inspiration for my medical thrillers from everyday life. I read a lot of non-fiction as resources for my stories. One non-fiction book that played heavily into Peril’s story was Unplanned by Abby Johnson and Cindy Lambert. It tells the true story of a pro-choice advocate’s epiphany and switching sides to the pro-life arena. Her story is huge as she was a well known/respected director for Planned Parenthood and I highly recommend the book for reading.

What was interesting to me about this particular book was the one thing that caused her to change her mind. I used that very thing as a turning point for one of my characters.

Inspiration for books can be all around us. It can be a photo, a song, a stranger next to us on an airplane. It can be non-fiction stories and real-life events. All these things can create the threads of which we weave stronger fictional stories.

What about you? What things do you use to inspire your stories? What’s been the most unusual?

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Jordyn Redwood is a pediatric ER nurse by day, suspense novelist by night. She hosts Redwood’s Medical Edge, a blog devoted to helping contemporary and historical authors write medically accurate fiction. Her first two novels, Proof and Poison, garnered starred reviews from Library Journal. Proof was shortlisted for the 2012 ForeWord Review’s BOTY Award, 2013 INSPY Award and the 2013 Carol Award. You can connect with Jordyn via her website at

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