When I think of books that delight, haunt, and even trouble me, I often wonder where the authors got their ideas.  This, of course, leads me to think about where I get my story ideas.

Maybe, because Spring is right around the corner, and I can see small shoots pushing up through the rich black dirt around my cherry trees, I’ve begun to think of story ideas as small seeds, as wee bits of potential hiding in cool, dark spaces, waiting to be discovered—waiting for sunlight and air and water.  Waiting to be nurtured into something new and beautiful.

Plant seeds are still and patient. They are willing to wait—for ages—until the perfect moment to emerge. For example, in Israel, a tiny seed waited over 2,000 years for archeologists to dig it from its hiding place.  Then, as the time was right, it germinated into a lush and handsome date palm.

Story seeds are also patient—they’ll wait years, even decades, tucked away in a writer’s dark gray brain matter waiting until the right moment to surface.

Like so many readers, I’m fascinated with the seeds of story and whenever possible, I too, ask authors, “where did you get that idea?”  Their answers always amaze me.  And so, I’ve started to think of how story seeds work—where they come from, how they tuck away, and why they blossom when they do. I also wonder how fully grown stories can look so different from the tiny seeds that held them.

Take, for instance,  the story seed for Blood on a Blue Moon—A Sheaffer Blue Mystery

I used to live in a delightful little houseboat on Seattle’s Lake Union.  One afternoon, I noticed a man working on a neighbor’s floating home. He was  replacing one of the large, watertight plastic drums that kept the structure afloat. As I watched, I began to think of what one might do with a large, watertight plastic drum secured under a floating home.  Dark, out-of-sight, hermetically sealed.

“Do you think a body would fit in one of those?” I asked.

The man paused in his work and looked at me—long and hard.  “Are you getting a divorce?”  he asked.

“Um, no. Why?”

“Because,” he said, “you’re the second woman to ask me that question today.  You people are weird.”

He shook his head and returned to the job at hand.

Okay.  That was a long time ago.  But the idea of hiding a body in a drum, under water, nestled in my brain—like a small seed, where it stayed quiet and patient until the right mix of enthusiasm and curiosity coaxed it from its hiding place to blossom into a full-blown mystery novel.

While the bodies aren’t hidden in plastic drums in Blood on a Blue Moon, one of the murders does take place in a house boat on Lake Union.  The idea for that murder—conducted in a floating home community—grew from one tiny seed, planted so long ago, during a walk down a dock.

See what I mean about Story Seeds?  They are everywhere—in the dirt around cherry trees, on wooden docks, in shoe stores, in ice crème cones, and kisses.

Look around—do you see a small seed hiding in an unexpected place? In a person’s raised-above-the-mask eyebrow? In a single shoe left on the side of the road? 

Stories, like seeds, are everywhere.  Some of them are waiting, quiet and patient, in your own memories.  Hunt around for story seeds and, if you wish (and I hope you do), share them in the Comments. I’ll pass the word.



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