Round Robin – Where do you get your ideas for stories?

In February, Rhobin has chose an idea from fellow robin, Fiona. Where do you get your ideas from for stories?

It is the thing that fascinates non fiction writers the most. All of us are likely to have been held at cocktail-point by another guest who seems genuinely puzzled that anyone can take an event and turn it into something else. Their brains don’t operate on a What if? basis and that prevents them seeing the possibilities.

Of course real life throws up all sorts and a huge amount of it is feel-good, happy, moving. What I truly thank my story Gods for is the ability to witness the moment, to remember the feeling of revelation and to write it, often without reaiising until the work is completed. That is one huge privilege of being a writer.

The Laundry

I know a lot of my ideas come through visiting houses and through being close to houses. Some buildings cry out for attention.

My husband and I have life membership of The National Trust for Scotland and in more normal times make good and frequent use of it. We also visit privately owned big houses and have stayed in commercially let ones.

The picture above sparked an idea for a story I wrote years ago for a Writelink challenge. Most recently, I needed a house for a Hallowe’en story for a short anthology, Dark Stories, Capital Writers. The Cemetery House picks up a long fascination I’ve had with two houses on a nearby road. One is in a cemetery, one is just higgeldy-piggeldy.

Dark Stories by [Kate Blackadder, Jane Riddell, Anne Stenhouse, Jennifer Young]

A Debt for Rosalie was sparked by a long weekend spent in a big house in Angus (moved to Northumberland for the book) with friends. We spent a lot of time congregating in the kitchen which may be why Rosalie is a chef.

So, that’s my bag: observed and remembered moments of revelation and the aura of the stones. Do visit the blogs listed below where I’m confident other methods will appear.


Skye Taylor

Beverley Bateman

Connie Vines

Diane Bator

Dr. Bob Rich

Fiona McGier

Helena Fairfax

Marci Baun

Victoria Chatham

Judith Copek

Rhobin L Courtright


20 thoughts on “Round Robin – Where do you get your ideas for stories?

  1. The WHAT IF game- I never considered that some folk never think to ask themselves this question! I guess that really is what makes a fiction writer. I’m asking myself this all the time. Sometimes to test out the useability of something I see it experience as well as figuring it where my plot will go next.


  2. I love the idea of being held at cocktail-point! 😀 And I totally agree about asking ‘what if?’ I hadn’t thought about buildings providing inspiration, but that makes perfect sense to me. Thanks for the interesting post. I’ve really enjoyed this topic!


    • Hi Helena, tha other drinks’ party peril is the man with the drawer full of poetry. However, having said that, I met a very lovely friend (sadly now deceased) in just that way. I do love houses, castles, buildings, industrial premises. But, I don’t see people walking through the walls. Just ask what if? Anne


  3. Wow, Anne. I didn’t know you could traipse around and check out old dwellings in Scotland. That must be constant grist for your mill of stories! That picture of the laundry reminded me of what my dad’s sister, older than him by 12 years, told me about how they grew up. They lived in tenements in Glasgow. Each family had 1 big room–they cooked, ate, bathed and slept in that one room. The toilet was down the hall and shared with everyone else. Everyone waited their turn to use the “midden” for laundry day. They’d fill buckets with water, drag it upstairs, and heat it on the stove, filling a large metal tub. When it was almost full, they’d toss in the whites and detergent. Then they’d have to take it all downstairs to rinse it in the midden, and hang it up to dry. They’d keep doing the laundry until it was done. Then the dad would use the water to take a bath. And the wife, then the kids. Bleah! My mom grew up 8th of 10 in a large immigrant Polish family in Chicago, but even they had indoor plumbing. She was shocked the one time she visited to meet Dad’s folks after they were married, and that’s how she had to take a bath!

    Higgeldy-piggeldy–now there’s a phrase I haven’t heard for years–since me faither passed away. A cousin who was born in Glasgow has told me that much of the terms I associate with Scotland are regional Glaswegian slang. We were too poor to go visit my dad’s folks, and they were elderly and retired, so too poor to come visit us, so I never met them. But his older sister used to come out every other summer, for a 2 week holiday, and sleep in my room. That was when I discovered just how loudly a woman could snore! LOL. But I always enjoyed sitting and listening to Dad and his sister converse in their lilting brogues–Aye? Ach aye.


    • Fiona, thanks for the topic which we’re all enjoying hugely. Yes, one can go round a lot of buildings and there is also a Glasgow tenement house. It’s a bit upmarket from the experiences of your dad’s family, but looks interesting. I haven’t been in it. I did once do a tour of the East side in New York – the next step on for immigrants arriving at Ellis Island. I found that very moving. It doesn’t take long for the oral memories to be outstripped and when the buildings go too large swathes of experience are lost. Anne


      • Yes, that picture looks quite a bit more upscale than what my dad lived in–which were all torn down many years ago. My Aunt Cathy retired, then moved into a retirement home not too far from where their tenement had been. My brother shared a book with me that was very informative about what it was like living back then. It was a hard life–even without an alcoholic husband! I wear my grandmother’s wedding ring on my right hand, with pride in her.


    • Hi Victoria, I think there were huge hazards for small children in the home particualrly on washing day when it was all dependant on having enugh hot water and then enough wind. Mothers would be distracted. Anne


  4. I love buildings too–ancient, old, new, modern, Victorian, bungalow, ranch and on and on. I find it interesting they offer inspiration for your stories. I present workshops on life story writing. One suggestion I offer to stir up the memories is to visit the homes the writer has lived in either in person or by sketching it on paper. The moments in that house will bring back memories of people long forgotten, relationships and situations that may have built character or affected the writer’s life to the present.
    Enjoyed your blog post.


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