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


Diary of a Writer – September Prompt



Diary of a Writer there’s no easy explanation of why a picture touches a nerve, causes a shiver of recognition or repels. As soon as I reached this path with its deep green borders of  gunnera, I knew I’d use it at some point.

The picture encapsulates that day’s visit in mid summer mist.

This picture perfectly addresses so many of the questions in the writer’s tool box. Who’s waiting? Why are they waiting. How long have they been waiting? What will the narrator find?

Gunnera is native to South America – plant hunter’s story?

Will it inspire something for you? Come back and tell us.

Inverewe Garden

Where Do You Get Your Ideas? No 2 PICTURES

My Last Duchess by Robert Browning, was a poem my English teacher, Mr Clapp, used to show us how not everything could be understood by the first or simple reading of words alone. It remains one of the most powerful introductions any student might have to the business of writing.

Browning is focussing on a portrait, but using spare phrases that chill with their mundaneity, he lets us see another portrait in our minds – the monster who was the girl’s husband. Other viewers might look at that picture and see:

Essex Girl – a dutiful wife – an obliging sitter – a young girl – a father’s daughter – a mother’s joy – a brother’s friend – a sister’s confidant. We all see someone and we all make different stories for her.

The early pictures we’re exposed to are likely to have animals in them. They might be in picture books with wonderful illustrations of cartoonish bears. Small children are quite happy to believe that animals talk and open honey pots and paddle boats down the river. Teenage girls probably go on believing horses are human beyond the moment parents might consider healthy.

How many have seen the photographs of Edinburgh’s male panda recently? He’s ready to mate, we’re told, because he’s doing handstands and spraying his territory. Doesn’t that prompt a reaction? if you’re writing romance, doesn’t that take you easily along to the adage, about a young man’s fancy in Springtime?

And having arrived at your young man of preference, don’t you wonder about his wheels? As I’m writing historical romance, it sends me off to photos of horse drawn traps, carriages and curricles. How did a girl hang onto that? Occasionally, you can see the real thing in a private collection.

What would historical writers do without the National Trust and National Trust for Scotland properties to visit? Quite often at big houses or museums I pick up a pile of postcards. They sit around my writing place and are a ready reference as well as an inspiration. They are often of the house’s paintings and contain valuable information about fashions of the time. I have a lovely domestic scene from the Geoffrye Museum in London, artist unknown, that shows a middle-class family in their evening wear. One of the effects of the postcard is to make me wonder what it was like to spend every evening with these same people. How boring or entertaining was it? Doesn’t it make you understand how welcome visitors must have been to break the tedium? Doesn’t it send your writer’s mind off at all sorts of tangents dreaming up the gossip?

And what about the people who underpinned the comfortable classes? How about this taken at a big house outside Manchester? This is one of a series of photos I took and have subsequently used them as prompts for flash fiction. Sibling Rivalry is up on the Shortbread website and The Laundry Wife’s Daughter on Writelink’s where it won a prize.

The Laundry

The Laundry