Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

After reading Britt’s post, Found, I mused about the many plot ideas it engendered. People always want to know where writers get their ideas. The answer, inevitably, is real life.



A walk on a deserted, seaweed-lined beach today, gave me an idea for a story. I’ve attempted to give you the steps I took to develop three different plots from my beach discovery.

As soon as I stepped onto the sand, I spotted movement off to my left. Covering my eyes, I saw a pink balloon trying to escape from the clinging grip of a clump of wet, brown seaweed.

Pink Balloon

Pink Balloon

The balloon valiantly tried to extricate itself as it bobbed every which way. A foot of string gave it hope. I wondered how it came to be entangled in a brown, gooey mess on my beach. Who had lost it? How far had it sailed and from where? What was the story behind its present struggles?

I walked down the beach to investigate. When I reached the trapped renegade, I found another mystery. The pink orb was decorated in colorful drawings and a note that said, “Happy Birthday, Nana”.

Wow, I thought, what a neat idea to make the pink balloon special. I bet that lucky Nana loved it.

Why, then, was this lovingly crafted gift tossing in the wind in the midst of ocean refuge?

My writer’s imagination took over. Perhaps Nana didn’t realize what a treasure she had and let it go. Not a nice Nana. Or, perhaps she lived near the beach and the balloon was snatched from her hands, swallowed by a wave, and caught in the flotsam being hurled onto the beach. I pictured a little girl or boy crying over the injustice.

My next scenario had an excited boy or girl poring over the pink orb and selecting just the right color marker to make Nana smile. I could see little hands hard at work and, perhaps, a tiny tongue sticking out from the corner of a determined mouth. Finally completed—perfect—it was ready to bring to Nana. Mother would drive over to Nana’s house and the excited child would jump out of the car and—oh no! A vicious gust of wind would snatch the present out of tiny hands and fly it away. The child would jump and jump and jump, reaching for the precious gift as it sailed off into the distance.

Marblehead HarborThe third idea had a darker plot. In this one, the family gives Nana a boat trip for her birthday. As they head out of the harbor, an excited little child hands Nana her gift. Nana reaches for the pink balloon and laughs as she tries to hold it still in the wind and the bouncing waves. She wants to see all the beautiful artwork from her grandchild. Everyone laughs, even the child, whose father has turned from the wheel to see Nana’s response.

I’m sure some of you have guessed what comes next. Yup. A rogue wave. It tips the boat over and everyone lands in the water. They struggle to reach the surface and parents scream their child’s name, until a little head pops up, coughing and choking.

1st Pits day 002They grab their child, grateful for the life preserver strapped to the little body. The turbulent water makes it difficult to hold onto the boat. And then, the child shrieks, reaching up toward the sky. “Nana’s balloon!”

Nana! Where’s Nana?

As we leave the scene, frantic screams of “Mother” and “Nana” echo across the water and a lonely pink balloon heads toward its destiny. Or does it?

When I finished penning this post, I grabbed my iPad intending to take photos of the pink balloon, the motivation for my writing. It wasn’t there. I scanned the beach and the water, but the balloon was gone.

Now I have a whole new set of questions. Did someone take it? Could the owner have found it? Did an angry seagull pop it? Or, did it finally free itself and fly on to stimulate someone else’s imagination?

I’m thinking of a whole new story about the people influenced by Nana’s runaway pink balloon.

A fun exercise would be to find an interesting, strange, or quirky object or situation, and see how many plots you can come up with. Or, using my strange beach find, what kind of story would you envision?

Whatever you do, keep on writing!




4 thoughts on “Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

  1. It was their first summer without Nana. Her children and grandchildren gathered at the beach where they had enjoyed so many family reunions. Each grandchild decorated a balloon for her, anchoring it in the seaweed. By evening, the balloons were gone.

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