The Wednesday Writing Spot – Getting Ideas – Guest Post from Patsy Collins

This week on the Wednesday Writing Spot, I am delighted to welcome writer, Patsy Collins, who is talking about where she gets her ideas from and her fabulous new short story collection, which is called Up The Garden Path. It’s lovely to have you here, Patsy. Now it’s over to you…

As writers we are often asked where we get our ideas from. It seems such a reasonable question but it’s very hard to give a satisfactory answer. Each writer will get their inspiration in a different way to that of their colleagues and they’ll probably draw on a number of resources. Ideas are everywhere you see. That’s both good and bad. We don’t have to wait for the ideas shop to open, but those little story sparks don’t come neatly labelled ‘romance novel suggestion’ or ‘ghost story premise’ so we need to train ourselves to spot them.

My new short story collection contains twenty four short stories and each is the result of a different stimulus. It’s a bit like picking wild mushrooms, really. If you want nice, safe mushrooms you need to know what they look like or you’ll end up with something toxic, or hallucinogenic or bitter. Of course if you actually want to poison someone you’ll need to be on the lookout for something different (pale gills and skinny stalks are a good sign in this case). ‘Write what you know’ is good advice. That’s what I did for ‘A Piece of Pink Ribbon’ which is set on a farm and ‘Coming Home’ which is about separation when someone is away at sea. It also explains why all the stories in the collection have a horticultural theme – I’m nearly as keen on gardening as eating cake. Real life events can be a great source of story ideas, but the truth often needs adapting. Weirdly when we write something strange, funny or touching that really happened it often doesn’t feel believable. ‘Watchdog’ is based on a real event (although not one which happened to me) but to make it work I had to change reality. Whenever I come across an unusual name eg ‘Mrs Dalrymple’ overhear an interesting comment such as ‘Your Granddad is Stuck Up a Tree Again’ or want revenge on an annoying boss (‘Blooming Talent’) I make a note in a computer file. Sometimes the prompt is as simple as the smell of ‘Strawberry Jam’ and at others it’s as complex as family politics (I’m admitting nothing!). It doesn’t matter where the ideas come from, it’s what you do with them that counts. I hope you like what I’ve done with those which resulted in ‘Up the Garden Path’. The book is available here – or here.

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13 Responses to The Wednesday Writing Spot – Getting Ideas – Guest Post from Patsy Collins

  1. Wendy Clarke says:

    Great guest post, Patsy – I love the thought of ideas coming into your head labelled (or not as the case may be) It’s always interesting to hear where ideas come from. Strangely, a few months ago, I sold a story about an old man stuck up a tree – do you think he might be the same one? (probably not, unless you know my father in law!)

    • I don’t think I know your father-in-law, Wendy but I like the idea we both know people who’re likely to get themselves stuck up trees. Writers need friends and relations like that.

  2. Thanks so much for inviting me over, Della.

  3. Della Galton says:

    Hi Patsy, thank you very much for coming over – I love hearing about how other writers get ideas and how they translate into stories. And how true about the truth not adapting very well. I think that’s why I have trouble with the ends of stories – real life doesn’t tie up neatly, it doesn’t always make sense, and it doesn’t necessarily have a point 😉 Whereas fiction must!

  4. Linda Casper says:

    I sometimes wish there was such a thing as an ideas shop, but long live your story ideas and the entertainment your writing gives to so many.

  5. Della Galton says:

    I think it’s Adrian Magson who says he gets his ideas from the ideas shop when new writers ask. I was going to say wouldn’t it be good if there was such a place. But in one sense there is – there are so many idea prompts on the internet. Check out Morgen Bailey’s daily prompt on Facebook for example. Link here.

  6. Tracy Fells says:

    Great post Patsy and Della. I love to hear where writers get their ideas from and how you keep track too. Sometimes all you need to jot down is a word or name to later stimulate a story idea. I find ideas can float around for several years before they suddenly erupt into a story.

  7. celia says:

    I’m a fan of both Della and Patsy and read this guestblot (surely that’s a typo?) lookin’ for tips.
    My own ‘ideas-well’ dried up and there were more weeds than seeds in the ‘ideas-veggie-garden’ so I dug the whole patch over and stuck an old carpet on top to clear the area thoroughly. That was nearly 2 years ago and I feel it’s almost time to lift up the dead carpet, get some creative manure down on the plot and shovel in the seeds of ideas that have been wafting around in the cobwebs of my brain for so long.
    What if the carpet turns out to be a priceless Chinese Silk rarity, worth a fortune in any condition?
    What if it can fly?
    Things are a-happenin’ already!
    Don’t watch this space, but somewhere, some day, the world might hear from me again
    Thanks for al the lovely reads over the years, gals

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