Mining Real Life for Story Ideas

I’ve written previously about reading local news coverage to inspire plot, setting, and character for my last work-in-progress. Well, another amusing tidbit—filed away when I read it last fall—is making its way into my current book: “Woman Fights Bear with Zucchini, Wins”.

bear What more could a story desire?

Do you incorporate news items, overheard conversation, or intriguing-looking characters into your writing? What sources inspire you?

:) Cheryl

Photo courtesy of http2007 on Flickr Commons

The hidden price of "productivity" every writer needs to know -

You’ve probably read the same tips I have: Have a smart phone? Check Facebook while standing in line at the post office! Respond to Twitter messages while waiting for your dentist! Catch up on your news feed while sitting on the pot! For years, I thought the path to increased productivity was to squeeze in MORE–more […]


  1. Kenda says

    I heard that story about the zucchini, too. Wild!

    My genre is MG historical fiction, and lots of my inspiration comes from historical tidbits. I'm always coming across something I think I can use.

  2. PW.Creighton says

    Music and music videos do hold sway over characters to a degree for me. Nothing as brilliant as a bear and a zucchini but a number of plot points are based on real events.

  3. Deb says

    I do incorporate these things into my writing, but not in any coherent or methodical fashion! I'll be in the middle of writing and recall some exchange I once overheard, then document that as is relevant. I know I've written down certain exchanges thinking I'll use them, but once they're dropped into my idea box, they've never (yet) emerged again!

    That is crazy about the bear, by the way. That woman sure did a good job rockin' the resources at hand, no matter how silly it sounds after the fact. :p

  4. Cheryl Reif says

    Kenda: ooh, I love MG historical. There's SOOO much great info about strange medical practices, odd (to us) etiquette, and so on. Do you read journals from the time period in which you're writing?

  5. Cheryl Reif says

    PW: Interesting–I never thought of using a music video to inspire until you showed me that series on YouTube. That's very cool!

    Deb: I do the same thing–write down setting, character, and dialog details to inspire me later, then never look at them again. I wonder if by writing things down, though, we're fixing them more firmly in our subconscious.

  6. Kenda says

    Cheryl–back to your question about reading time period journals for historical fiction projects–I don't have specific journals that I read, though I'm always on the look out for any in the category :-), but my shelves are full of local history books, novels and nonfiction period works. And files upon files of info' I've printed out from google searches and rare books on line stuff that I find as I research. I'm buried in in the piles, but loving it! Thanks for asking…

  7. Julie Musil says

    Seriously? That was in the news? That's hilarious. I definitely think of stories when I watch the news. As a matter of fact, when I see a story on the news, I jot down related story ideas and keep them in a folder. You just never know when you'll need it! And I'd love to read that zucchini scene 😀

  8. Patrick says

    My goodness, you have a real "truth is stranger than fiction" story there. How often does someone begin a story with "If this were in a movie (or novel) you'd say, 'No way would that happen," but why not take that zany true story and improve it with fiction?


  9. Cheryl Reif says

    Hi Patrick–no kidding! I think real life sometimes offers stranger visions than fiction.