Where Do Your Ideas For Stories And Blog Posts Come From?

When I wrote my first short story, shortly after I started blogging in February 2014, I never gave much thought of where the idea for the story had come from. 

However, I remember the moment the story came to me and, since then, I’ve never really talked about it a lot. Why? Because it could have been the visit from a ghost that gave me the idea.  

There I was, ironing the third of seven shirts, and up walked Grace Simmons demanding that I write and publish her story on my blog.

Are the characters in our fiction the ghosts of our imagination?

Somehow, Grace had managed to get her story into my head and, within seconds, I’d abandoned the ironing board for the keyboard. 

An hour later, I’d written Grace’s story, published it on my blog, and the first comment had come in. Smiling, I thanked Grace, who had long disappeared to wherever it was she had come from, and I returned to the ironing board wondering if I’d just been visited by a ghost.

Who is Grace Simmons, and what is her story?

Grace is a character from, Last Train To Aldwych, the first story in my book, Glimpses.

What I’m not sure about is whether Grace Simmons is a ghost who visited me. I can’t say I physically saw her, yet the image of her is firmly embedded in my mind

About the story.

A journey on the London Underground takes Grace Simmons to an annual encounter with a ghost she always meets at Aldwych Station on the same date every year. However, with the prospect of further meetings never being able to take place, Grace must ensure that this final meeting is one where she and the ghost will never part.

I’ve often wondered if the story was born from an idea, an experience, or if I was just lucky enough to have stumbled upon it. Then again, was it told to me by the ghost of Grace Simmons?

#Glimpses #books #shortstories #fiction #scifi
Glimpses – The First Collection of short stories and flash fiction by Hugh W. Roberts

Grace’s story has not only had some wonderful reviews, but it is the story that went on to launch many more short stories from me. My readers loved the story and encouraged me to write more.

Where do lost ideas end up?

I don ‘t know about you (and I hate to say this), but many of the ideas I get for blog posts and short stories find their way to the ‘Door of the Forgotten.’ 

Why? Because I fail to write them down. 

Within seconds of arriving, an idea can be flying towards that open door, with me failing to pursue it. In this modern world of technology, you’d think that should never be allowed to happen, yet it still does. 

Many of the other short stories in my books came to me from ideas I’d get after reading writing prompts, participating in writing challenges, or by looking at photos. 

Even reading comments on a blog post can spark off ideas for short stories and blog posts. Some come to me within seconds, whereas some ideas can take weeks to reveal themselves. 

The mystery of Grace Simmons.

To this day, Grace Simmons remains a mystery to me. When asked, I still cannot answer the question ‘where did the idea for ‘Last Train To Aldwych’ come from?

For those of who not familiar with Aldwych, it was a station on the London Underground from 1907 until 1994.

#transport #London
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

When I sit down and think about it, one of the first things that come to mind is the number of times I had walked past Aldwych underground station in London. 

The office I worked in was a few minutes walk away, and I’d often visit the station at lunchtime to buy a cheese and pickle sandwich. 

Just inside the station was the sandwich kiosk that, to this day, made the best cheese and pickle sandwiches I’d ever tasted.

Another mystery. 

I’d enjoy talking to Margaret, the lady that owned and ran the kiosk, and most weekdays we’d catch up on our daily lives while trying to put the world to right.

It was a sad day when the station closed and even more tragic that on my way back to the office that day, I lost Margaret’s phone number. 

On the evening of 30th September 1997, by the time I realised I’d lost the piece of paper she’d written her home phone number on, Margaret and her cheese and pickle sandwiches were long gone.

I tried many avenues to find her, but all to no avail. 

The mystery of Margaret’s disappearance is as much a mystery to me, as where the idea for ‘Last Train To Aldwych‘ came from. 

Then again, did those daily visits to Margaret plant the idea for the story deep within my mind, only for it to resurface into a story many years later? 

Margaret had, after all, told me stories about her and her family and how they would shelter in Aldwych underground station during the blitz of World War 2. 

The following film was shot on the day that the last train to Aldwych actually ran. Can you spot Grace amongst the last passengers who made that journey with her?

Have I, at last, solved the mystery of ‘Last Train To Aldwych‘?

You can read ‘Last Train To Aldwych‘ in Glimpses, my first collection of short stories.

Click here to buy a copy.

Where do your ideas for blog posts and short stories come from? Share them with us in the comments.  

This was a guest post originally published on Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. It has been edited and updated since its first publication.

Copyright © 2019 hughsviewsandnews.com – All rights reserved.

81 comments

  1. Where do lost ideas end up? What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
    Are you familiar with this Langston Hughes’ poem “A Raisin in the Sun?”
    Janice

  2. If only I knew. I find pinning down story ideas is the hardest part of writing. Librarianship is about putting things into their boxes, so you can find them again when requested. Thinking outside the box hasn’t often been required. Perhaps if I read your stories I’ll get some inspiration about where inspiration comes from.

    1. If you do read my stories, I hope they will inspire you, Cathy. Much of my inspiration for writing comes from prompts, writing challenges, or even watching TV or listening to the radio. Dare I say that listening in on overheard conversations are also a great source of ideas and inspiration for me, too.

  3. Good question Hugh, lol. I’m not the type to just sit down because it’s time to write a post. I keep several journals and notebooks scattered around my home. Often something comes to mind I wish to write about and I’ll write down the idea and points I want to cover. Then when I’m looking for a new blog post, I have only to dive into one of my notebooks. 🙂 ❤

    1. Same here, Debby. I write my posts when they come to me, and I don’t start panicking if I’ve nothing ready for publication. As I said many times, ‘blogging is a marathon, not a sprint.’ I see too many posts that shout out that they’ve been hurriedly put together just to get something out. Some bloggers even say they’ve rushed the writing and publication and apologise for it in the post. It’s such a shame when that happens because if they’d given the post more time, they could have become a brilliant read. I learnt that the hard way.

      1. I think we all learned that way Hugh. I remember back when I began blogging, I’d open a draft and tell myself it was time to write a blog, lol. Sit there looking at screen and wondering what on earth to write for the sake of writing a post. Eventually we get a rhythm going. I’ll create a draft whenever it strikes, put it together and let it sit til I’m ready to use it, then of course re-edit because like book writing, we’ll always find some typos or wonky stuff. 🙂

  4. This is a lovely post, Hugh. I remember the story about Grace, it was one of my favourites in Glimpses. I have an ideas folder now which I jot ideas down in or store links in until I can get around to doing something with them.

  5. Love the topic of this post, but not sure I have an answer. Sometimes ideas come to me from dreams, or when I let my mind relax and enjoy, say, a beautiful view. Often, they come from a feeling triggered by a conversation, seeing something or hearing something. But, I would never say “no” to the thought of someone not from the material world planting ideas in our minds. 😊

  6. Thanks for sharing your ‘meeting’ with Grace. Funnily enough BeetleyPete also blogged today about where his story ideas come from – often when he’s walking his dog and/or from films he’s seen. I think ideas can from anywhere, anything and anyone – personal experiences, childhood memories, family dynamics, overheard converations, people on buses … I have notebooks full of scraps of stories and poems – just need to time to develop them. Sometimes when I look through the notebooks I have absolutely no memory of writing what’s there, which is very odd.

    1. Same here, Mary. However, I sometimes have a problem with trying to work out my lousy handwriting. Sometimes, when I can read it, I still have no idea why I wrote the idea down. That’s another example of when I’ve lost ideas. Still, at least I have plenty to keep me going for a weekly blog post. I don’t like the thought of not knowing what to write when I open up a new draft for a post. That’s one of my worse nightmares.

  7. I always enjoy reading where people get their ideas for posts and stories Hugh, so thanks for sharing some of the back story for this one. As you know I found your short stories fascinating and finding out some of the background gives them even more depth. I have just had a comment on a post I wrote a while ago that has blown my mind due to the personal connection and I’m in the middle of trying to work it into a post to share. So to me, inspiration is everywhere around us and I’m always on the lookout. I feel that as I’ve been blogging over the years I have become a lot more observant to what’s going on around me. Do you feel that way?

    1. I’ve always found comments on blog posts such an excellent source of ideas for blogs post, Debbie. Some say they don’t have time to read the comments left on blog posts. I can understand that, but I think I rather spend less time reading blog posts than the comments.

      The recent comment you’ve just received on one of your older posts sounds like an interesting story. I look forward to reading about it. It just goes to prove that we should never close off comments on our older posts. I see so many bloggers closing comments off after a certain amount of time (usually 21 days after publication of a blog post). I’m not sure why, but it reminds me of the quote ‘Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint.’ Some bloggers always seem to be in an almighty rush with everything, which can often make readers feel overwhelmed.

      In answer to your question, I think blogging put blinkers on me at first. However, as I developed into the blogger I have become, I certainly have become more observant of what’s going on around me. When I am outside the house, I much rather be looking at life than continually looking into the screen of a mobile phone.

  8. There are so many scraps of paper scattered around my desk (or tucked in a notebook) with thoughts, ideas – or sometimes phrases – that come to mind randomly. Just upon waking up in the morning and in the shower seem to be times when ideas pop up full blown (more for stories based on life experience, rather than fiction at this point). I have a notepad in the bathroom…and next to the bed. I find that actually writing them down with paper/pen is the most visceral way to capture ideas. Except once when I dictated into my phone’s app when I was away waiting for the arrival of my grandson – happenings too intense to wait for finding a pen.
    Blogging prompts are often an excellent starting point to get thinking. And then I wake up and write.

    1. Having scarps of paper around that contain ideas is a good thing, so long as we remember to use them. After publishing this post, I’ve started using ‘Post-it’ notes to write ideas on which I am then sticking to the bottom of my computer screen. Just like crossing things off a list, I know I’m going to enjoy making space, so I stick more ideas on the screen of my computer.

      I think any kind of prompt is an excellent way to get creative juices flowing. Thankfully, there are lots of bloggers who publish these prompts every week. I’m forever in debt to those bloggers.

      Thank you for sharing the details of where your ideas come from.

      1. I use Post-it notes as well. Remembering to use them is important, I agree! Sharing our ideas about the writing process (and how to get started) is so helpful. Thanks again, Hugh.

  9. Fiction and non-fiction writing are quite different from each other. My blog ideas are basically photo essays and recounts of my adventures – in writing, spending, and traveling. I sometimes think I stick to non-fiction, because I’m lazy. Writing fiction requires creativity, work, time, and a glorious imagination. I’d like to try it one day, although I’d need a lot of practice. And, I should start by reading your books! 🙂

    1. I agree with you that fiction and non-fiction writing is different, but I do believe that all writing comes from the experiences we have in our lives. With fiction, the backgrounds can be so diverse, but with non-fiction, it’s more about what actually happens to us rather than what happens to other people. They do say that we should write about what we know, but creativity can often bend that rule. I get a lot of pleasure out of creating short stories, plus I enjoy being in charge of the destination of my characters. I see it as my way of playing ‘God.’

  10. I think everything we write, may it be a poem, a short story, or something about life is inspired by what we experience or encounter. And since we are all different, we all may perceive the same or a similar observation differently which brings so much color to the forest of books.

  11. Anywhere and everywhere is probably the answer, memories, things family and friends tell you about other people and Radio Four – plenty of lives there. But one experience that comes to mind – I was 5 I guess and for some reason long forgotten Dad took me round to the imposing house of my infants teacher. Up stone steps, big black front door. Looking back I expect she had a flat in this house. She told me to open the drawer of a black ornate dresser. It wouldn’t open, but the side opened up to reveal steps down. It didn’t lead into a creepy cellar but to a garden with a pet rabbit. I did write a short story incorporating that , my school and the strange woman who lived below us. All this took place in Twickenham!

    1. What a great memory to share with us. As children, I think our minds are at their most creative. For some of my stories, I try and get my mind to go back to what it was like when I was a child. Of course, having a child as the main character also allows the writer to go to places where an adult mind probably would not go. It brings to mind another story of mine,’ The Gingerbread House,’ which also features in Glimpses.

      I’m glad those steps led to a beautiful garden and a pet rabbit. Your account of that day has a wonderful build-up. It had me letting out a long deep breath of relief knowing that, in the end, all was good.

      1. Thanks Hugh, my daughter always says ‘How do you remember so much about your childhood?’ as she claims not to remember much. Perhaps some of us take in our surroundings more than others.

        1. I can certainly remember specific events from my childhood (e.g. my first day at school), yet I can’t remember some of the stuff that my parent’s told me happened to me. I suppose it’s a bit like dreams. We remember some, yet others are forgotten as soon as we wake up. There must be some logic for it.

  12. Oh, the creative writing process! At some point, I realized that since I am such a visual person, that most of my ideas for the blog are from images I see and collect. Of course, it helps to host a photo challenge these days for that trigger of inspiration, but I do get random ideas for either my blog or my fitness book (still in production) from walking outdoors. I don’t hook my head up to media while out walking, so I can keep it clear and let ideas flow. My brain churns over time anyway, so the walk clears the way for good ideas and aha moments. Yesterday, while we were still in San Diego, we walked along the bay side of Pacific Beach (an exceptionally gorgeous day there) and I took lots of pics of cyclists, joggers and water sports enthusiasts, which not only inspire me but make good images for media memes once I publish my fitness book! Nice to read about yours, Hugh, but your brain just autmatically thinks along the creative path!

    1. When I look at all the people who have their heads down looking at a screen when I’m out walking, it makes me think of all the ideas, experiences and chances they are missing, Terri.

      I see myself as somebody regaining and claiming back the experiences’ we all had before the age of the mobile phone began. There is so much out there, yet many choose to focus on events on a screen that could be thousands of miles away.

      For me, my creative mind is at it’s best when I’m phoneless. I even pass on any ideas that come my way to Toby and Austin (just in case I forget them). Only this morning, while out walking them, next week’s blog post was well underway in my head. Oh, and I also have to thank you for next week’s prompt on Sunday Stills. It’s played a part of next week’s post, too.

      1. I think this fits our older generation easier since we lived without phones until the 90s and by then, we already knew how to entertain ourselves with our own brains! Too much noise in the world as is. I’m sure Toby and Austin love hearing your voice!

  13. Fascinating look into the germination of a story, Hugh, with that bit of magic tucked in there too. I don’t know where those sparks come from, but like you, if I don’t write them down immediately, they’re gone! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Diana. Behind every story is another story that’s often not put out in the open. It was enjoyable looking into the origins of where ‘Last Train to Aldwych’ came from. It sent shivers down my spine.

  14. Interesting post Hugh and fascinating to read about the idea for your first blog story. Who knows where these ideas come from though? I guess they all have seeds sown in our minds from old experiences that have become disjointed and partially forgotten. Our blog posts are just stories about our travelling life, we haven’t ventured in writing our own stories (yet). I’d love to though so you never know.

    1. You give some interesting thoughts on the subject of this post, Jonno. It amazes me how memories which I thought were long-forgotten, resurface again. I’m glad they do, though. Otherwise, Grace may never have told her story to me.

      1. It must be very much like writing song lyrics and melodies I suppose. They seem to appear from nowhere but there are undoubtedly influences and ideas from way back that resurface randomly to stimulate new ideas. Fascinating subject.

  15. Awesome post, Hugh – I love hearing story origins. When ideas come to me, I try to put them into my notes in my phone. I’ve also referred back to some of them and had no idea what I meant, lol.

    1. Ahh, yes, that’s often happened to me in trying to remember what I was thinking about when I wrote down an idea, Teri. I also can’t always read my own handwriting, so it can become a problem. I’ve heard it said that many authors have lousy handwriting, though.

  16. A wonderful post Hugh and it sounds as if Margaret was a great inspiration! 🙂 Most of my ideas come when I’m out walking – I take notes and if I have my camera with me I’ll take photographs to remind me what caught my eye. I enjoy taking part in writing and photo challenges which often inspire me to mix different images with the words, in a good way 🙂

    1. Thank you very much. I think walking generates lots of ideas. Not only is it healthy for the body, but also the mind. I must remember to take a notebook and pen out with me when walking. I try and leave my phone at home in order to get away from the online world while walking.

  17. There’s another story prompt after watching the film – how did all those people get to and from work after that branch line closed?
    AND – poor Margaret – waiting for a call that never came :-/

    1. There were two other underground stations close by, Eileen. It meant longer journeys on the underground for some, but Aldwych was also closed because of lack of use. If I remember correctly, it didn’t open at weekends.

      Maybe Margaret was as much a ghost as Grace was? Perhaps it’s two ghosts I’ve encountered, not just the one? Many people believe that Aldwych station is haunted.

  18. I remember that story Hugh, it was very good! My blog posts come from life, but there are such a lot of thoughts that go through my mind, mainly when I’m out walking the dogs, where I think, ‘I must remember to write that down when I get home’ but as I get home…forgotten! So annoying 🙂 The very few stories I have written came to me immediately after reading the prompts or after thinking of an initial idea, then the full story would come. If the flow doesn’t happen straight away with me, I don’t think it would become a story 🙂 Intriguing to think you were visited by a ghost though!

    1. I’m not 100% sure Grace was a ghost, Sam. I couldn’t physically see her (well, at least I don’t think I did, anyway), yet the image of her is still firmly in my mind. She must have communicated with me to have told me her story of that day she was at Aldwych station, but maybe Margaret (who run the kiosk) planted the story in my mind all those years ago?

      Remember to take a notebook and pen with you so that those ideas don’t have a chance of getting away. It’s something I now intend on doing (given that I don’t like taking my phone with me so that I can get away from the online world).

  19. Great post! I often wake up with an idea in my head, or have an idea pop up in my head while I am doing something else, I do have a document on my desktop named “blog ideas”, if I don’t have my computer nearby I write a note on my phone. Good ideas are precious. I usually have my camera with me, and that is almost like an extra notebook, as the photos reminds me of stories I want to tell. Great thoughts here in your post, and best of luck with your book!

    1. Thank you very much. I often don’t take my phone with me when I go out as I like to try and get away from any online activity. However, taking a notebook and pen is an excellent idea for when those ideas come flying towards you. That’s one I will adopt.

  20. My blog post stories are generated when I sit down to write. No exceptions. Other blogs are researched with an idea that answers the question, “what the hell am I going to write about for this post?”

  21. Most of my blog post ideas come from things going on in my life. And I do write them down. Not all ideas end up published but it’s helpful to have this list especially when there isn’t something currently in my head but I want to write.

  22. Hugh, I admire people who have a talent for writing stories. Each year I attend Book Mania; a panel discussion sponsored by our local library. The forum hosts famous authors who discuss their books and the writing process. Almost all of the fiction writers say they base their characters on people they know or have come into contact with. Some say the idea for the story comes first and others say the characters ‘tell’ the story. Personally, I think some people are just blessed with a vivid imagination, an abundance of curiosity, keen observation skills and a talent for writing. Not everyone has the work ethic or patience to develop those skills and I think that is what sets you guys apart from the rest of us. I look forward to reading your story about Grace. Thanks for sharing behind the scenes.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed reading my thoughts about where ideas for stories and blog posts come from, Suzanne. Not all my characters are based on people I have met, but a good many of them have some connection. For me, it’s writing prompts, or photo prompts that trigger most of my ideas. I also seem to have the knack of coming up with the end of a story first and often find myself then having to write the story forward (if that makes any sense?)

      My mind does not seem to stay focused on writing long stories, just short ones. The problem is that I properly have too many stories whirling around my creative mind to be able to sit down and take months to write any story over 10,000 words (my longest short story so far). I’d admire those authors who can write and publish more than one novel in a year. That must take a lot of dedication.

    1. Thank you, Sue. Are there any reason(s) you’d like to share with us why you’re unlikely to forget Grace and her story?

      Thank you for giving me the opportunity to feature Grace and her story on your blog. I loved the post so much that I wanted to give it an update.

  23. Hi, Hugh, My short story ideas come from something heard on the news or read in the paper. Most of my writing is because I want to correct something that has gone wrong and, being powerless, try to do so in a story, That’s why my first novels were about the way people treat the learning disabled and my next two were about the importance of family, in redundancy and adoption.I try to keep it lighthearted with a positive outcome and, when I think about it, many of my characters come from real life.
    As for your story, obviously your imagination was triggered by your visits to the station. What a wonderful location to write about!
    My blogging is much more prosaic, either happenings or little verses with the odd comment about writing. I get more pleasure from reading and responding to excellent blogs like yours.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about where your ideas for your stories come from, and for the lovely compliment about my blog, Julie.

      I do like what you say in that you write stories to put things right. That’s such a positive way to write. I’m sure you get plenty of enjoyment from writing that way.

      Like you, I also base some characters on people I’ve seen or been in contact with in real life. It’s why ‘people-watching is one of my hobbies.

  24. I remember Grace’s story when you posted it, such a lovely story. I can’t forget the story of the lady that went to India to have eye treatment, that was spooky! I’m curious to know how did you come up with that one. It’s a perfect story for this time of the year, Halloween!

    1. Aww, thank you, Elizabeth. That’s great feedback from you because of the fact that Grace’s story stayed in your mind. I owe her a lot.

      As for the other story you mentioned, Needles, that was written for a writing competition after receiving three prompts from the organisers – Horror – A woman celebrating her 50th birthday – medical treatment.

      Unfortunately, the story did not make it past the first round. There were far better stories in the competition than mine, so I decided instead to include it in Glimpses.

      I’m glad you remembered it, though.

  25. That was a great story indeed, Hugh!
    I always think that life in its entirety, each experience, is Blogger Fodder or has Story Potential.
    I know that the story premise and many of the elements featured within my novel are based upon personal experiences, or experiences I have heard of.
    I’m not a fantasy writer, so for me it is definitely everyday happenings that feed my imagination!

    1. You’re right, Ritu. Life and what it brings us every day is fodder for both blog posts and fiction, although I’m not sure how exciting readers would find what happens to me on a typical day in the life of Hugh. Situations from my daily life have indeed featured in some of my short stories, as has things I’d like to happen, but I’m going to leave those thoughts behind closed doors.

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