Inspirations and Brainstorming

Posted by Jianne Carlo | 9:57 AM | 16 comments »

When people find out I write romance novels, I get at least one of three responses, sometimes all three, and often a combo;

“Have you always wanted to write?”


“How do you think of a story?”


“I have the greatest idea for a story.”

Of all the responses, the most dangerous and the most interesting is number three. There is one commonality for those who respond with the third statement, they are utterly convinced they’re the next J.R. Rowling or Stephen King if only:

a) They had the time to write, ‘cause really how hard could it be to string a few words together?

b) It’s not the writing - it’s the idea - anyone can string a few words together, but no one else has this brilliant idea.

The last time this happened to me I was in a specialist’s office, and I didn’t want to offend the man, so I bit my tongue, and said politely, “Really? Tell me about it.”

The doctor promptly pulled out a non-disclosure agreement for me to sign.

Really? Am I even thinking of going there?

I’m hoping I don’t have to see that specialist again.

Inspiration is the single most nebulous, intangible aspect of writing, for me, anyway.

There are a couple of books that I started and finished without ever pinpointing their origins. I’ve no idea where they came from or why, but the muse drove me from start to finish.

And then there those that are aha! moments when I know exactly where the manuscript’s going from start to finish, scene by scene. Those, for me, are the easiest to write because the words run from brain to hand to keyboard, and keeping up with your whirring mind’s the only drawback.

Then, there are those I call birthday books. You know when you have a close friend who has everything, and you’re trying to come up with a unique birthday present he or she would love. So you mull all the things he or she likes in your mind for a couple of weeks, and then all of a sudden, you’re in an antique shop, and you see the perfect gift. When a publisher issues a themed call for a book, like books based on Christmas songs, I take the birthday approach.

Valentine Voodoo is a perfect example. There was a call for Valentine books, and I was interested, but only if I could come up with a different take on the holiday. For weeks I googled hearts, cupid, gods, love, Venus, you name the keyword, I searched on it. Then I had to take the redeye to the west coast, couldn’t sleep, and watched Ratatouille. I loved the movie (even teared up - something I hope my sons never find out).

I jerked awake as the plane landed with the idea of writing a book about a brilliant young animator, Stephanie, who creates the hero of the next kiddie blockbuster, a mouse named Valentine who ‘nose’ his wine. Her love interest, Eli, is the top salesperson for their company, the hippest technology company on the planet. Stephanie’s had a hot spot for Eli since the day they met. Their one-night-stand at the office Christmas party sucked. Then the company sends Stephanie and Eli on a PR weekend before the release of Valentine Voodoo on Valentine’s Day. The original imprints of Valentine Voodoo disappear and the primary suspect is Eli.

Honestly, it was all there in my head. I pulled out my laptop as soon as I was in a taxi, and typed that paragraph above. I wrote the story in two weeks - mind you- it’s a short story just under 40,000 words - but I had challenged myself to write a short story (I’m very comfortable with 70,000 words and up). Trust me, a short story is not easier to write than one of 55,000 word or more.

All of you authors and writers out there chime in.

Tell me your inspiration for your last tale published or written.



P.S. Only the last please, I have plans over the next few weeks for others - like the first published, the hardest to write, and more.


  1. Autumn Jordon // June 9, 2010 at 10:19 AM  

    Valentine Voodoo sounds like a fun read. I've been stuck over the head by the muse in the same way. I've written notes while standing in a grocery line.

    The inspiration for my first novel was my husband while watching him play baseball. We'd just started dating. I haven't contracted the book yet, but have had a request to do some tweaking.

    I know more than any book I've written, my DH would love to see this one on the shelves.

  2. Jianne Carlo // June 9, 2010 at 12:21 PM  

    That's so lovely to hear that your future husband inspired you when you were dating!

    Obviously you were meant to be.

    He sounds very supportive. Good luck with it!


  3. Pamela Vee // June 9, 2010 at 1:07 PM  

    Ideas for stories can come from anywhere. I dreamed an entire story once, now I just need to write it. Anyone who thinks that writing a book is easy should have their head examined. There is so much a writer needs to know that we almost need a PHD.

    I started my love affair with books and writing by reading historicals. I still have some that were written in the early eighties. The covers are worn, but I read them again and again.

  4. Jianne Carlo // June 9, 2010 at 2:01 PM  

    I agree with you completely Pam, but it never fails to amaze me how many people think writing a book is easy.

    Looking forward to your dream tale.

  5. Mary Marvella // June 9, 2010 at 3:54 PM  

    One idea came to me when I considered the popularity of demons and angels while watching a show about Octo mom and Kate of Kate and 8. Hmmm, became a story about ...(I'm not telling yet. I only have 80 pages so far.

    Good blog, Jianne!

  6. Beth Trissel // June 9, 2010 at 4:09 PM  

    Very interesting post. I agree with Jordan. Stories come to me in dreams and at some of the most random times.

  7. Mary Ricksen // June 9, 2010 at 6:57 PM  

    Stories come to me when I remember a place and my mind starts to wander.Or If I see something that might spark my muse. But lots of it has to do with day dreams mixed with memories. Love your books. Every single one of them! You are a wonderful author, your imagery amazes me every page I read pops me right into the story and I see it, I hear it, I live it. Then I wake up!

  8. Jianne Carlo // June 10, 2010 at 7:23 AM  

    So where did Tripping Through Time come from? Was it a dream?

    Come on, share.


    P.S. Thanks for the kudos,

  9. Jianne Carlo // June 10, 2010 at 7:25 AM  

    I'm glad you liked the blog Mama Mary.

    Dreams seem to be a common thread with everyone else.

    Not for me though, I hardly ever remember my dreams.

  10. Judy // June 10, 2010 at 9:17 AM  

    I used to be overwhelmed with ideas and would wake up and race to a computer or a notepad and write them down. Now I'm a little more disciplined and lie in bed, take the idea and expand it a bit. But I can't wait too long to write it down if it's in its early stages. My problem is that I see someone, anyone, doing something and I make up stuff about the who, the why, the wherefor. LOL There are a lot of stories out there!!

  11. Jianne Carlo // June 10, 2010 at 9:29 AM  

    So true Judy. I used to have a mini-binder that I took everywhere with me for ideas. These days I just voice the idea into my iPhone!

    Ain't technology grand?


  12. Joanne // June 10, 2010 at 1:05 PM  

    Hi Jianne,
    My last manuscript difficult for me to write, as the muse did not always cooperate. Happy to say that I finished it, though, and fell in love with the hero. (Which is always a good sign.) :)

  13. Scarlet Pumpernickel // June 10, 2010 at 9:03 PM  

    Dreams are always a good source for ideas. Sometimes they lay the entire plot out. Then there are those small items in the news that just make you go wow, what if?

  14. Barbara Monajem // June 11, 2010 at 5:40 AM  

    A non-disclosure agreement? LOL.

    I just finished writing a short story. Writing the story was relatively easy, but coming up with the plot wasn't. It started out being connected with a long historical I was writing, but it had too many characters and too complicated a plot for a short story. By the time I got rid of some characters and changed the plot, it was an entirely different story -- so much so that I had to really think to remember where it came from.

  15. Mona Risk // June 11, 2010 at 8:02 AM  

    Ideas come to me when I am relaxed, mostly when I am in vacation or traveling. Sometimes I write or play the whole book in my head before writing the first line. Yesterday, a neighbor stopped me. She's learned that I was a writer. "Do I have a story for you." For an hour she kept telling me how she met her husband, how they dated, got married and lived HEA. "Now start writing it"!!!

  16. // June 16, 2010 at 11:06 AM  

    For both of my novels, I started with a blank sheet of paper, not sure where I was about to go. And then the characters started to come alive inside my head. I never cease to be amazed by what a magical process writing can be.

    Pamela Loewy
    SAVING JEMMA - coming 9/3/10 from The Wild Rose Press