Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Idea Seeds

by Jennifer AlLee

"Where do you get your ideas?"

I don't think there's a fiction writer out there who hasn't been asked that question. And for the most part, we like answering it because, let's face it, we love sharing what we do. Every writer is different, but I can tell you that most of my novels have started out with a tiny little seed of an idea.

One day, I was watching an episode of Chopped on the Food Network. One of the contestants talked about how she'd been given up for adoption, and she hoped her birthmother would see her compete on the show and be proud of her. That sparked an idea: a woman meeting the daughter she gave up for adoption when they compete together in a reality show. From there, the story grew and morphed until it turned into Last Family Standing (from Abingdon Press, 9/14).

I have another book coming out with Abingdon in 2015, Vinnie's Diner. The genesis of that novel was from having made many trips back and forth between California and Nevada. It started out as a short story about a woman running from her mid-life crisis and finding a weird diner out in the desert. I started that story in 1997. It moved from a short story to a novel. The age and motivation of the main character changed, it took on a very Twilight Zone quality, and it became one of the most personal things I've ever written.

Creating is a fabulous, frustrating, fulfilling thing. To me, the surprises are the best part. And believe me, there are more surprises than you'd think!

What about you? If you're a writer, what's the most unique way you've gotten a story idea? 

JENNIFER ALLEE was born in Hollywood, California, and spent her first ten years living above a mortuary one block away from the famous intersection of Hollywood & Vine. Now she lives in the grace-filled city of Las Vegas, which just goes to prove she’s been blessed with a unique life. When she’s not busy spinning tales, she enjoys playing games with friends, attending live theater and movies, and singing at the top of her lungs to whatever happens to be playing on the car radio. Although she’s thrilled to be living out her lifelong dream of being a novelist, she considers raising her son to be her greatest creative accomplishment. She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. Her novels include The Pastor’s WifeThe Mother Road and A Wild Goose Chase Christmas from Abingdon Press; Diamond in the Rough and Vanishing Act, the first two books in the Charm and Deceit series, from Whitaker House and co-written with Lisa Karon Richardson; and the novella Comfort and Joy in the Christmas anthology, Mistletoe Memories from Barbour.


  1. ooo, both those stories sound really cool. i'd probably relate quite a bit with the first one since i found my birth mother at the age of 30. i tend to find story ideas from news stories myself.

  2. Deb, thank you for sharing that with us. I hope your reunion was positive for both of you :)

  3. My reunion with both my birth parents was the stuff of fairy tales. My birth mom had always prayed I'd come looking for her and my birth father just assumed I would. They were both thrilled that I found them. My mom could hardly wait to meet me somewhere and my dad's first words over the phone were "what took you so long?"
    I joke that I don't have a family tree, but rather a family forest.

    1. Aw, that's so sweet. Thanks for sharing, Deb.

    2. That's really sweet, Deb. I'm so happy you found them.

  4. They both sound like so much fun, Jen. I was especially excited that Vinnie's Diner found a home since I know you wrote that one a while ago.

  5. I tend to start story ideas by coming across a setting that catches my eye. I want to 'go inside and look around.'

    I'm excited about Vinnie's Diner too. It's especially gratifying when a story that means so much to a writer is published.

  6. I think it's really funny how the smallest thing can flash an idea in a writer's mind. For my upcoming historical, I got the idea after my dad gave me a book from the 1800s by a scientist on a journey through South America looking for new species. From there, my hero was born and the story evolved from there. Great post, Jen. I'm looking forward to reading both books!


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