Where do you get your story ideas? I finally have an answer.


The xylophone playing ghost!

The xylophone playing ghost!

When a person in a social situation discovers you are a writer of fiction, they inevitably ask, “Where do you get your story ideas?” I never have a great answer because a lot times the story just comes out of nowhere. There’s no real event or marker that you can identify as the place where the germ of the story first appeared. In fact, I will often just sit down and play with first lines. When I create one that intrigues me, I’ll build a story from there.

Last night I came up with an idea for a story that I can actually tie to a certain event. In fact, I can explain the origins of the story more clearly than the origins of the actual event. Here’s what happened. At approximately 1:00 A.M I woke up from a light sleep. I never achieved that deep nirvana like sleep, and I was frustrated by my lack of sleeping skills. I turned to try and find the ultimate position that would lull me into a deep, inviting sleep. And then it happened. I heard a noise coming from the living room kitchen area that sounded like a xylophone. Three chime like sounds, each a different pitch, followed by what sounded like my dog growling. I sat up in bed, and freaked out a little to discover that my dog was in bed, slightly trembling and huddled against me. She had never left the bed. I stared into the darkness wondering what caused the chimes and if it wasn’t my dog growling, what exactly was it? My wife was sound asleep. I didn’t wake her because I didn’t want to worry her. I quietly climbed off the bed and stood in the doorway of the bedroom. The thought ran through my head, “Do you really want to know?” I stuck my head into the hallway and stared through the gloomy darkness toward the living room. The computer and TV were both off. The cats were lazily stretched out in their usual spots. They were not concerned, and unless they grew opposable thumbs and taken lessons, they had not been playing the xylophone. Every horror movie I had seen had taught me one thing, traversing through the dark investigating noises meant you were a goner, so I shut the door to the bedroom and locked it with no clue what had just happened. The only thing I was immediately sure of was that I had an idea for a story.

Was what happened to me paranormal in nature? No. While I have no explanation what did happen, I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation. I’m more excited that with its bizarreness it brought with it a spark of inspiration for a story. Thank you weird chime noises and invisible growling animal. I’m sure I will sleep like a baby tonight. And finally, I have an answer to the question every writer dreads.

2 Comments

  1. Do you have a xylophone in the kitchen?

  2. That’s an excellent question, BTP. My house is xylophone free.


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