Step one in any writing project – long or short, fiction or non-fiction – is the idea. Where do ideas come from? Everywhere. 

For me, it is often a character I think of first. It was no different for Little BoxesIn the midst of a move, I needed boxes so I went to a storage place to buy some. The man behind the counter appeared bedraggled and pale, definitely not happy to be at work. This brief interaction started me thinking about a character that not only sold boxes but manufactured them, too. What would he be like? What would happen if a quirky, artsy woman came to his store to buy boxes? The story of Ari and Sara evolved from there.

I find ideas in conversations, while people watching, from writing prompts, on trips, walking the dog, grocery shopping, driving, in the shower…

One trick I fail at regularly is to jot down the idea as soon as I have it. I’ve likely forgotten dozens of story ideas in the time it takes for me to rinse the shampoo from my hair and step out of the shower – so frustrating. I’ve also made myself a note in the middle of the night after a detailed dream, only to find I can’t read my own half-asleep handwriting in the morning.

However, when I do successfully remember an idea I save it on a note in my phone called New Stories. I currently have 33 ideas there. For the love of sanity, back up the phone once in a while so precious ideas don’t get lost during a downpour that kills the phone. Yep, I’ve done that and it’s heartbreaking.

Many of these 33 ideas may never make it beyond the New Stories note and that’s okay, at least I have them when I need some inspiration.

So the next time you’re out – anywhere – stop and look around. Pick a person and start asking yourself: what’s that character’s story? are they in love? where do they work? why are they here? If any of those answers inspire you, make a note – you never know when shopping for boxes might turn into your next novel idea.