Where do ideas come from? Specifically, where do story ideas come from? If you have ever wondered that when reading a book or watching a movie, you’re not alone. And since I get that question a lot (usually after they ask if my wife thinks I’m crazy), I thought I would share with you how a recent story came into being.

The basic premise of how this works goes something like this:

  • seemingly normal things happen.
  • My story alarm goes off
  • Hopefully, I write the idea down before it goes away.

This example starts with a hotel in St. Augustine, FL. I was checking into a room with my wife. The desk clerk asked her if we were married when my wife asked for her name to be added to the room. STORY ALARM

  • How many times a day does she pose that question to people checking in?
  • Is she the affair police and wouldn’t that make a funny character?
  • I want to say “Of course, she’s my wife. She won’t let me check in with anyone else.”

Once we get up to our room, we are hit with an immediate smell of bleach. At first, we think the cleaning crew has just left. But the smell doesn’t dissipate. It only gets worse. In the bathroom, the smell is very intense, but you can also smell something dead or moldy the bleach was deployed to cover up. After an hour or so, we can’t stand it and decide to move. STORY ALARM

  • My wife thinks they are trying to cover up a mold/mildew problem. I say they were trying to erase the evidence of a dead hooker.
  • I’ve had a character name rolling around in my head for weeks. Suddenly it occurs to me that the dead hooker is perfect for that name. I tell my wife that we were in the room where Lola Banjo was murdered.
  • Because my nonsense can’t help but creep into my wife’s psyche, she makes the mistake of telling her family when they text to see how our stay is going that we had to change rooms because housekeeping spilled too much bleach trying to erase the evidence a dead hooker named Lola Banjo. They call to ask, “Why do you travel with that man?”

Later we go for a walk on the beach, and I see two teenagers digging a giant hole in the sand. One is up to his shoulders throwing sand out of the hole, while the other watches. And that’s all it takes… STORY ALARM

  • I tell my wife that the 2 boys were bribed with beer by hotel maintenance to dig the hole and mark it with a flag. Later that night, the hotel crew will move the body to the beach and bury it.

We then go to dinner and as were waiting for our food; I try to work on Lola’s backstory. Then we see a woman walk on her way to the beach and she’s carrying a ukulele. Suddenly, her history pops into my brain. STORY ALARM

  • Lola’s dad legally changed his last name to Banjo because he was a professional Banjo player. Lola hated her father, so her profession and her own choice of musical instrument (the ukulele) are meant to disappoint her father.

The next day, I’m walking on the beach, and I see a sign for a turtle nest. STORY ALARM

  • Suddenly, I know how the cops are going to find the body.
  • I can’t tell you the rest because this will show up in a future story…

And that’s where stories come from. Hotel clerks, bleach, walking on the beach, and ukuleles.

Carry on, Citizens!