Posted by: kimberlysullivan | February 17, 2012

Where do you develop your ideas for stories?

I love to read author interviews or talk about writing habits with other writers.

What I find most fascinating is that there’s no one blueprint for writing a novel or short story. Everyone seems to have a different method for developing a story: hearing an idea in something said by an acquaintance, the kernel of a scene that takes shape in one’s mind and stays and develops, a vibrant dream, brainstorming with friends or thinking in silence all alone in an office.

I can write surrounded by any type of chaos. I’m so overjoyed to find a few minutes of uninterrupted time at any point of the day, that I grab it willingly for writing.

But the larger story ideas come to my mind and develop at specific moments. And I see that those times tend to always be similar – when I have moments of solitude, far away from telephones and computers, when I have time to think in silence. It also seems to be at moments when I’m physically active. My mind seems to be more creative when I’m exercising – when I’m swimming laps, or skiing or hiking.

Somehow, these activities liberate my imagination. I always come back with new ideas and plot developments. I’m eager to return to the computer the record my ideas and the words seem to flow freely. I don’t know why these moments of revelation always come during physical exercise, but they do.

It doesn’t even have to be intense exercise, it happens when I’m walking… and I tend to walk a lot. I must have one of the most beautiful ‘commutes’ of all time. I walk to work. I live in Rome and early each morning I pass the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, the Palatine Hill. There are few tourists – or Romans – out that early and I enjoy gazing on these monuments without the crowds while my characters’ actions play out in my mind as I’m strolling past the Eternal City’s most spectacular remnants from the past.

I swim a few times each week and the back-and-forth rhythm in the lanes manages to get my creative juices flowing. I’ve resolved numerous plot difficulties effortlessly while crawling or backstroking across the pool. When I eventually sit down in front of the computer, the story flows easily. If I tried the same approach locked in a room in front of my computer, I wonder how long – or even if – I’d reach the same solution.

So as long as it works for me, I’ll plot my stories and flesh out my characters and their motivations in the swimming lanes, on the slopes and hiking trails and strolling by the wonders of the Ancient Roman Empire. Beats the office any day!


  1. Italy/Rome sounds wonderful. Never been there. As for writing, very little of mine is planned out before hand. I sit at the keyboard and the characters talk to me. It must be in complete silence. Honestly, they go off and do things that I don’t know about. After I finish a chapter, I come back and read through it and see things and think, ‘Where’d that come from?’ No, I don’t do drugs. I’ve written over 30,000 words in my current novel and honestly don’t know how it’s going to end. I read an author interview once and he said the best way to keep surprising your reader is to keep surprising yourself.

    Enjoyed hearing how you get your motivation and snippets of Italian life.


    • Great, isn’t it Travis? Only writers can get away with the whole ‘I have these little voices in my head and they talk to me’ thing and actually get away with it. And yes, I’m hardly objective, but even after years and years of living here, I have to admit that Rome’s a pretty spectacular place…

  2. […] already wrote a post entitled Where do you develop your ideas for stories?  that addresses this. I could fully understand the need to work out a story idea and characters […]

  3. […] lots of great story  ideas when I’m out on the slopes. I’ve written about this before in an earlier post , but inspiration rarely comes to me at my […]

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