throwback moment

One of the questions readers most frequently ask me is: Where do you get your ideas? Which is probably the easiest question to answer. I get my ideas from everywhere. Ideas appear in my imagination. They come to me in dreams. And you can totally find experiences from real life in my books – anything from random details to major plotlines.

Here’s an example of how a detail from my past inspired an idea for one of my books:

My wall in college

This was a wall of the studio apartment I had junior and senior years at Penn. I thought it would be cool to write all over my wall with a charcoal stick. The best part is probably the photo of Lloyd Dobler and Diane Court from Say Anything. You can see it in the heart at the upper right. This was back before you could find photos online and print them out. I was determined to score some sweet photos from Say Anything. So I called the production company and told them I wanted to include some photos in a project I was doing. They totally sent me some! On a more disturbing note, that weird thing at the bottom was a foam board I decorated with a sketch of Paul Klee’s Twittering Machine, concert ticket stubs, and fortune cookie fortunes. Like the wall says, I still don’t know what it was supposed to be.

So how did writing on my wall inspire a story idea? Marisa writes on her wall in Waiting for You. She does a lot more with her wall, but this is where the idea came from. Using inspiration from your actual experiences can enhance your writing. It helps your writing feel realistic and relatable. For those of you who are stuck on a story you’re writing, why not brainstorm random details from your life that have left an impact on you? One of them just might be the key to unlock the next stage of your story. Write on!

4 thoughts on “throwback moment

  1. I have one like that too! Mine was plain white paper that I had taped together to make it into a long sheet. I wrote over it in pencils and markers and even glued/taped some magazine and stickers to it. I started it halfway through 9th grade and vowed to stop writing on it after I graduated high school. In a way it’s my entire high school life all in words. I can remember *most* of what inspired me to write the things I wrote. Some of the best things on there are “Betsy knows there is life after high school” and “I want to get away and he has the car”.

    • Oh, I LOVE that! I did something similar in junior high. But I wish I’d continued it all the way through high school and that I still had it now. My advice: save yours! You’ll adore it when you’re older. It’s amazing how much you forget later – including things you think you’ll never, ever forget.


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