Where do your story ideas come from?

Other posts in Rhobin’s Rounds

This varies.

One common situation is when I have a concept. A few examples:

1. I needed to illustrate Aaron Beck’s concept of “mind reading” for my coming book on depression. Two hours later, I had the story, and if you read it, you’ll know what this mind reading is.

2. A bunch of teenagers assaulted John, a blind old man, and his seeing-eye dog. After my first session with him, I went home full of fury. I couldn’t possibly lead him out of his frame of mind by joining him, so went to bed thinking, I need to displace my emotions into a fictional crime. So, I thought of 14 year old Chuck, driving over a bunch of little kids in a hit and run crime, and old Sylvia whom he’d barely missed.

Compared to this, the crime against John was trivial, so I could work with him. After four sessions, he once more moved around his neighbourhood without undue anxiety. And the invented crime took wings, and became a full-length novel, Hit and Run.

I expected this to be a story of just retribution, but… once I invented Sylvia, she took charge, and taught me a great deal about compassion.

3. Guardian Angel came into being because I needed to express my admiration for (Australian) Aborigines. I’d recently started as counsellor at an Aboriginal health service, when one of their young men was murdered. He was walking along, minding his own business, when some men came out of a nightclub, and assaulted him merely because he looked like an Aborigine. He died of his injuries.

I worked with the people who loved him, and had the frequent thought I need to write something to cut through discrimination, prejudice and hate!

So, I designed a Person who was an apprentice guardian angel for humans. Because She had never been a human, She needed a series of lives as one of us. I thought three would do. To make the last one in our times, I had Her born the first time in 1850. Then I had the enjoyment of considerable research into the lives and circumstances of Aborigines of the time, and it was an ugly picture.

I wrote Maraglindi’s birth, and her death in this first life, then she guided me in filling in the parts in between.

4. For the fourth example, I published yesterday Chapter 23 of The Prince of Light, the fourth volume of my Doom Healer series. It’s my current writing.

This story includes the theme of an ever-increasing network of prophets throughout the Universe. Time and space are parts of the material universe of matter and energy, and prophets can reach beyond this. The first chapter of the book introduces Xeel-Mother, the prophet of her kind, which are large, six-legged flying people in a distant galaxy. Although most of the story takes place on Earth, by Chapter 23, she is the focal prophet of her galaxy, and in contact with all prophets.

OK, that’s the background. I now needed her to find a species with no prophet of their own, and to select a person worthy of the role. In response to this need, Shoeets slithered into my mind

The second way a story starts for me is through a person.

1. Angel of Life, another of my posted short stories, started with a boy hiding behind a couch, listening to his family discussing his mother’s impending death. I found it easy to BE him, and so everything flowed.

2. I admire the courage of many old ladies I know, and they coalesced into Maude, who used imagination to defeat three teenage hoodlums. This is the sample story from Striking Back from Down Under displayed on the book’s page at my writing site. So, she was there for me, and, basically, told me the story.

3. Ascending Spiral also started with a person — me! In 2007, I found someone I could use as a therapist (not easy for someone with my history), in order to work through the traumas of my infancy. However, she also led me into past life recalls. Then, I regularly used self-hypnosis for several years to extend and fill out what I remembered. Naturally, I kept a record of all this.

In September, 2011, it suddenly jelled. This was a story I needed to write, but it couldn’t be nonfiction. There was too much risk of being sued… Besides, I was at a stage in my life when I was very rapidly growing within, and needed a tool to enhance this. So, I created Pip Lipkin. He has experienced all my life events, including the past life recalls of course, but handled them the way I wish I had.

This is an adaptation of a standard trick from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. That is to devise a character for a film script. This person has your history and circumstances, but acts in a way you wish you could. There is no plot at this stage, but you need to describe the character in sufficient detail for a Hollywood star to be able to step into the role.

Then, of course, you do the acting. I am still working on this in using Pip as my guide.

Please leave a comment below, then visit the other participants of this blog round:

Rhobin L Courtright
Skye Taylor
A.J. Maguire
Connie Vines
Anne de Gruchy
Helena Fairfax
Margaret Fieland
Fiona McGier

About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
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12 Responses to Where do your story ideas come from?

  1. The dynamics of personal relationships are endlessly fascinating to me. How much more so must they be to a therapist. My family teases me that I walk around with a neon sign on my forehead that says, “Tell me, I care.” Total strangers will stop me in public places, asking a simple question, and before long it’s an hour later and I know much of their life stories. Some of us are just natural listeners, I guess. But the big joke is I also like to talk a lot. So how this happens, I’m not sure. But writing about how people relate to one-another is always my first love.


    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Fiona, this automatic trust even from strangers is a sign of a mature soul. Thank you for being on the planet.


      • Thanks for that observation, Bob. I’ve wondered for years what causes it. Your explanation is the one I like the most, and it’s happened to me since I was a kid. So I guess my soul was even older than me back then? Maybe I’ve “aged into it” by now.


        • Dr Bob Rich says:

          There is a great deal of impressive evidence for reincarnation. You’ve been around before, many times. This has nothing to do with chronological age in this life.
          Email me privately and we can chat about it.


  2. Connie says:

    Cruelty. Is less harsh in the present or the past? You novel sounds like a story that must me told.


  3. Rhobin says:

    The cruelty of some people to others always astounds and dismays me to the point of depression. Certainly therapy must provide a well of book ideas and possible characters. Your posts are always interesting, Bob.


    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Thank you, Rhobin. I’ve always said that therapy and fiction writing depend on the same set of skills.
      I’ve just had a spell through the medical maze, with my hip chop op. They always ask about allergies. My standard answer: “My only allergy is to cruelty.”


  4. Margaret Fieland says:

    Bob, interesting idea about the character creation. Now I have to figure out where to stash the idea so I can try it out some time…


  5. Skye-writer says:

    The whole idea of past lives as a place to set a story is an intriguing idea – so many options.


    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      It’s often been used, Skye, and is no more outre than using physical travel. I’m looking forward to your announcement of your first past-lives-based story!


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