28 November 2021

Using All Your Resources

I was in the process of writing this blog article about how writers should use all of their creative resources to get a new story started and then I got sidetracked. Was the correct word sources or resources? Might be best to have a look. I went to Google as the deciding judge. Sources vs. resources.

Uh huh.

They lost me in their definition examples when they used the sun as both a source of energy and as a resource of energy. So, I'm just going to use the word resource and you readers can decide on your own which word is correct under these circumstances, source or resource.

Anyway, to get back on track, I don't know how the rest of you authors get your ideas going in order to create a new story. Short story or novel, take your pick.

I usually go to sleep putting my brain on notice to come up with something and then wake up with a character in trouble in whatever type of scene, write the scene down that morning and then come up with a plot at a later time. Or take a walk and daydream along the way. That's probably why I have so many story starts setting in computer files waiting to be finished. Of course, this way I always have something to continue writing on.

Even so, my brain doesn't always cooperate at sleep time or on walks, in which case the well runs dry and any lowered bucket hoping to fill up with fresh elixir only bumps against moist sand. But, working undercover and with sly criminals for twenty-five years, I learned early on that it was best to have more than one trick in the bag.

So, I've got this Huey pilot buddy who has done a few things in his time that I'm not allowed to talk about and has a fine brain of his own. He is not a writer himself, but he does understand some of the basics and he likes mysteries. So, we get together every so often and bounce story ideas off each other. Maybe five percent of what he comes up with is pure gold. For instance, a few years ago, he came up with an Archimedes science solution to apply to one of my stories set in the 1660s Paris Underworld series. This solution gave me the second half of the story and an ending. AHMM subsequently published the story, "Of Wax and Watermarks."

And then, a couple of years ago during one of our brainstorming sessions, he produced two main characters and several very visual scenes set it modern day Italy. All I had to do was stitch the scenes together, add the dialogue and come up with the ending. It was like being handed an outline. The story felt like it almost wrote itself.

Did it get published?

Yes it did.

Mystery Weekly Magazine (now known as Mystery Magazine) snapped it up and placed it in their September 2021 issue.

I don't know if any of you writers out there have someone you can bounce story ideas off of as a resource, but you might consider the concept.

As for me, I'll keep the guy around as a resource. I might even ply him with a little Vanilla Crown Royal from time to time to loosen up the corners of his mind for creativity. As a sometime resource, he's gold.

So, what resources do you have in your bag of tricks?


  1. Fun article, R.T.

    Lately, many of my ideas have come from submission calls for anthologies, and several stories will appear over the next year or so that bore fruit. As for a beta-thinker, my wife is priceless. She performs in four or five plays a year and used to work in radio, occasionally interviewing people and sometimes conducting interviews, so she's used to thinking on her feet.

    Sometimes, I will say something like, "I've got an idea that involves X and Y, but I don't know what to do with them," and she will answer, "Put Y first and then you can add Q and see where it goes." It happened last night over supper, when I was thinking out loud about a very vague idea and what was wrong with it. She made it both concrete and funny, and we had the main ideas worked out before I filled the dishwasher.

    She's come up with some of my best titles, too.

    Since I used to do theater, I know many people of varied backgrounds--law, music, social work, computers, you name it. Some have helped me once or twice, but I turn to Barbara more often than not. And she always comes through...as long as I give her something to work with.

  2. That's cool. As for me, I work in a pit with slabs of marble and I chisel away at each to find the short story or novel within. Had a couple collaborators over the years. Worked well.

  3. Long walks, muttering to myself, and the occasional flash insight. Also a fairly improbable life story / friends / acquaintances / etc.
    And I have files full of story beginnings that sometimes get finished, & sometimes not yet.

  4. I've used sleep to solve problems. We're not the only ones… Thomas Edison, Elias Howe, Charles Martin Hall, and other inventors were known for ideas coming to them in dreams.

    I miss not having someone nearby to bounce around ideas, so SleuthSayers is a potential (re)source. In fact, the last time I remember was with you, RT, quite some time ago and AHMM recently purchased the story.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Initially I replied about the wrong story, so I removed the comment. The one you sold to to AHMM was "Precatory Pea," right? Congrats!!!

  5. Being mostly a loner and introvert, most of my ideas come from trying to emulate the thought patterns of some comedians, mainly an American, Steven Wright, and a Brit, Milton Jones.

    For example, I wondered why "dragon"flies couldn't spit fire, and that turned into a very short story. And I recently noticed a vaguely human face in the woodgrain in my floor, so that's now a work-in-process. Then there was my alternative explanation for UFOs, and that turned into a medium-long story about a redneck being interviewed on TV about his abduction.

    I do wonder how it would be if I DID have more friends and were more extroverted. Ah, well.

    1. Jake, as for Steven Wright, anyone that thinks about skating on the other side of the ice is fine by me. I once knew an author whose day job was as a tree marker in South Dakota who wrote a funny short story about a color blind money counterfeiter. Wish I could remember his name.

  6. Jake - I REALLY want to read the redneck being interviewed about his abduction. I've got a whole dialog in my head already about that one.

    1. Hi, Eve. If you want to, it's the third-to-the-last in this book: Perflutzed http://jakedevlin.com/Perflutzed.html


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