Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

2013-10-23 16.44.20Every creative gets this question sooner or later: those asking think it’s the most natural thing in the world to ask about this ‘mysterious’ process. Those questioned, however, can’t help wondering where don’t you get ideas?! The truth is inspiration comes from the oddest things (that’s why we carry notebooks) but it can also be induced by filling your head with as much stuff as possible: reading, viewing art, watching movies, immersing yourself in wild nature or noisy city streets– wherever your muses lurk.

Owl StretchingHonestly, I often forget where I got ideas originally once they’ve passed through my brain to become stories. I can remember the hooks sometimes because they’re in the titles. Owl Stretching is easy because the name comes from Monty Python and, as I’ve written before, I started it the day Kurt Vonnegut died and I lamented the loss of the sad, funny books that he wrote. But it also shows my obsessions with magpies and the Regency cant (slang) that Georgette Heyer used in her novels.

The Mangrove Legacy by Kit Marlowe - 500That same cant shows up in The Mangrove Legacy because I was obsessed with it for a long time (as well as Alice in Wonderland, an almost lifelong obsession, plus Jane Austen, Gothic novels and pirates, cheese and pockets). And that serial started because I was afraid that I wouldn’t keep writing fiction while I was so busy trying to write my way out of Texas.


Of course music is a huge influence for ideas. How many? Let’s see:

It's A Curse

extricate ebook 72ppi

And my next novel White Rabbit is (obviously) inspired by Alice in Wonderland but it’s also sprung from “Draygo’s Guilt” and there are short stories like “Guide Me Soft” and “Grotesque” also spawned by Fall songs and Mark E. Smith lyrics; but I also use other musicians like this for what’s an homage to Tony Hancock and Sid James (stories inspired by comedy, that’s whole other post):

Even if I sometimes get the title wrong (>_<)

And sometimes it’s art that inspires a title and a story:

Other times, it may be a film:

Or a poem.

Unquiet Dreams by K. A. Laity - 500

You just never know. Creating is a habit you develop, a way of seeing the world. Do it consciously. Really look at the world around you. There’s plenty of inspiration no matter where you are. Close your eyes: you have a lifetime of images, sounds and words in your head. Use them.


  1. Marc Nash says:

    sometimes it can be a single word in a book I’m reading, used in an odd way. Then I like to riff around that word.

    Just travelling on the London Underground or standing in queues is also a fecund source for me. People watching. Can’t tell you how many flash stories I’ve derived from characters on a Tube or in Sainsburys. Short story I was working on last week had two images of people derived from that week’s trip to Sainsburys.


    Marc x

    1. katelaity says:

      I have a story “A Case of Dead Faces” that owes much to Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” and the 59 bus in London šŸ™‚ Public transport = an idea factory!

      1. Marc Nash says:

        it is indeed, probably because it moves so slowly it virtually promotes meditative contemplation šŸ™‚

  2. Great post, Kate – I particularly like the idea of ‘where don’t we get our ideas’ and might nick that and use it the next time someone asks me that very same question. šŸ˜‰

    My own single biggest source is probably news stories from around the UK and even the world. I tend not to use them unadulterated, but chop and change bits and pieces, weld two or three stories together, and substitute my own details to suit my rather warped mind. There are some bizarre stories out there if you know where to look.

    1. katelaity says:

      Thanks, Tess. Yeah, there are some great stories that get clipped (Evernote these days, actual clippings in the old days) and saved. But yeah, once they get through the brain they’re usually transformed beyond recognition. Sometimes I know the source of an idea but you can’t tell at all from the final product, but I see the path!

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