Where do I get ideas for my stories, you ask…

Elizabeth Meyette

On a recent trip to upstate New York to visit family, I was struck by my muse on the 403 in Ontario. No, I wasn’t injured (thanks for asking) but I was inspired. It was perfect, actually.  Rich sleeping, no radio, CD or audio book, just me and my wandering thoughts.  And then it crept into my mind, the first sentence of my new book. “This house held secrets.”  One by one the next sentences unraveled in my brain like a rose opening in a time-lapse video. But I had no pen or paper, and as I said, I was driving on 403. Near Hamilton.  There was nothing to do but pray that I wouldn’t lose those sentences.

Gradually throughout the rest of the trip, the outline of the story unfolded before my mind’s eye.  This is unusual for me because my process is sit down and write what the characters tell me to write.  I never outline, and I seldom know where I am going until I get there, and usually I’m the most surprised of all. One thing I clearly knew was what the house would look like that would be the setting for the story. Perhaps I shouldn’t reveal these deep, dark author secrets, but hey, it’s true.  I clasped these inspired thoughts to me all through greeting my sisters, nieces and their families and friends Friday night.  First thing Saturday morning, I wrote down the opening paragraph and synopsis.

The windows looked like sad eyes.

The plan for Saturday was to show Rich the Finger Lakes and brag a little. We both grew up on the Great Lakes, Rich was born in Michigan, so it takes a lot to impress us where lakes are concerned.  But the Finger Lakes didn’t let me down; he was impressed.   I knew by then that I would set my new novel in the Finger Lakes region because just being their I felt their magic and mystery seep into my bones.  We dined at the Steamboat Landing on the shore of Canandaigua Lake, then headed to Seneca Lake for some winery tours. Along route 5/20 I shouted to Rich, “There’s my house!”  Standing abandoned by the side of the road was a dilapidated yellow house that looked exactly like the house I had envisioned for my novel. He turned the car around and we snapped pictures from every angle imaginable. I kept repeating, “I don’t believe this. I don’t believe this.”

Seneca Lake

We resumed our journey and eventually ended up at Belhurst Castle on Seneca Lake.  Once a beautiful castle that housed an illegal speakeasy on the second floor, it is now a B&B and restaurant. A wedding was in progress on the grounds as we sipped our wine samples and chatted with our bartender. In the course of the conversation, Rich told her I was in the process of writing a book that would be set in this region.  He also told her about Love’s Destiny and she ordered it on her phone right then and there. She then told us the castle was believed to be haunted. Holy Smokes, could this day get any better?? I purchased a book about the history of Belhurst Castle and then commenced to dog waiters and other staff with questions about the ghost. Most blew me off with “I don’t believe in that stuff,” until I ran into one of the chefs. “Do you have a ghost story?” I asked.  His eyes twinkled and he said, “I have better.  I have a picture.”  He showed us a picture on his phone taken by a guest of her husband.  In the foreground there is a clear image of a woman with long hair and another seated at a table in front of the husband.  His wife said the images were not visible as she was taking the picture.  How cool is that? Needless to say, the castle will be an intricate part of my story.

This was a new one for me, all this outlining and knowing the ending before I start.  And the way all of this occurred throughout the day was amazing. I can’t get the book or the characters out of my mind and I have already begun the novel. Once again, I chalk it up to my d.a.m. inspiration– (divine attendant muse). It will be very fun to write a book and know a little bit more than my characters…for now.

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20 Comments

  1. How exciting, Elizabeth! I read somewhere that driving is the perfect place for ideas, something about the whole brain being engaged, but the task not requiring all our attention, errr well, I mean, we’re paying attention of course, but anyway, I keep a notepad in my glove box for those moments, but never write and drive 🙂

    Fellow Ontarioan here! I know the 403 well. Nice to meet you!

    • My daughter suggested I get a digital voice recorder to keep in the car – brilliant! Actually, I am a New Yorker turned Michigander, so unfortunately I cannot claim Canadian citizenship. I LOVE Canada and visit Stratford every year 🙂

  2. I always find that when I’m busy doing something non-writing related (treadmill, driving, walking the dog) is where the ideas come to me. I have a voice recorder app on my iPhone that is super easy to use. Or I make notes and email myself. Great post!

    • I will look for that phone app! I also have sticky notes stuck all over the place LOL.

  3. The Finger Lakes region is now on my ‘places to visit’ list. Thanks for the wonderful descriptions!

    • You will not be disappointed, Ines. There are many wonderful wineries there, too 🙂

  4. I’m already intrigued by your story! I love a good ghost story too. My first book was born from driving a lot. The opening line popped into my head and it went from there.

    • Exactly, Galen! That’s how this book started. I am so excited to work on this one, but I am also working on Love’s Spirit, my sequel to Love’s Destiny. Reminds me of that old song “Torn Between Two Lovers” LOL

  5. My last great first sentence came to me while I was mowing the lawn. Usually I’m cleaning or doing dishes. Something that allows my mind to wander,

    • I’ve also had some good ideas come to me while I was in the shower. Hmmmm….that might need clarification LOL

  6. What a great day! And an amazing story. Cheers to you husband for mentioning you book.

  7. Elizabeth – I totally understand getting inspiration while driving. The car is absolutely my best place to plot and imagine (the poor, poor drivers around me). I’ve never had the scene I imagined appear on the side of the road, though – that is totally awesome.

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful adventure with us. Now I’ll be holding my breath for the next book (write fast)!

    • Irene, I can picture you driving all over the road with conversation bubbles above your head 🙂

  8. What a great share, Betty. Amazing how, where, when inspiration sparks, isn’t it? Like dreaming almost. This new story sounds fantastic. I’d go with the juice flow while the fountain’s running!!

    • I know, Pam! It is almost like an altered state. I’d love to concentrate on this one, but I am getting great feedback about Love’s Destiny and everyone wants the sequel now…what a great problem to have :->

  9. An amazing story, Betty! Best of luck writing your new novel!

  10. Way cool story. It sounds like this next book was meant to be!


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