Written in Red–Where Did That Idea Come From? by Peggy Bird

“Where do you get your ideas?” I’ll bet every writer alive—and probably all the dead ones, too, when they were still with us—has heard that question. Most of the time I don’t try to describe the convoluted, complicated and often quixotic way my characters and plots come together on the page for me. I usually say, “Oh, I just dream them up.”

Well, this week it may have actually been true. Or maybe not. I’m unsure. Maybe someone can help me. Here’s what happened.

It’s not uncommon for me to wake up in the morning with a refinement of the last thing I was working on, like a bit of dialogue, in place. Apparently my subconscious mind can work it out while I sleep. (It works for my other art form, too. I can suddenly “see” exactly how to achieve the design I want for my new piece of art glass.) It’s kind of an “Oh, that’s how to do it” moment.

My experience the other morning wasn’t like that.

If it had been a solution to the too-many-balls-in-the-air problem I have right now, I’d have understood what my subconscious was up to. And I would love the help. I have the manuscript for my second novel back from the copy editor in need of some rewriting; I have a fourth manuscript which needs one more round of edits from me before my readers see it; I have a novella in a very early stage calling to me.

But, no. My subconscious served up a guy. Not the solution to a problem. A guy. Jeans, no shirt, black Stetson pulled low over his forehead. Tall, black hair, intensely blue eyes, amazing body, shy smile. (My subconscious is into details, apparently, although the guy was nameless.)

The guy and I were collecting spears, hundreds, maybe thousands, of spears. They were all shapes and sizes from javelin-type to arrow size. We were going from town to town, knocking on doors asking everyone to bring out their spears. The towns looked quaint and Olde English-y. Everyone was happy to get rid of old spears. It was like we were the Goodwill collectors of obsolete weapons. Or those guys who went around during the Black Plague calling, “Bring out your dead” only with, you know, spears.

Anyway, we piled them all into the back of pick-up trucks and headed off into the sunset, I know not where because as we pulled away from the second or third village, NPR woke me up.

Here’s my dilemma: what is my subconscious trying to tell me? Is this some dystopian future plot idea? A new hero? The result of looking at too many images of shirtless men posted by Crimson Romance on Pinterest combined with watching too many hours of Olympics?

Ideas? Anybody?



  1. I’ve had many of those dreams and a wee bit more :-)…great article, Peggy!

    • Those are the best dreams, aren’t they?

  2. Go with the new hero angle, Peggy! 🙂

    • I might have known that cowboy hat and jeans would get you, Kristiina!

  3. Peggy, I’d say there was a tie-in to javelins at the Olympics, but track & field doesn’t start until next week, so that can’t be it. Maybe there’s something prophetic about NPR waking you up. Anyway, hold on to that hero. He’s too yummy to get away!

    • You’re right. If it was the Olympics inspiring me, we’d have been swimming from village to village, wouldn’t we?

  4. Sounds like a hero worth keeping!

    • Certainly worth dreaming about again.

  5. Sounds like a nice vision to have a dilemma about. Sounds like the springboard for your next book perhaps. I got my hero for Love of Her Lives from that kind of a vision. I’d say write down what you remember of this man, let the character and the story idea brew, see what comes to you and keep notes in a folder for when you’re finished your present projects.

    • He’s one guy I think I’ll be able to remember even if he’s not in my computer!

  6. I’m thinking he could be an expert in antiquities and the heroine is a forensic researcher and they’re looking for an article in a “dead’ case”. But that’s just my imagination coming up with a plot. Either way your hero sounds absolutely yummy!

    • Expert in antiquities. Hmmm. I like that. Mind if I borrow the idea?

      • no problem. run with it like the wind….

  7. The shirtless men on Crimson Romance’s Pinterest board could definitely have something to do with it, and I’m pretty sure I know what Freud would say about your javelins. Good luck with juggling all that you have going!

    • Thanks for reminding me about the Freudian angle. That makes the dream even more interesting.

  8. Great article, perplexing question and funny responses! What fun. The dream may mean you need to go to extremes, or juxtapose one far fetched something over another. Or it could mean you’re about to time-travel, so keep an eye out for aliens!

    • Thanks, Pam. I didn’t think of aliens. I now have my aluminum hat on to keep their voices from interrupting me while I write. At least until I’m ready to tell their story.

  9. Short story fodder… LOL
    I realized this am that the annual Kuna Days is this weekend in my home town. This is where I met my first boyfriend and went down the path of bad boy heartbreak.

    • Ahhh. Bad boy heartbreak. Another great source of material for a romance writer.

  10. Talk about an interesting dream! I seldom remember mine. Any stories I make up have to come during my awake state. Or maybe my subconscience is slowly revealing them to me throughout the day.

    • I’m a big believer in the role of the subconscious in all sorts of creative activities. Awake or asleep, I think your mind is working all the time to help you out. Thank God. Because some days the conscious part of my brain isn’t worth much!

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