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Pickle Jar

Happy Friday, friends and neighbors.

This week my family laid to rest my paternal grandmother.  She was one of the most awesome people I have ever met.  Her house was covered with watercolors and oils and sculptures that she had made.  And they are quality stuff.  Her creativity is something that nurtured mine as I grew up.

Today, in her memory, I'm going to share with you guys one of my methods for coming up with and developing stories.  There are a few *spoilers* for stories I haven't told yet, but I'm going to keep all the most exciting ones to myself. :)
This is the pickle jar that I keep story ideas in.  For a while it still smelled like Kosher dills every time I opened the lid.  If I breathe really deep when I open it now, the aroma is still faintly present.  I sacrifice a piece of paper every so often to be cut into strips and I keep them on top of the jar so that whenever inspiration strikes, I can write down my idea, fold it up, and throw it in the jar for when I have time to think about it.  This worked out okay until the jar started filling up and I was worried about getting frustrated looking for specific strips.  So I label my strips now.
I even found a fortune that made me want to write a story.
Most of the strips in the jar are labeled "Element" and many of the ones pictured here could probably also have that label.  They are pieces of world building that I thought were cool enough to hang on to when inspiration hit.  Some of these are things I heard on the news or read on the internet.
Some of them are really cool concepts I'd like to incorporate into a story someday.

Some I'm really excited about, even if I don't have a whole lot to go on.
Some... I really have no explanation for.  All I can say is just because it seemed really cool in your dream does not mean it will be successful without a tremendous amount of effort in the waking world.  Or will make any sense at all.
The other broad category in my jar is "Plot".  Some ideas I've labeled short stories and other novels, but many of these could go either way.  Here's one I've done already.
I don't keep the Spitfire strip in the jar anymore, fyi, I just wanted to have one to show you.  Here's a short story idea I've been tossing around for a while.
Yes, I pitched that with a rhetorical question, major no-no, but these are my notes, so I give myself a pass.

About once a year, I go through and open up all the strips and lay them on the table where I can read them.  Strips that seem to go together get clipped together and stay in the jar until I can start working on them (read: until I finish my other novel projects).  Surprisingly, there are quite a few ideas that go together once I put the strips out next to each other, which is pretty cool.
The red and the blue stories are the two that are vying for my attention currently, which is awful because I have a story to edit and two to finish writing.  But these ideas are really special and have a ton of potential.  I look forward to working on them, and I'll share them with you as soon as I can.  The white story is the least developed and the one that would take the most research.  You lucky ducks get to see the strips in the green clip today.  I shared the first chapter of this (it's all I've written) in one of my writing groups, so that's why I feel okay being a little revealing.
All of these are labeled as short stories, and most of them could be stand-alones.  In the story in my head, they all take place in the same world and are connected by two characters, but would read more like episodes rather than a single story.
All of those are separate ideas that came to me randomly over the course of a year.  You can see a pattern when they're all together, right?  Okay, the man by the river, probably not, but if you replace "man" with some version of "person who practices magic", you see the thread now, yes?

If you don't, no worries.  It's my job as an author to make the story hang together regardless of how disparate my inspiration is.

Thanks for hanging out!  If they're still around, give your grandparents a call; let them know something awesome that they do/did that inspires you.  And hit me up if you have questions or comments.  I'd love to hear how some of you keep track of your writing inspiration!


  1. I feel unsuited to be a writer now, thanks, I keep my ideas in my head until the rattle around long enough to irritate me then I spit them out as a story. But then again I guess my head does resemble a pickle jar. :)

    1. Great to hear from you, Terry! As long as you are writing, you're a writer :) all the ideas in the world don't do me any good if I'm not doing anything with them.


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