Do you have an idea for a story even if you’re not a writer? Is there a tale stuck in your head you’re just dying to tell? Where did that idea come from?

Last week I spoke about writing at Oakwood Village Retirement Center in Madison, Wisconsin, for their Arts Week. During my session, Jennifer Edge Bethel, the art therapist running the show, asked me where I got my story ideas from. Here are my answers:


Cover of Fahrenheit 451Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and J. K. Rowling

While contemplating writing my first novel, I listened to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and wondered why many novels picture the future in such dystopian terms. That’s when I decided I’d write about a society that was an improvement over our current society. That’s when the unschooling town of Carpe Diem, Illinois was born.

Years later, when reading several Stephen King books in a row, I shopped at Woodman’s Grocery Store. I pulled a can off the shelf at about shoulder height and half-expected to see a bloody severed head staring back at me. I filed that away for a possible horror story—”The Canned Goods Serial Killer” (or, “The Cereal Serial Killer”)—and stopped reading King for a while.

Harry Potter Boxed Series


Years after reading The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling, I considered her theme of good versus evil and decided I wanted to tackle that too. But I took a different tract and thought of evil as a substance that scientists can collect and contain. With that in mind, I wrote the short story “The Bomb” which has since morphed into The Devil Particle Series with four, possibly five, books.

Strange Happenings

One afternoon, I went to pick up my younger daughter, Jessica, from Target, where she worked. Jessica is only 4′ 11″ and has long, straight, chestnut brown hair. Her small stature makes her stand out from the crowd. That afternoon, I waited by the shopping carts and checked out emails on my phone. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jessica approaching. I glanced in her direction and smiled, but as she got closer, I realized the short, brown-haired woman wasn’t my daughter.

A story idea exploded in my head and still gives me chills when I think about it. What if that woman really was Jessica, and she looked at me without recognition, then kept walking? I’d turn to her and say, “Jessica.” She’d stop and say, “Yes. I’m sorry, do I know you?” Chills.


Fully Formed CharactersThe cover of Carpe Diem, Illinois

Every once in a while, characters will appear fully formed in my head. Patrick Holden, a secondary character in Carpe Diem, Illinois, was one of those characters.

A character I haven’t written about yet is a forty-year-old oil painter named Tess. Tess lives in a big city, Chicago or New York, on the 32nd floor of a skyscraper. She’s had it with people because of a rough divorce and rarely leaves her apartment, though she’s not agoraphobic. A six-year-old boy living on her floor befriends her and somehow they save each other. This is the first time I’ve written anything about that story. I’m not sure there’s much there, but I’ve lived with this character in my head for years, so eventually I’ll have to tackle her story.


Societal issues

During the push for legalizing same-sex marriages, I considered the impact homosexuality had on families, particularly between gay men and their fathers and brothers.

Would the men in their lives still love them if they knew the truth? That question became the backbone of God on Mayhem Street.



So, as you can see, my story ideas come from a variety of places, including my imagination. I never know what will inspire the next story and that’s one thing I love about being a writer.


If you’re a writer, where do your ideas come from? Are there any like my Tess story that won’t leave you alone?

If you’re not a writer, do you have an idea you’d like someone to write?

I’d love to hear from you!


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The Devil Particle and The Vessel!



“Kristin Oakley gets 5 stars for her premise alone—agonistons, tiny particles, cause evil. They’re all around us, driving people to do bad things. But there’s a hope to relieve the human race of evil by storing all agonistons within the body of a single human vessel. The story follows likable teens through terrifying trials to win the honor of being the Vessel. There’s a winner . . . but is he really? A delightful final twist sets up a continuation of the story with a strong ‘What happens next?’ I’ll be waiting. Well done, Kristin.” – Ray Rhamey







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