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Fiction Writing: Finding Seeds to Grow Ideas

Thursday, March 7, 2019

About a week ago, I posted on my Facebook Page about a new series idea that was percolating in my imagination. Since I’ve never really recorded my process of coming up with story ideas (mostly because it’s been a different process each time), I thought I’d record this journey as I take it. [For lack of an official series title, I’m just calling it the Peace of Amiens series.]

Finding Story Seeds
It seems counter-intuitive and like a really bad idea to look to other authors’ books for story inspiration, but that’s exactly what I decided to do. I got on Goodreads and clicked on my Historical Romance list, sorting it by highest average rating. I’m currently going through the list during my writing time each evening, reading the book description and seeing if it sparks a story idea for me.

Here are some examples (with a link to the story that inspired it) of what I came up with—some are more fleshed out than others! I also don’t have names for these characters yet…

Idea 1

  • Having suffered severe burns over half his face during battle, he is far from home (Gibraltar) when the Peace of Amiens begins.
  • She’s an admiral’s daughter sailing back to England with her sister on her brother-in-law’s (Captain) ship.
  • Inspiration from: A Kiss of Lies by Bronwyn Evans.

Idea 2

  • Her fiance goes off to war but promises to write. Through “his” letters, she gets to know him in an entirely new way—she’d been trying to come up with a good reason to cry off the engagement, realizing she wasn’t in love with him, before he left. But after three years of letters, she is so irrevocably in love, she’s not sure how she can live from one letter to the next.
  • Plot Option 1: Original Fiance Dies
    The fiance’s friend, who was actually writing the letters, finds her to offer his sympathies (and the “fiance’s last letter”?). As they spend time in the same social circles, she slowly comes to realize he’s the one who was writing the letters when she figures out she didn’t know the man whom all of his friends/fellow officers talk about—but feels like she knows his friend intimately.
  • Plot Option 2: Fiance Comes Back
    Similar to Option 1, but she figures out the fiance wasn’t the one writing the letters from his behavior now that he’s back and the only interest he shows is in her father’s money/social standing.
  • Inspiration from: Till Next We Meet by Karen Ranney
  • Also inspired by Cyrano de Bergerac (obviously)

Idea 3

  • As headmistress of a girls’ finishing school, she knows better than to allow even the slightest hint of dalliance with a man.
  • When a bored naval captain turned out on land during the Peace sets his sights on her, will he be able to crack through her shell of self- and professional-preservation and make her fall in love with him?
  • Inspiration from: Night Song by Beverly Jenkins

Idea 4

  • After losing the first ship he commanded (and on his first mission!) to the French at the Chesapeake Bay in 1781, then being a prisoner of war until it officially ended in 1783, then facing a court martial for losing his ship (and being acquitted but discharged from the Royal Navy), he swore he’d never set foot on a ship again.
  • In 1793, with the outbreak of the French Revolution, the Admiralty came calling; but he refused the commission they offered. Then they offered him a letter of marque and a ship/crew—and the chance to revenge himself time and time again on the French as a privateer. How could he refuse that offer?
  • By Amiens in 1802, he is one of the most notorious—and wealthiest—British privateers. Now in his mid-forties, he’s been thinking about retiring for a few years now, so the Peace came at just the right time.
  • Back on dry land, when he hears a rumor that an earl is looking for someone to marry the earl’s only daughter in order to give the earl a grandson/heir, at first, the former privateer isn’t interested. But then he meets her and realized she could be the greatest prize he’s ever captured.
  • Will he have more trouble convincing her or her father that he’s the right man for the “job”?
  • Inspiration from: Crimson Rapture by Jennifer Horsman

If you read the book summaries at the links provided, you’ll see that while there’s one or two threads of similarity, I really did just take “seeds” from these book blurbs in order to allow my imagination to germinate my own story ideas. (Yes, I’ve also been thinking that it’s just about time to get my garden seeds started, too.)

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