Inspiration for your stories can come from many places. Your own personal experiences can be a gold mine for story ideas. Friends and families are also a good source of inspiration—their experiences and even their personalities (quirky and otherwise) might trigger an idea for a plot or for a character in one of your stories.
I also get ideas from the news. One of my middle-grade novels was inspired by a newspaper account of a plucky girl who started her own successful business.
For some writers, writing prompts help get their imaginative juices flowing. There are lots of places to find prompts. If you search “writing prompt” on Facebook, you’ll find several pages that offer daily prompts. Do the same search on Google, and you’ll have lots of writing prompt links to choose from.
I keep a notebook to jot down ideas for possible future stories.
In honor of Halloween, I’m posting a short story I wrote. The inspiration for the story came from my two grandfathers. Every winter, Pop-Pop would leave behind the cold of Ohio and live with us in California. Once, I walked into his room while he was napping, and was shocked to see his teeth settled in the bottom of a glass of water. Pop-Pop liked a good joke, but contrary to the boy in my story, I left the teeth alone!
My other grandfather, Otto, was a super creative man, and if his visits coincided with Halloween, he would make elaborate Jack O’Lanterns for us kids. One I’ll always remember is his pirate pumpkin, complete with a jaunty bandana around its head, dark, menacing eyes, red lips and a hoop earring dangling from one ear. I’m not sure how he pulled that off, but there it was.
Thus, from these memories, my story:
A Jack-o-Lantern for Pop-Pop
Round pumpkins. Skinny pumpkins. Tall pumpkins. Squished pumpkins. Smooth pumpkins. Bumpy pumpkins.
Eddy gazed at the rows and rows of pumpkins. Last year he made a pirate Jack O’Lantern. And a cowboy the year before that. What would he do this year?
“How about this one, Eddy?” Pop-Pop asked.
The pumpkin his grandfather held was shaped just like his head.
Eddy had a fantastic idea.
“That’s perfect, Pop-Pop!” he said.
Back home, his mother cut the top off the pumpkin. Eddy scraped out the seeds, and with his special knife, carved a smile, eyes, and nose in the pumpkin.
“I’ll finish it in my room,” Eddy said. “It’s going to be a surprise.”
Before leaving the kitchen, he spied Pop-Pop’s hat dangling on the back of a chair.
Just what my Jack O’Lantern needs, Eddy thought.
He plopped the hat on top of the pumpkin and hurried to his room.
Eddy studied his Jack O’Lantern. Something wasn’t right. Something was missing.
He searched the house and found Pop-Pop lying on the living room recliner—upside down. “It’s good for the circulation,” Pop-Pop said.
His chin looked like his forehead. His mouth looked like a Cyclops’ eyeball. His eyes and eyebrows looked like two mouths with bristly beards. Poking out of each ear was a wiry tuft of hair.
That was it! That was what Eddy’s Jack O’Lantern needed.
He grabbed some cotton balls from the bathroom and a bottle of glue from the kitchen. Back in his room, he stretched the cotton balls into two bristly eyebrows and two tufts of hair, and glued them above the eye-holes and on either side of the pumpkin.
Eddy circled around the Jack O’Lantern. It looked better, but something was still missing.
Eddy found Pop-Pop in the kitchen. His eyes were crossed, and his giant mole quivered as he balanced a bean on his big bumpy nose.
“It’s good for coordination,” Pop-Pop said.
That was it! That was exactly what Eddy’s Jack O’Lantern needed.
He grabbed a jar from the refrigerator and a box from the cupboard. Back in his room, he pulled the biggest, bumpiest pickle from the jar and stuck it in the pumpkin’s nose hole. He picked a plump sticky raisin from the box and squooshed it below the pumpkin’s eye.
Eddy paced back and forth in front of the Jack O’Lantern. Nope, not yet. Something was still missing.
Eddy knocked on Pop-Pop’s bedroom door. There was no answer, so he slowly pushed open the door and tiptoed into the room. Pop-Pop lay on the bed, snoring. Eddy picked up a glass from the nightstand.
That was it! That was definitely, absolutely, and without a doubt what his Jack O’Lantern needed. Hopefully, Pop-Pop wouldn’t be angry.
As he slipped into his bedroom with the glass, his mother called him to dinner.
Eddy and his mother and father waited for Pop-Pop. Finally, he came into the kitchen with shriveled shrunken lips.
“Pop-Pop!” Eddy’s mother said. “What happened?”
“I sheem do hab mishplashed my teed,” Pop-Pop said.
Eddy slid down on his chair as he watched Pop-Pop eat mashed potatoes and smashed peas. For dessert, Eddy gave Pop-Pop an extra-big helping of his favorite rocky road ice cream—after he picked out all the nuts.
“Tanksh, Eddy,” his grandfather said.
“Don’t worry, Pop-Pop,” Eddy said. “I’m sure we’ll find your teeth.”
After dinner, Eddy said, “Everyone wait in the living room. I have the best Jack O’Lantern you’ve ever seen.”
“Yesh, Eddy,” Pop-Pop said. “Show it to ush!”
In his room, Eddy pushed Pop-Pop’s teeth into the pumpkin’s smile. He turned on his flashlight and set it inside the pumpkin. Then, he carefully carried his Jack O’Lantern into the living room.
His mother gasped. His father laughed then coughed.
His grandfather said, “Well, knock my shocksh obb. If thash not the mosht handshome Jack O’Lantern I ever did shee!”
“It’s not a Jack O’Lantern,” Eddy said. “It’s a Pop-Pop O’Lantern!”
* * *
Where do you get your inspiration from?