Readers and other writers frequently ask where story ideas come from. Orson Scott Card once said, “Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.”
The idea for my current work in progress—the first draft is complete—came while I was researching another story. I was skimming through a book called The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West from 1840-1900 by Candy Moulton and the question hit me: Were there female attorneys during this time period?
That was several months ago and, even now, I can’t find the page in Candy’s book that stimulated the question. Maybe God needed for me to be distracted by something else so he could drop the idea into my heart.
At any rate, I did some more research and discovered there were female attorneys but they were few and far between, similar to the television show, Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman. And they faced the same prejudices and biases as Dr. Quinn.
So I sent an email to my agent, Barbara Scott, asking, “What do you think of a female attorney in the 1880s?” She quickly wrote back, telling me it was an excellent idea and to submit a proposal for a three-book series.
After several unproductive starts—and more time in prayer—an idea began to gel and Emily Peyton came to life under my fingers. Kind of like Dr. Frankenstein but without the grave robbing and electric jolts. Sure could use Igor sometimes, though.
Originally, she was to be Kate but the name didn’t seem to fit. She told me she didn’t like and wanted to be called Emily. I researched her name and learned Emily means to achieve, to excel.
Yep. That’s her. The name fit perfectly.
The question, “What do you think of a female in the 1880s?” is now a 95,000 word novel called Emily’s Trial, book one in the Prairie Justice series.
Writers, be alert. You never know when a story idea is going to walk by. Blink, and you might miss it.
Question for you all: What’s the most surprising source you’ve had for a story idea?