On Getting Story Ideas

by Tracy L. Carbone

One of the most common questions I am asked as a writer is where I get my ideas from. The honest answer to that would be something like, “How do I stop the ideas from coming?” The thing about being a writer is that each thing you encounter, even the most mundane, can spark an idea to file and use later. Above, I found a smiley face in a bread stick. Writing prompts are all around.

To make sure I don’t miss any opportunities, I follow the advice of Ray Bradbury in his book, Zen in the Art of Writing.

At the end of each day I try to write down anything even remotely interesting that I’ve seen. It’s not a diary per se, but a list of images. For example, I might jot down,  “lady yelling at kid in store, street musician in Fanueil Hall, melted chocolate on seat, almost getting in a car accident.” Sometimes it’s months or years before I flip through the ideas in the book and use them but they’re always there, waiting their turn.

Street names are another great trigger for creativity.  When I’m driving, if I’ve got a passenger who can type for me, I use the note function on my phone to write down streets names or important things to burn into memory.  My  daughter and  I recently completed a very long drive through Canada and northern Maine. That area is rife with images. Here are “phone notes” from the drive to give you an example. “Crawford Bible Fellowship, Lord’s Point, Hardscrabble Farm, Big red building with small brown barn, buildings boarded up, devil faces on telephone poles, Harm’s Way.”

Add to that some pictures I took along the way and the story can almost write itself. I look at the pictures below, recall the memories, and it’s a walk in the park if you toss in a little creativity.

But what about when it doesn’t seem there are any interesting things to write about? Well, I highly recommend this little gem of a book. It’s called Creative Block by Lou Harry. It’s got short phrases and photos to jolt you into making a mental image and hopefully a story. It’s surprisingly helpful for such a small book.

Once you’ve got burning ideas, just start typing, or hand writing if that’s your preference. Before you know it, you’ll have a nice little draft of a story, or a great scene in a book.

Happy writing!

Tracy L. Carbone ,  is the author of The Man of Mystery Hill, a middle grade paranormal mystery, published by Echelon Press. Buy now on BarnesandNoble.com or Amazon or in many fine bookstores.

Follow Tracy on TWITTER for continual updates.

My Sugar Glider- First Post

by Tracy L.  Carbone

Last Sunday my daughter and I were in our local mall and noticed a gathering of people. We moved toward it, wondering what all the commotion was about.  To our astonishment, it was performance by a company called Pocket Pets. Three young men in khaki parachute pants and button down shirts paraded around carrying the cutest creatures I’ve ever seen. They explained to us that they are called Sugar Gliders. Tiny marsupials who bond with their humans and, once bonded, will want nothing more than to snuggle with you in your pocket, or on your shoulder. They live for 12-15 years, like a dog or cat.

I worried, because I have a dog and a cat. Would they try to kill this little creature? No, the men said. As did the literature they encouraged us to go read and seriously consider. Marsupials and not rodents so regular domestic animals don’t have a frame of reference for them and don’t know what they are. Certainly, they don’t try to eat them. I wanted to believe this so badly. And all they eat is pellets and fruit and veggies. No vet visits, no shedding, no major care at all, you just have to cuddle with them a lot.

We asked the cost. $489. Yikes. But it was all inclusive-animal (you get to pick your own pet), a VERY large well-made two level cage, food, vitamins, water bottle, food dish, heat rock, a CD we had to listen to before we touched her again. And unlimited access to a website that told us everything we’d need to know. It provided a network of people to talk to, and they’d send emails every day for the first month to make sure we were on the right track. My daughter and I looked at each other, got all excited, and said YES!!!! Then they said we needed a bonding pouch as well and encouraged us to buy a 2 yr supply of food and vitamins. Okay, done. Total $601. About the price I paid for my little dog 5 years ago.

Here’s our record so far:

Day 1-we brought her home in a pink fuzzy zippered “bonding pouch” which we were told to keep around someone’s neck for 3-4 hours before setting her in her new cage (after we set it up and listened to the CD).  Abby and I would switch off holding her in the pouch. She skittered away and hid and made an ungodly loud noise for something that only weighs a couple of ounces. The site says if she screams it means “I’m SCARED, hold me tighter!” So we did the little squeeze technique under her blanket and she quieted instantly. We put clothes from Abby and me in her cage so she could learn our scent. We also put a dog toy in there that we rubbed on the dog and cat. She didn’t make noise all night like we thought and our dog and cat didn’t realize she was even here. They were confused about the giant cage however. We named her Niama.

Day 2-Dying to play with her but we’re supposed to leave her alone for two days to destress. We added and took away her 1/8 of an apple as recommended, which she only nibbled at. Still, we watched her when she came out and ate. The dog and cat still show nothing but a passing interest. No barking dog or hissing cat. They’re just mildly curious. We snuck this picture. My daughter has renamed her Mia. We took a video and uploaded it to YouTube.

Day 3- It’s killing us that we can’t play with her. Ugh! She’s so cute. She’s “barking” when we get close or our dog sticks her nose near the cage. Anna, the dog, is terrified but still curious. We are changing her food and sprinkling her apple with Glid-A-Mins every other day. She readily comes out of her cuddly spot and eats while we watch.

Day 4- Abby took her out of her cage and put her in the pouch and let her sit there all day till I came home. She let her pee and poo (as shown on video) twice. Mia wriggled a lot but Abby kept her mostly wrapped up. I came home and took her from the pouch and held her the special way. She screamed a lot and shook and bit me about 100 times before I could rearrange her. It hurt but didn’t break the skin. After about 20 minutes I put her back in the pouch and held her. Abby bonded with her all day and now it was my turn. Around 11pm I put her in her cage. She ate some apple and scurried off.  I don’t hear her up all night playing so am worried but she seems healthy. She’s on another floor though so maybe she plays quietly. Oh, she ate apple out of my hand and licked blueberry yogurt.

Day 5- Abby took her out of her cage today and let her go pee and poo. She sat in Abby’s hand for an hour somewhat wrapped in a paper towel. She fell asleep. She’d wake and cry and Abby would squeeze and she’d settle down. She spent most of the day in and out of the pouch. I came home and she was in her cage so I took her out, let her pee and poo and held her in my hand for about an hour. I didn’t get bitten!!! Maybe I’ve learned the grip better or she’s getting used to us. She licked peach juice off my fingers and fell asleep in my hand. She’s now sleeping in her bonding pouch. When I get up and move around she screams but a quick rub comforts her immediately.

I think we’re going to be just fine. 🙂


Tracy L. Carbone ,  is the author of The Man of Mystery Hill, a middle grade paranormal mystery, published by Echelon Press. Buy now on BarnesandNoble.com or Amazon.

Follow Tracy on TWITTER for continual updates.