Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sparking Story Ideas by Amber Schamel

Normally, writers have more stories in their minds than time to write them, but on the occasion that the opposite is true, author Amber Schamel provides some tips to send that spark of an idea flaming into a full-fledged story. -- Sandy

Amber: Gotta admit, we writers are kinda strange birds. We talk to people that exist only in our heads. We stare off into the distance for long periods of time. We hide out like hermits, and pound away on keyboards. We study ways to escape a prison camp, sicknesses and the most tragic way to die.

But I think one of the hardest things for folks to understand about me as a writer is the way inspiration, creativity and stories bombard my mind. Of course, there are other authors who can craft a wonderful story, and carry it through to the end but have a difficult time sparking ideas. For those of you that fall into this category, I thought I would share some of the places (and things) where I find inspiration in hopes that it will help.

The other day I was driving down a back country road in the Ozarks when I passed a mailbox with the last name of Brittain. In this mailbox I found a story. I saw a boy by the name of Thomas Brittain who had moved from London to rural Missouri with his family.  His parents are proud of their British roots, but Thomas just wants to be like the other southern kids at school. At home, he is Thomas the Brit forced to be proper and drink his hot tea. But at school, he's just Tom, a boy who tries to mold his English accent into a southern one, drink sweet iced tea and runs into all kind of mischief trying to be someone he's not.

All that out of driving past a mailbox...I told you writers are weird. lol.

Okay, Amber, that's a nice story. But how is that supposed to help me?

What I'm trying to say is don't be discouraged. Story ideas are everywhere, it's just a matter of seeing them. Sometimes it's easy to think that the story idea just isn't there...but it is! Here are some tips for finding inspiration and story ideas.

1) Look for them. In everything.
Get into a habit of looking for stories everywhere. You can't find something you're not looking for. Look under your bed. Look in your best friend's eyes. Look at the people at the park. Pay attention to your surroundings and look at them through your writer's glasses. News and history books are also a great place to look.

2) Keep it simple.
You don't have to know their dark moment, character arc and greatest fear from the start. A story idea is incredibly simple. Think GMC: Goal, motivation and conflict. You need somebody who wants something but can't have it because...WHAM there's your story idea.

3) Decide what you're looking for.
 What type of story do you want to write? Historical? Mystery? Romance? A story about a young girl? Or a story about an old man? If you narrow down what type of story you're looking for, it will make finding it much easier. Can you imagine finding Waldo if you didn't know what Waldo looked like?

4) Exercise your creativity muscles.
Google story games and play them. It's fun and helps exercise your story-conceiving muscles. Here's a game we enjoy.  We'll pick a minor character from a book or movie and think...if we wanted to make a story about this person, what would it be? Practice brings lots of creative ideas!

Which writer are you? Are you bombarded with story ideas? Or do you struggle for an idea? What are tips  you use for  inspiration?


Multi-published author Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest". A homeschool graduate from a family of 12 children, Amber found her calling early in life. First published at age 21, she has continued to hone her craft and is now the author of over half a dozen books. Between ministry, family and working in their family-owned businesses, Amber loves to connect with readers. Find her on the Stitches Thru Time blog, or on any of the major social media sites.  Amber is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Historical Novel Society.


  1. I'm bmbarded with more story ideas than I'll ever have time to write. Still I love your advice and learning about how Tom came into existence.

    1. Hi Terri,
      It's nice to hear from some people that have the same thing going on in their heads. Most of the time I get blank stares from folks. Haha.

  2. Thank you so much for having me on the blog today, Sandra! I feel so honored.

  3. Thanks for the great post, Amber! I live in the Missouri Ozarks myself so I agree inspiration is everywhere. :) Merry Christmas!

    1. Hi Savanna!
      Really? What part? There's almost no Christian writing community down there close to me, so I'm hoping to meet some folks close by and organize a group. I'm near the AR border in the middle of the state near West Plains, MO.

    2. Ah, you're just about an hour away from me then. I live near Hartville. :) We should meet up some time! The closest writing community for me is the ACFW Chapter that meets every month in Springfield. It's a bit of a drive, but definitely worth it. You should come sometime!! :)

    3. We should! That would be awesome. Springfield is quite a drive, and it's hard for me to get away for an entire day, but I definitely want to. I'll have to work on that.

    4. Yeah, I understand that. Check out our local ACFW Chapter FB page here or email me at ozarkwriter(at)gmail(dot)com if you have questions. we'd love to have you join us. We have a few other members who live out in our area, including one in Ava. So we're around. :) Email me sometime and we'll set a lunch date to chat. That would be such fun!

  4. Interesting post, story ideas can pop up where one least expects them. I remember walking through an old grave yard and a name on a tombstone became a main character.

    1. Hi Sharron! Thanks for stopping by.
      Haha, and you were the one laughing at me for taking pictures of tombstones at historical sites. Seriously, I'm going to keep those for future reference. The sayings on them were so inspiring. You'll know what to put on mine someday.

  5. Hi Amber -

    I love the game of taking a character in a book and giving them their own story. The Moses Trilogy and The Christmas Wish developed in that way. I've read series by many authors where each of the characters in their book get a shot at the limelight. It provides a rich story experience for the reader.

    Merry Christmas,
    Susan :)

  6. P.S. I just started The Master's Calling, and it has me on the edge of my seat.


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