When Life Hands You Lemons...

Copyright Judy Bagshaw - All Rights Reserved




When life hands you lemons, the saying goes, make lemonade. A good maxim to live by, I think. The optimist's path. So how does this relate to the craft of writing romances?

One of the first questions often asked of a writer is, "where do you get your story ideas?" My response is to say, "from life". I firmly believe there is no such thing as a writer's block. Added to that, I believe that an endless array of ideas present themselves to us every day, even during those bad times. And I further believe that even the worst of life's experiences can teach us something. We just have to be observant and pick up on them. And since we're starting a brand new year, it doesn't hurt to be reminded of how to do that.

A good place to start looking is at your own life experience. Remember the first time you fell in love - really, deeply, head-over-heels in love? Can you remember what it felt like? I can. Do you still look back on that first love fondly and wistfully? I do. Were you ever dumped? Recall the hurt? What if you could rewrite history; take that story of first love/ first heartbreak, and take it in another direction? You have an idea for a romance novel.

Have you ever had your heart broken? Have you broken someone else's heart? Were you ever jilted at the altar? Did you pine for someone from afar but never acted on it? Did you have a secret admirer? Did you ever secretly admire someone? Did you ever flirt with someone online? Did you ever have a long-distance relationship? All these are fodder for your writer's imagination.

Think of all those sessions of girl-talk with your friends. Think of the rich subject matter to be gleaned from these conversations. Did someone have a cheating spouse? Did a friend reunite with a long-lost love and get married? Depending on the age of your circle of friends, you could get insight into second marriages, blended families, late life relationships, dating at different stages of life, adoptions, single parents, divorces, loss of partners through death, spousal abuse, bizarre dating stories, surviving things like cancer or accidents---all sorts of drama that could be woven (with your friends permission in some cases) into romance novels.

Another place to glean story ideas is the newspaper. It's surprising what will spark a plot idea. A small item about a young girl who finds a small locked box washed up on the beach, can lead to a story about, for example, a woman who is told that her fiancé was killed in the war. The box holds the love letters he wrote to her. Or perhaps the box holds jewellery that was washed overboard with the sinking of the Titanic. An article on baby boomers and dating over fifty can open a whole storehouse of ideas for romance novels and short stories with widows or widowers finding new love, or long married couples rediscovering their love and igniting the spark of passion again.

Family is another great source. My mother has personally provided ideas for several short stories that I've gone ahead to write and get published. One came out of hers and Dad's experiences on bus tours. Another came from a true story of a fellow parishioner at her church who waited almost fifty years for the man of her dreams. My great-great-grandparents' story of coming to Canada in 1830 is a testament to love and faith in your partner. Look around at your extended family and you may be surprised at the wonderful romances that are there. Was there an "arranged" marriage that ended in love? Did a relationship survive the intrusion of war or separation? Did anyone marry the boy/girl next door? Was there a couple who at one time despised one another, and then came to love each other?

Carry a notebook or journal with you everywhere. If you're stuck in traffic or on a long train commute, let your mind open to story ideas. Have a little notepad by your bedside for those middle of the night inspirations. On a rainy or snowy Sunday afternoon, sit by the fire with your hot chocolate and a notepad and brainstorm a series of "what ifs". Perhaps doodle some character descriptions, or possible settings. Whenever you get a snippet of an idea, a germ of a story, jot it down. You can snip little things out of magazines or newspapers that catch your fancy and turn on that creative light bulb. Keep a file of these ideas. You don't have to act upon them right away, but just having that well of ideas to dip into, can make the story writing experience so much easier.

Our local writer's group offers a day trip where members take the GO train, go to the main terminal in Toronto, spend time sitting in the terminal people watching, take the subway through the city...and so on. The idea is to observe, write down impressions, character sketches, snippets of overheard conversation, sensory details, descriptions...all to provide fodder for possible future work. The same thing could be done simply by going to a busy restaurant and watching and listening, or sitting in the middle of the mall at a busy time of day.

If you and your family travel, keep journals of your trips as well as your photo or video memories. Make note of the sights, smells, flavours, and sounds. Catch the nuances of language and customs. Keep an eye out for interesting or eccentric characters and record mini character sketches. I've used my journal from a Caribbean cruise taken almost twenty-five years ago, to provide some details and texture to two of my novels.

Story ideas can come from anything and anywhere. You can take the lemons of life and turn them into lemonade - a romance novel or short story that you can get published.


About the Author: Judy Bagshaw has been published since 2000. Writing romance featuring full-figured heroines, her publishing credits include 4 novels, 1 collection of short stories, and short stories in three anthologies. She was also part of the writing team for the Ginn Reading Series, and Reaching Readers Series, used in many elementary schools. Retired from teaching, she writes full-time from her home in Ontario, Canada. Visit Judy's website: www.judybagshaw.com





Easy Way to Write Romance - by Rob Parnell