Monday, October 6, 2008

Coneheads + Traveling Pants = inspiration!

Character and story ideas come from the strangest places, especially for me. Here’s how I got the inspiration of who a character in my current WIP novel was.

Early this summer I was at the bookstore thinking about the Coneheads and laughing to myself (doesn’t everyone still think about the Coneheads?), when I saw the book, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares. Before I could help myself, my mind threw them together and I said to my husband,

“I come from Pants!”

At which point I started cracking up, he couldn’t figure out what I was laughing about, and the rest of the people in the store were looking at me like I was a lunatic. Ever since then, I can’t stop saying, “I come from Pants!” It totally kills me every time. Not only that, but it’s a phrase that works for almost any occasion. Try it, you’ll see.

Then a month or so ago, we were walking by a flower store and I said, “I come from Plants!” and started laughing. Even DH was laughing, but mostly because he couldn’t believe I was still on the Coneheads thing. Whenever I see France, Pants, or Plants now, I totally lose it. Poor hubby.

So what does this all have to do with writing and my WIP novel? (Yes, there is a point, promise.)

* Story ideas and characters are all around us. You never know what’s going to spark your imagination or how far that spark will take you. If something makes you laugh or cry or scream, take notice. If you can put together two things that don’t belong and get something new, even better. Someday that might be the seed of an idea that helps you write a story.

* An important character in my novel didn’t have a past, which made it hard to figure out who he was in the story. From thinking about a phrase that I first heard in 1977 and seeing a book I want to read, I figured out that my character has strong connection to plants. Not only that, but the plants are important to the plot. My character likes to say to me, “I come from France, wearing my Plot Pants!” (No, that’s not in my story. Yes, do I know I’m strange. I prefer to think of myself as creative.)

Here’s a recap of how a character in my novel became complex, three-dimensional, and important to the plot:

France -> Pants -> Plants -> Plot and Past -> Pizzazz!
(Sorry, I couldn’t resist pizzazz; I wanted to use another P word.)

Remember this phrase when you’re trying to figure out who your characters are: “I come from Pants!” Or just say it at random times because it’s funny.

Happy Writing!

p.s. It’s October 6, only 25 more days until Halloween!!!


  1. I definitely agree with your point about putting together two things that don't belong and getting something new. I have done that for my two favorite picture book manuscripts. (At least I'm not going to hear that my plot is overdone. :O) )

  2. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only on that does this. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. The word pants cracks me up in general. One of my old friends is from England, and one of his favorite swears was "Pants!" Which sounds really cool with the Brit accent but not so cool with my midwestern one.

    And "I come from pants" is hilarious!

  4. OMG, I didn't know "Pants!" was a swear word! Ha ;)

  5. Fun post! I'm all for silliness!

    Lance Armstrong's kids can claim..
    I'm from Lance!

    (Okay that is a stretch...)

  6. Kelly: "I'm from Lance!"
    Ha! I didn't see that one coming. It's good!

  7. I think I read somewhere that "The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids" series was created this way...something about the authors asking themselves "what if" and they put two totally different things together...

    Happy panting!...oh, wait, that takes on a different meaning...grin.. Enjoy your pants, plants and France...grin....

  8. Brenda: That's interesting about "The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids" series.

    It's not that different from when they talk about combining movies to sell your script ("it's Terminator meets Gone With the Wind meets The Wizard of Oz"). Ok, nobody is making that movie, but I've heard about that method of pitching movies and books, and thought it was an interesting way to come up with ideas (probably why my subconscious came up with France, Pants and Plants).