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Thursday, May 07, 2015

Where Do Stories Come From?

Dan Walsh is the award-winning and bestselling author of 14 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards and 2 Selah Awards. Three of his books were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year. Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take walks and spend time with their grandkids. Click here to connect with Dan or check out his books.

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"Where do you get your stories?"  

I've been asked this question more times than I can count since my first novel came out in 2009. I suspect when people ask me this they aren't really expecting me to have a definitive answer. "Oh, they come from ______ . " Usually they have just read one or more of my novels, really enjoyed how the stories affected them, and they're saying this as more of a compliment.

But it is an interesting question, isn't it? Where do our stories come from?

When I've been asked this question during interviews or at book club events, I usually mention something about the creativity of God or the gift of creativity God gives to people. I suppose the same question could be asked of songwriters. "Where do you get your songs?" I suppose it's from the same place that stories come from (wherever that is).

I remember hearing an interview by Billy Joel on where he got the inspiration for his hit song, River of Dreams (In the middle of the night...I go walking in my sleep...). I dare anyone to hear this song and not start tapping your feet or be singing along by the end (Click Here to see it on YouTube; almost 10 million views). He said he got it in a dream and woke up with the song almost fully formed in his head. He took a shower, expecting it to vanish, but instead he began singing it. It wound up becoming the cover song for one of his albums and reached #3 in the Billboard's Top 100 song chart in 1993.

I've written 14 novels so far, finishing up my 15th, and have about another 5-6 stories roughed out in my to-be-written-someday file. A couple of them did come to me, almost fully formed, in a dream (at least the basic storyline, not 300 pages worth). But that's not certainly the norm. In fact, when I started thinking about what inspired each one, it's like they all have their own story.

For example, one of my bestselling and most-reviewed novels is Remembering Christmas. The idea for the book just popped into my head one day during a casual conversation with my wife at Cracker Barrel. We were discussing the various jobs she had when we were first married, before our kids came into the picture. She reminded me of one job I had completely forgotten about. It was this little Christian bookstore called the Book Nook in the basement of an old church in downtown Daytona Beach.

We left the Cracker Barrel and drove across the street to Barnes & Noble, to browse and get a cup of coffee. As I'm walking through the aisles of Barnes & Noble this great idea for a book comes to me, almost fully formed, including a surprise ending.

The inspiration for my most recent suspense novel, When Night Comes, came to me in a completely different way. Back in the 70s, I used to work for GE in a department that made high-tech training simulators for the Army and Air Force. These things were very sophisticated and cost millions of dollars each to build and millions more to maintain. Around that time, I saw a documentary about a sleep disorder doctor who was trying to develop a drug to help people with chronic nightmares.

Somehow these two things collided together in my mind to form this sinister plot. I realized it had the potential to be a great thriller-type story, and I wondered what it would be like to create a credible Christian as the main character, sort of the victim of this sinister plot, and see how he would handle the events that occurred as the story unfolds. And of course, how much better if I mixed a little romance into the equation?

Well that's enough about me and my stories. How about you? Tell us, where do you get your stories?


  1. Mine have come from life, either mine, my kids' or overheard conversations. :) It's amazing what an overheard remark can spawn.

  2. The Famous One is written almost like a biography (fictional) and was inspired by the life of a present day actor. Certainly not known to me, it's my interpretation of the things I learned about him with a wishful ending to his story.

    My other novels come from pictures and people in my mind - the inspirations the Lord places there. My first novel (Hope of Glory) was a direct result of an almost audible direction from the Lord.


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