The Writing Life

Sense-ible Story Ideas

People ask, “Where do you get the ideas for your stories?” The simple answer is “Everywhere.” They are in life’s sensory details. My full-blown ideas or vague notions come from experiencing the five senses: taste, touch, smell, sight or hearing.

For instance, my short story “Multiples of Five” was born after reading (sight) an article in the local paper reporting about a multiple birth. The newspaper story revolved around a group of women from the couple’s church who ministered to them by working in shifts to help care for the babies. So I thought, what if an older, childless woman felt roped into helping in a similar situation?  What if she had no experience caring for babies and the idea scared the wits out of her? It’s a story about how God can use us even when we think we’re useless.

The smell of smoke brings to mind helping acquaintances after a fire destroyed part of their home. That smell also sparked a children’s story called, “One of the Blessed.”

I heard a man on a radio talk show relate the story of his girls caroling through sign language to a woman who was deaf. That became an idea for  another children’s story, “Silent Song.” 

A reluctant fisherwoman bounced on a hard, metal seat as her husband’s small boat skimmed across the lake. That experience became the impetus for the story “Blessings That Float.” (Self-preservation won’t allow me to reveal the identity of that woman.)

I may be in a store and hear a snippet of conversation between two men. One holds up a bottle and says, “This’ll do it. In two days they’ll be dead.” It doesn’t matter that I’m in the garden section and an employee is trying to sell weed killer to a man with a yard full of crab grass. To me, they’re assassins preparing to do away with their next victims through some type of poison.

Memories are generally stirred through something we’ve seen, heard, etc. Why shouldn’t we expect those senses to stir our imaginations?

Question: You may not be a writer, but have you had an occasion when your senses sent your imagination into overdrive, creating a whole slew of fictional thoughts?




As an author of heartwarming historical and contemporary romance, Sandra Ardoin engages readers with page-turning stories of love and faith. Rarely out of reach of a book, she's also an armchair sports enthusiast, country music listener, and seldom says no to eating out.

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