The Blog Propellant · writing

How Writers Get Ideas


Beatrix got home from school and went to the kitchen for a snack. She dropped her satchel on the floor next to the table and rummaged through the fridge.

“Can I help you find something?” Freddy asked her.

“No thank you, here’s some cake from last night. I’ll just have a sliver of this.” She pulled the cake plate from the second shelf, cut a slice off, put it on another plate and headed back to the table.

“Hey, hey , hey,” said the fridge, “put that back in here.” The door swung open and Beatrix returned the cake to the shelf she had gotten it from.

“Sorry, Freddy,” she said. “Mrs. Brown gave us a big assignment today and we have to turn it in tomorrow. I don’t know how I’m gonna get it done.”

“Mrs. Brown? Is that your English teacher?” asked Sammy the stove.

“Yeah,” Beatrix answered. “She wants a 500 word story done by tomorrow! I don’t know what’s gotten into her. She’s usually much more realistic than that.”

“What’s it supposed to be about?” Carla and Sharla, the chair twins asked in unison. Beatrix smiled. Those two always spoke in stereo. She didn’t know how they did it. It was almost like they shared a single mind.

“She wasn’t real clear on that,” Beatrix told them all. She told us to use our imagination. She said we could make it a fairy tale, or a prose poem, whatever, we wanted to do. Anthropomorphism, that’s what we’re studying. She told us that lots of stories can be cited as examples of anthropomorphism and she even read us one today, ‘The North Wind and the Sun’. It’s a fable, an old story, by this guy named Aesop about a contest between the wind and the sun. The wind loses.”

“So what’re you going to write about?” asked Terry the toaster. Terry was afraid of heights and he always sat well back from the edge of the counter.

“I don’t have the faintest idea,” Beatrix told him. “I don’t have much of an imagination. I can’t comprehend how anyone could expect a couch to get up and walk across the room, and who would think about talking to a table, or even talking animals? That’s crazy stuff.”

Everyone turned their heads and looked at Tanya but she wasn’t saying anything. Her Formica top sat stoic, unmoving. Only a slight ruffling of the napkins in the wire holder gave away that she might even have been listening, maybe giggling just a little. The chair twins nudged her legs, in unison. Finally she laughed.

“All right, all right, I’ll tell you a story that you can use, but you better take good notes girl. I’m only going to tell it once.”

“Thanks a lot, Tanya,” Beatrix said and she fished a notepad and pencil from her satchel on the floor.

“The story is about a family of rabbits,” Tanya the table began. “One of the rabbit children was named Peter.”


The Blog Propellant · writing

Jenny DeMarco


When I opened my email and found a message from Jenny DeMarco I thought, for sure there had been a mistake.

I thought twice before I opened it. What if it was spam or malware, what if it contained one of those ransom viruses (virus? virusi? viruseses?)? It might destroy my computer. That would be bad.

On the other hand what if it was really an email from Jenny DeMarco? She was one of my favourite authors. I’d read everything I could find that she had ever written.

She was the undisputed master of horror, and the stuff she wrote was powerful scary.

Freaky scary!

Read during daylight hours only scary.

Try to make sure that there are at least three other people, whom you have known for years, in the house when you are reading scary.

Scary stuff.

I had to risk it and I opened the email. It was from Jenny DeMarco. The Jenny DeMarco; and she was contacting me to see if I would be interested in consulting with her for a new novel that she had planned; that was pretty much all she said in that first message.

Why would she want me? I cover the political beat for The Times. I wasn’t sure how I could help, but I had her email address. I replied.

Dear Ms. DeMarco:

I received your message today and I am intrigued. I love your work, but you write horror stories. I am a journalist writing about politics. I’m not sure how I can help you but would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further.

Best regards

Less than ten minutes later my computer dinged. I had a new message. It was from Ms. DeMarco.

Dear TN:

Thanks so much for getting back to me so quickly. I’m a fan of your work too. I read The Times and I find that your understanding of the political situation at the local level, the state level, and especially at the national level is phenomenal.

That understanding is what I would like to tap into because, as you mentioned: I write horror stories. You write politics.

That’s what scares people these days, politics.

I want to tap into that fear. I want to have people too scared to keep reading my book and yet even more afraid to put it down. I think you can help me to do this.

I will of course give you credit in the book and we can work out a deal wherein you get a percentage of the royalties.

If this sounds agreeable then let me know and we can kick off this new partnership with a barbeque at my house.

Take your time, but please don’t wait too long.

I look forward to hearing from you,



25 minutes writing, 8 minutes to edit and format. I got one prompt in and I call out 32.