Guest Post from Toby Tate: Where Story Ideas Come From


All right. This is the first guest post I’ve had on my website but won’t be the last. Toby Tate is a new author with Darkfuse and seems to be a nice guy though he could really be a serial killer. If so, he’ll be the first serial killer on here. Enjoy!

“Where do you get your ideas?” is a question I’ve gotten more times than I can count, and one that I still never know how to answer. It’s a pretty common question for writers from readers—probably stemming from the fact that readers are simply curious, or because they might be aspiring writers themselves.

According to one of the most prolific authors on the planet, Stephen King, writers don’t ask other writers where their ideas come from, because “we know we don’t know.” That’s the truth. How can you know? Ideas come from, well…the ether. They just kind of appear and then you start writing them down as fast as you can before they disappear.

However, there are ways that we go about sparking the “muse,” so to speak. Authors like me can’t afford to sit around waiting for ideas to happen—we have deadlines to meet and bills to pay. In my case, I draw from experience, building on what I have done in the past and expanding it into new territory.

For example, my first novel, DIABLERO, was a supernatural thriller that took place mainly along the east coast of the U.S. and involved demonic possession and a lot of Lovecraftian type lore mixed with action and adventure. The main character was a newspaper reporter I had used in a short story, based on several people (including me). The “creature” was based on a legend, the Diablero, and a historical figure, Blackbeard the Pirate. Combine them and you have one really evil, kick-ass antagonist.

The idea first germinated when my wife and I visited a place in North Carolina called Ocracoke Island, where Blackbeard spent a lot of time. I really loved the idea of bringing him back to life in modern times, but I needed a way to do that other than just having him pop up out of nowhere. Hence, the Diablero, a Sonoran Indian legend about a demon that can change into other life forms. It was perfect. That book got a lot of great reviews and sold pretty well for a micro press.

LILITH, my latest book, was a little tougher. I knew I wanted to bring back the characters from my first novel, but I wanted the danger to be on a bigger scale, which would be hard to do. I also wanted to use another mythical creature, because I love “creature” stories and I love mythology. After doing some research, I discovered Lilith, who, according to legend, was Adam’s first wife, before Eve. She did not want to subjugate herself to a man and fled the garden to the Red Sea, where she began to procreate with demons, bringing forth a whole race of demonic children. One of these children is the forefather of the Lilith character in my story.

I get a lot of ideas while I’m walking, out on the boardwalk, far from civilization. I think exercise helps stimulate the brain and gets those creative juices flowing. I’ve fixed many a plot hole and come up with several story ideas while walking. 

I also do a lot of reading, partly for enjoyment and partly to make sure I’m not copying what some other author has already done. Authors have to keep up with what’s going on in their genres in order to avoid replication. Of course, we all know there’s nothing new under the sun, but a fresh spin can always be put on an old story.

I suppose getting ideas or finding the muse works differently for each author, but as for where they come from exactly, well, I’ll just have to leave that question to the philosophers.



Toby Tate has been a writer since about the age of 12, when he first began writing short stories and publishing his own movie monster magazine. He was a newspaper reporter for five years and has been published in The Pedestal Magazine, Scary Monsters Magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland and elsewhere. Lilith is his second novel. Check out his website at


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