The question I most frequently get asked as a writer is, “Where do you get your ideas from?”
The answer is that they find me. For example, Treasure Hunt is the story of a works outing I attended – I simply replaced my colleagues with characters and added in a romance, plus a few other details. In the Pink is based on something that really happened to me (I can’t say what without spoiling the story)
I don’t usually fictionalise whole events though. More often stories come from a chance remark. That was the case with Sick Leave and Big Loser. Sometimes I’m inspired by memories of my grandparents, as with Granddad’s Snowman and Watchdog. Often the idea starts as something more vague. My interest in gardening and cooking encouraged me to write The Garden and Family Recipe respectively.
Personally I don’t think finding ideas is the real challenge. Most of us have families or hobbies or jobs or have had funny experiences or disasters. We might be ill, or buy food, eat cake, catch a train or enter a competition. I have and I’ve written stories about them all.
The challenge is to grab hold of the idea and bash it about until you have a story.
A Bag for Life – Patsy Collins
1200 words Women's Fiction
Erin's husband Steve is like a carrier bag. A bit dull, but useful if he ever managed to be in the right place at the right time. Xavier was in the right place and not dull at all.
Erin stomped her way round the supermarket. Nothing was going right; her wrist hurt like crazy, the trolley only had three good wheels and she'd forgotten to bring a bag for life with her. Again. Those things were a bit like men Erin thought. A good idea in theory and sometimes a good idea in practice, but often not where you wanted them to be. Steve should be here helping. He'd offered in a half-hearted way yesterday. He hadn't offered again this morning before they'd both left for work; Steve driving the car, Erin catching the bus. She'd just have to fight through the pain of her sprained wrist and gather a few essentials for their breakfast tomorrow. She headed for the bread aisle.
A Changed Woman – Patsy Collins
900 words Women's Fiction
Callum realised he hadn't been taking enough notice of Julie lately. Sometimes it felt like he didn't know his own wife.
Julie’s hair was looking good; shiny and neat. I almost made the mistake of mentioning it – or, I wondered would it be a mistake not to? I thought she’d been to the salon. If she had then I’d be expected to notice, but if she hadn’t then I’d be accused of sarcasm or suggesting she should get it cut. Even worse was the possibility that she'd had it done last week and I’d only just realised.
A Different Kind of Enemy – Patsy Collins
1500 words Women's Fiction
You can't expect others to keep rules you break or to win battles you have no intention of fighting.
My name is Matthew King; no one calls me that though. My parent’s called me Mattie right from the start. That’s what my wife, God rest her, called me too. The lads, when I joined up called me ‘Super’ on account of the super king sized cigarettes I’d smoke whenever I got hold of them. Usually it was just roll ups, but you know the military, never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Most often these days I’m called Gramps. That suits me just fine; I’m pleased that my daughter’s boy spends so much time with me.
A Friend and Colleague – Patsy Collins
1900 words Women's Fiction
Jess felt so sorry for Lilly. The older woman was retiring soon and would have an empty life – so why did she seem to think Jess was the one in need of help?
"I feel so sorry for poor Lilly Forrester, she's worked here for years," Jess said. "Don't worry, we'll give her a really good send off," her boss, Sasha, said. "Is that a good idea? She'll be reminded of what she'll be missing." "I don't think that'll worry her, Jess!" Jess was only twenty, but felt great sympathy for poor Lilly's plight. Jess would miss more than just her wages if she lost her own job at Invite an Impression printers. Lilly must be dreading retirement. Jess tried talking to her.
A Girlie Girl – Patsy Collins
1500 words Feel Good Story
Emily, or Expedition Em as she was known, had to change or no man would find her attractive; especially not the one she wanted.
Emily gripped the paddle, her knuckles as white as the foam on the water. Her canoe crashed through the torrent while adrenaline pumped through her veins. The smile on her face was as bright as the sun sparkling off the icy river. It wasn't really happening though. She'd been staring at the computer for so long, trying to delay the coming ordeal, that her screen-saver had come up. There was no getting out of it, adventures like her latest white-water rafting trip were firmly behind her. Instead, Emily had to make do with tedious, girlie stuff like shopping. 'I'm going up town,' she announced. 'Can I get anyone, anything?'
A Lesson to Remember – Patsy Collins
Adam's granddad showed him a way to get the bicycle he wanted. PC Marks instructed him in riding it safely. Looking after it was a lesson Adam had to learn for himself.
Adam had almost forgotten about his rush to get to school on time. He often forgot things and sometimes this got him into trouble. “Mum, I’ve just remembered, my tyre was slightly soft yesterday,” he’d said at breakfast. “Did you pump it up?” she’d asked him. “No, I forgot.” “You’d better do it now, hurry up or you’ll be late,” Mum said as she helped him with his tie. Adam cycled extra fast all the way. He just got to assembly on time.
A Little Less Self-Restraint – Patsy Collins
1000 words Women's Fiction
Grace couldn't see anything special about New Year’s Eve, or why people bothered with resolutions, or the point of quite a lot of things ... even if they did look like fun.
Grace watched the starlings splashing around in the birdbath. She knew they only did it because they needed to keep their plumage in good condition or risk perishing on frosty nights, but it looked as if they were having fun. If she'd dared think of Simon, she'd have imagined him laughing at the sight. Once the starlings flew away, she went out to replenish the water. "They've never drunk it all?" her neighbour Ruth called. Grace explained why the water had so quickly been used up.
A Losing Battle – Patsy Collins
Sally knew leaving stuff at Tim's house was the way to get him to notice her - if only she could find something really interesting ...
“A pumpkin?” Linda asks. “Yes,” Sally replies. “The enormous orange things you have at Halloween?” “Yes, but smaller obviously.” “Oh yes obviously. We can’t have the terrific Tim thinking you’re odd!” Linda makes a face at her friend from behind one of the display boards. The tourist information office is always quiet for the first half an hour or so in the mornings. The girls have time to chat as they replenish leaflets and check that posters are still in date.
A Matter of Routine – Patsy Collins
2100 word Women's Fiction
There's not much scope for spontaneity in Philipa's life. Carl's meticulous planning and the children see to that, but the man in the coat offers an opportunity.
Philipa sighed. She was ready to take the kids swimming and as usual Carl was fussing. He checked opening times online, sorted the right coins for the parking meter and lockers. He'd already chosen where they'd eat afterwards and booked a table. It was a good choice of restaurant; Philipa could have a classy salad while the kids gorged on pepperoni pizza. It would be a fun day out and nothing was likely to go wrong, she should be grateful for her reliable husband and his meticulous planning. Should be.
A Nice Cup of Tea – Patsy Collins
After George died, Gladys stopped drinking tea. She didn't want to make it if her husband wasn't going to drink it. So why is she waiting for the kettle to boil?
Gladys waited for the kettle to boil and wished she were making tea for George. How many times had she boiled a kettle for him? Over sixty years ago she’d started doing it. At just seventeen, she’d been so noticeable and pretty, with long red hair, green eyes and freckles. She saw her reflection, distorted in the kettle’s round metal surface, distorted too by age. Her hair was all anonymous neat grey curls now, her freckles hidden amongst the age spots and wrinkles, her once bright eyes faded and cloudy. No one noticed her now.
A Piece of Pink Ribbon – Patsy Collins
Elle Meadows was used to the needs of the farm coming before anything she might want for herself so didn't get her hopes up when a florist's van pulled into their driveway. Lack of flowers she could cope with, but did the driver really need to call her 'mate'?
This story is included in the collection Up The Garden Path
Elle Meadows limped back towards the warmth of the farmhouse, clutching the piece of pink ribbon and trying not to cry. Was she being unreasonably selfish to hope for one small touch of luxury or comfort in her life? Normally she didn't mind the hard work, the dirt or the early mornings; she liked working on the farm. The sight of their cows grazing happily, a new litter of piglets being brought into the world or the hens roosting safely for the night always made her smile. She loved the scent of freshly made hay, fresh warm milk and the wood smoke from the range in the kitchen. Today though she felt that if she were to see one more muddy animal or smell the sweaty aroma from its damp back then she'd be ready to head for the city and apply for an office job.
A Proper Holiday – Patsy Collins
2000 words Women's Fiction
It wasn't as though Julia thought she wouldn't enjoy two weeks in Lanzarote, it was just that with Tim and the kids to look after it wouldn't be that much of a holiday for her.
“I’d like to have a proper holiday, just once,” I told staff nurse Linda Baines. “Well you deserve it, Julia. You’re the hardest working porter this hospital has. But I thought you were all going to Lanzarote next week?” “We are. Self-catering. By the time I’ve packed for all five of us, organised tickets, passports, cooked and cleaned for the whole fortnight, entertained the kids, then unpacked and done all the washing when we’ve got back I’m exhausted.” “You’re not looking forward to it then?” “I am really, it’s just not my idea of a real holiday. I even do all the driving because Tim likes to take a complete rest from all responsibility.”
A Question of Identity – Patsy Collins
1300 words Women's Fiction
Panic gripped Tracey. If she wasn't really there in the kitchen where was she? In the hell she deserved?
I can’t remember much about last night. I hear voices coming from the kitchen; my adoptive mother’s and another, deeper, voice snapping out questions. Flashes of last night’s activity burst into my skull. Brightly coloured drinks sipped from the bottle. Kissing and angry words. The blaze of headlights. Strident car horns claiming attention. Speed too. I remember incredible speed. Tyres squealing as rubber was left behind. It was loud, frantic, dangerously exciting. Then nothing. No noise, no movement, no thought. I don’t want to remember what the nothing was, best just to forget. And not drink. Not so much, not for a while at least.
A Real Winner – Patsy Collins
950 words Women's Fiction
Julia Colgan had been a loser from thirty-seven seconds after her birthday. That didn't mean she intended to stay that way forever.
Julia Colgan had always been a loser. It started thirty-seven seconds before her birth; Julia had the newspaper cuttings to prove it. ‘Local girl loses out,’ it said. Her mum had been expected to deliver the first baby at the newly opened maternity hospital. Local businesses had promised all kinds of birthday gifts for the first child; photographs by the portrait photographer, clothes, shoes and nappies from children's shops; bottles, sterilising fluid and rusks.
A Spy in our Midst – Patsy Collins
2100 words Women's Fiction
Luke's a wannabe spy and unwilling schoolboy. He knows Mrs Burton, a neighbour, was a spy. He suspected Old Ted Holmes was too. What he hadn't considered was that while he was keeping an eye on them, they were conducting a new mission of their own.
I can't remember who first told me Mrs Burton was a spy. I don't suppose anyone came right out and said it; I wouldn't have believed them if they had. She didn't look like a spy, but then you wouldn't be much of a spy if you did, would you? I didn't look like one either, but at fourteen I knew that's what I was destined for. I'd never missed an episode of Spooks and I'd watched every 007 dvd. I'd even read some of the books.
A Wish for Christmas – 20 Stories for the Holiday Season
Enjoy the festive season with a little cheer from Alfie Dog Fiction. Put your feet up and revel in all that is best of Christmas and New Year with 20 stories from authors across the globe. Stories range from the moving to the amusing, the romantic to the tussle of family life.
Add a little sparkle to your Christmas with A Wish for Christmas
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Read reviews HERE
Ad Lib – Patsy Collins
800 words Romance / Humour
Andy knows life isn't a rehersal. He wishes the same wasn't true of his romances with Jemima.
This story is included in the collection By My Side
Jemima ran her manicured hand through her fine, blonde hair and asked, “Will you marry me?” Andy almost dropped his script. He blinked and wondered if he'd heard her correctly. She moved along the sofa so she sat with her thigh touching his, took his hand in hers, looked into his eyes and whispered the words again, “Will you marry me?”
Adam’s First Case – Patsy Collins
Nine year old Adam, police deputy in training, has a very important task. As well as catching the burglar and keeping his parents' secret he must save the magic of Christmas.
Read the reviews HERE
Adam adjusted the focus of his binoculars. He’d promised community police officer PC Marks that he would carry out observations, because of the recent burglaries in the area. Adam is an unofficial deputy and in training for when he’s old enough to join the force. It was already dark outside, and Adam had been on stake-out since tea time. He could see people in the garden, but they weren’t burglars. It was his mum and dad. He went to see what they were doing.
Age Related Problems – Patsy Collins
1500 words Women's Fiction
Serena is either too young or too old for absolutely everything she wants to do and it just isn't fair!
"Don't be so childish, Serena," Mum snapped. I sulked. Yeah, I know sulking is childish too, but life wasn't fair and other than screaming and shouting, I couldn't think of anything else to do. Yesterday, I'd asked Mum if it was OK for me to stay out late on Friday night. I thought it was bound to be OK because I didn't have school the next day and I'd be going to a public place with a responsible adult. Any reasonable person would think it's OK for a thirteen year old girl to go to the pictures under such circumstances.
All Talk – Patsy Collins
1500 words Romance / Humour
Amy and I wanted to find Cara a nice man so she'd be as happy as us.
He had to be someone pretty special though.
This story is included in the Essence of Humour collection
“We need to find Cara a nice man,” Amy whispered at the dress fitting. “We've been trying for years, what makes you think we can do it now?” I asked. “She's seen how happy we both are and I think she's ready to settle down.” Cara swished back the curtain. “What do you think, Lucy?” “You look beautiful, but I knew you would.,” I told her. It was true, she'd been a beautiful bridesmaid at Amy's wedding and would do the same for me next month. We'd made a pact to be bridesmaids at each other's weddings. Technically Amy will be my matron of honour, but you don't think of things like that when you're nine.
Always Read the Label – Patsy Collins
700 words Women's Fiction / Humour
The dress wasn't the sort of thing Deborah would usually buy, but there was something about it, or rather its label, that made her have to own it.
Deborah read the label on her ‘sun-kissed’ foundation. All she need do was smooth it on for flawlessly finished skin, glowing with radiant health. She tried. The result wasn’t exactly like the complexion of the model from the TV ad, but it did cover the spot on her chin.
An Amazing Life – Patsy Collins
All Dylis had to entertain her as she waited for the bus were a pigeon and her memories. That proved more than enough.
Dylis's watch had stopped so she wasn't sure if she was late for one bus or early for the next. A bit of both she decided as she was the only one there. With no commuters to watch and wonder about, she looked around her at the bus shelter. That didn't take long as it was just the standard roof over three plastic seats. The graffiti had been scoured away leaving a scratched smear, more unsightly than the words that were there before, and a vacancy the writer would no doubt feel obliged to fill on his next visit. The timetable was valueless without a watch to compare it to, even if she'd been able to make out the tiny numbers through the blobs of gum.
Are You Tough Enough? – Patsy Collins
1900 word Teen / Women's Fiction
Jack's fed up with being treated like a kid by Mum. It's not fair, especially as he's going to be a Marine. Granddad shows him he's been fighting the wrong battle.
I come in from school and head to my room. “Jack, I want a word with you,” Mum calls as I’m halfway up the stairs. “I’ll be there in a minute, Mum,” I reply. I wonder what she wants now. Maybe I’ve got time for a quick drag before I get my ears bent. Now where did I hide my cigarettes? “Now, Jack.” She doesn’t sound happy, but then she’s often not happy with me. Always having a go or nagging about something.
Big Loser – Patsy Collins
2270 words Feel Good
Del had a look on his face that suggested he had good news and wanted to share it. He wasn't the only one.
I almost walked into a lamp post when I realised who it was that Del reminded me of. You'd be surprised too if you were a twenty something girl who'd just recognised yourself in her retired male neighbour who sported the craziest moustache outside of Cuba. I don't mean we look alike; I'm as pale as he is dark. He's a good foot taller and several stones lighter. Yeah, you've got it - he's fit and I'm fat.
Blue Mondays – Patsy Collins
1000 word Women's Fiction
Marie needed an escape from her difficulties. She found one, but felt guilty and didn't think her family would understand or approve.
Most people look forward to the weekend. Marie didn't; she looked forward to a few stolen hours on Monday afternoons. Weekends were spent with her children and husband. It’s not that she didn’t love them; she did. She enjoyed being with them, but it was very tiring. Her whole life was tiring from when she lit the range in the morning to when she shut up the chickens at night. If it were just hard work she wouldn’t have minded. She was fit and healthy; she could cope with work. It was her mind that was tired, her heart, her soul. Everything that was Marie was tired.