Nancy's Notes From Florida

Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Creatures and Story Creation

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 8, 2016

Writers can spin stories out of thin air. Yes, it’s true. We grab ideas out of the effluvia around us. Soon we’re building a novel. The characters gel, and the setting takes on detail. And then we’re off, pounding at the keyboard, the fervor of creation keeping us in its grip.

Let me give you a demonstration.

The other day, my husband and I enjoyed a sunny afternoon at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray. Florida may have changeable weather in the winter, but we have no snow, sunny skies, and colorful flowers.

Bougainvillea Flowers ElDorado

Birds fly down here in the colder months to share space with ducks and turtles that grace our neighborhoods.

Bird2  Geese Roadblock3 IMG_1974IMG_1962

We also have a variety of critters we’d rather not meet up close and personal. Witness this guy we observed during our visit to Morikami.

IMG_1964 IMG_1973

Here he is enjoying a meal. Thank goodness iguanas eat plants and not people.


Places like Morikami remind me of why I became a writer. When I sit on a bench and gaze at a lake or tread upon dead leaves through the forest, I let my imagination soar to other worlds. And so here we go with an example of how easy it is for a writer to start a story under any circumstances. We are walking along a wooded trail surrounded by tall trees and leafy foliage.

IMG_1972 P1020368 (800x600)

Mystery: I’m a tour guide/curator/director leading a group through a botanical garden. Our continued funding depends upon the success of this excursion as does my job security. All is going well until one of our party goes missing and later turns up dead…murdered. Whodunit? Is it the real estate magnate who covets the property to turn into condos? The chief curator at a rival attraction? A meandering spouse who saw the tour as a good opportunity to make his partner disappear? A politician whose stance on public safety will lift his status on the campaign trail? The mystery deepens as I begin my investigation and learn that each person in the group has a secret to hide.

Romance: I’m sitting on the park bench when a cute guy sits beside me. He wears a camera with a big lens around his neck. With a sexy grin, he peers over my shoulder and asks what I am sketching. We get to talking. I love the dimples that crease his cheeks when he smiles. But I’m dismayed when he tells me he’s the photographer assigned to the article I’m writing. Oh, no. How will I keep my professional distance when all I can think about is jumping his bones?

Horror: Patrons have vanished from the trail around the lake. Other guests have reported hearing strange noises in the brush and glimpsing a reptilian tail. But my friends think it’ll be a hoot to stay here overnight. We’re all drinking and having fun after dark until Ada is pulled screaming into a clump of trees. No one sees what grabbed her, but she’s totally gone except for the blood. We pack to leave and go to call for help, but our cell phones have no service and the road is closed due to flooding ahead. We’re trapped there….

Science Fiction: With my laser weapon strapped to my hip, I patrol the woods. My acute sense of smell tells me the creature is near. Anticipating the bounty for my catch, I track its life form on my portable viewer. My client will pay a bonus if I capture the specimen alive. All I have to do is net the prickly ardtrunk and transport us both to my flier.

Fantasy: I halted at the Japanese rock garden, admiring the combed gravel. At the far end, a pair of white stone statues guarded the display of Bonsai plants. A sense of peace washed over me as I stared at the small, glittering stones on the ground. They’d been raked recently, with a spiral pattern leading one into the other like a miniature maze. I’d been drawn to this place, never realizing the oasis sat just outside the city beyond the Fae Woodlands. I glanced to my right, where the air under a painted red archway seemed to shimmer. My heart raced as I approached. I could no more stop my feet from stepping across the threshold than I could stop my breathing. And that’s when the world tilted….

YA Fantasy: Oh Gawd, why’d my parents have to bring me to this boring place? They might enjoy the trees and plants, but nature isn’t my thing. Give me my cell phone and a Diet Coke, and I’m a happy sixteen-year-old. I took out my cell phone to text Marlene and tell her what Randy had said to me in math class, but the dang thing wouldn’t connect. “Hey, Ma,” I yelled, glancing up. “When are we leaving already?” Oh great, I couldn’t see my folks anywhere in this freakin’ garden. They must have gone up ahead. Wait, that hedge hadn’t been there a moment ago. And where did that weirdo come from? The short little guy stood staring at me as though I had come from Mars.

Isn’t this fun? Which story do you like?

As you can see, storytelling is in my blood. I can’t stop playing the “What If?” game. Where do you go for inspiration?


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98 Responses to “Creatures and Story Creation”

  1. sknicholls said

    I liked them all. And you’re right. They never stop formulating in our minds. It becomes a challenge to focus.

  2. Nancy, I marvel at your variety. It makes me feel as though I’m in a rut. Jan

  3. Tena said

    Enjoyed your article. Interesting how our minds work, isn’t it? For me stories form from the strangest things, Take for instance my debut novel A Demon’s Witch, I was getting my hair cut, we were discussing old songs and politicians in Washington DC. From that came a Demon Overlord, that kept his finger on the pulse of movers and shakes in DC from a hair salon he owned. He fell for a powerful witch who breezed in and just happened to be the little sister of his enforcer. Talk about trouble. LOL

  4. I agree with you, Nancy. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Great Post!

  5. sallycootie said

    I love the pictures of Florida – except the iguana. Yikes.

  6. Bonnie Capuano said

    I love in Florida and loved seeing the pictures of “home”. Thank goodness I haven’t seen any iguanas here in our little town though!!!

  7. Robbie Bauldree said

    Enjoyed your blog about you and your husband. Its always nice to have a nice relaxing day with someone you love.

  8. Love your pictures…..even the iguanas. However would prefer only
    to see the iguana pics not get close enough to take the pic.
    Enjoyed your blog. Thanks for all the insights.

  9. Deborah D said

    it is neat to learn where different authors get their inspirations for writing their books.

  10. Sheila Golding said

    I love how your mind works

  11. Jo Anne Vincenti said

    I find inspiration from everywhere — depends on what I need or want. Love the stories.

  12. Lily said

    Your pictures are absolutely beautiful. Sorry to go off topic a bit, but it was refreshing to see considering we are still having snow where I am! The flowers are all so pretty! Thank you for sharing.

  13. Rita Wray said

    Love the pictures.

  14. Lovely pictures. I love romance. Sometimes when I’m reading, I get ideas of my own. Scenes pop up on my head and conversations.

  15. Anne said

    What wonderful photos. Lucky you. best wishes.

  16. I love the mystery! I always enjoy reading and guessing who the killer is or what’s happening in the mystery!

  17. witchywoman18618 said


  18. Debbie Carney (Carnes) said

    I live in Florida also, enjoyed your pictures and loving this nice cool weather 🙂 Love your books

  19. sandybar57 said

    I like the mystery and romance ones best. Thank you for sharing Tia with us!

  20. Marilyn said

    Thank You for the great Valentine’s giveaway.

  21. Nancy said

    They all have possibilities but the fantasy blurb drew me in and left me wanting more.

  22. Diana Tidlund said

    I love your writing style and have read you for years now. Love romance the most but I love the little bit of mystery thrown in too…

  23. Peggy said

    Your pictures are beautiful … I love the wildlife. Thank you for sharing m.

  24. JeanMP said

    It was nice seeing your pictures, it is cold and snowy where I am right now, counting the days until our vacation to Florida later this year.

  25. Donna _A said

    Cold and miserable here in Georgia. I find inspiration in the little things. A sparrow at the bird feeder my cat in the window a sunrise.

  26. Alta Roberts said

    Imagine the books you could sell if you wrote and published in the other genres. 🙂 But don’t please as would take your time away from writing Bad Hair books.

  27. Kathleen Costa said

    I enjoy your “cozy” series, but am always interested in how a fav author would be in another genre…

  28. ktbeeblog said

    I’m an easy book reader of low character; I’m not cheap, but I can be lured away into a YA fantasy world, zapped by a thriller or just flirting with a romance, then suddenly, I’m all-in. Next thing you know, I’m off in a sci-Fi fling. (And that’s as a reader!)

  29. The photos are impressive (as are your written works)! Congrats on the Readers Choice nomination/award. I was privileged to read and review an ARC of Peril by Ponytail and loved it.

  30. Dina said

    my daughter used to have an iguana, lived a long time

  31. Tanja Dancy said

    I love your pictures. They are so beautiful and colorful. Very uplifting. And your stories are pretty cool too.

  32. rhianona said

    I love visiting botanical gardens or nature centers or bayous or the woods for many of the reasons you listed. There is something incredibly soothing and extraordinary about it all.

  33. Jackie Wisherd said

    Enjoyed the photos and iguana video. I like the Mystery idea for storytelling.

  34. I loved the photos. I really enjoyed the iguana video (and photos). I’ve never seen, or even imagined, one that large. I was captivated. I had forgotten what fun it was to just let my mind plot…thank you for reminding me of the joys in everyday life.

  35. The mystery is fun, but I love them all. Iguanas are HUGE!!

  36. belindaj57 said

    Thanks so much for sharing the beautiful pictures, I enjoyed looking at them. Appreciate you taking the time to visit with your readers and bringing your books to life for us~

  37. laurieg72 said

    I enjoyed your pictures. I’ve never seen an iguana. We smelled orange blossoms on our walk yesterday. Spring will be returning soon. Chilly mornings!

  38. I enjoyed reading your posts. Your pictures explain why you have so much inspiration.

  39. Carol Peace said

    Fabulous pictures and very interesting posts.

  40. elainehroberson said

    I like your posts and looking at the great pictures you share.

  41. Michelle F. said

    Nice pictures. I went to a conservatory once in Columbus and liked it. A few years later I went to another conservatory in Indianapolis but it wasn’t as big so I was a bit disappointed thinking “where’s the rest of it?”

  42. I love the pics that you post. Also I like the cozy mysteries also love the ones you write not fantasy or science fiction those are the books that i don’t like.

  43. Lee Mckeon said

    Wow looks like a amazing place to visit in Delray! I Miss Florida everyday!

  44. Denise Van Plew said

    Great reading and group of pics

  45. You are AMAZING, Nancy … I’m teaching a workshop at Sleuthfest on mining your real life for fiction, and I’ll definitely link to this blog as one of the resources. I’ve rarely seen such good, concrete examples of how inspiration can strike — and, what kind of stories can result, because that’s the rub, isn’t it? Lots of people get good ideas; not many can turn them into actual stories. BTW, my first pick is the mystery (of course!), and I also like the YA example.

  46. Sunnymay said

    I see you have plenty of birds in your pics. Having gone on bird walks as a teen and hiker here in Ohio, do you go on bird walks, too? We have some birds that are hardy and overwinter.

  47. Patricia K said

    I love the flowers

  48. kayekillgore said

    I really liked the mystery….and the fantasy, But I’ll have nightmares about the size of that iguana.

  49. jenniferdarlington said

    Love, love, love this post! What a great idea for a writing exercise! Thank you!

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