by Heidi Tyline King

I hesitate to give away my treasure trove of ideas, but let’s be honest: There are more people dead than alive, meaning that there are plenty of obituaries—and people who led insanely interesting lives—for all of us writers to mine for stories. Obituaries are mini biographies readymade for children’s nonfiction picture book writers. I began reading obituaries for fun but they have become integral to my writing process.

First, they’re great sources of inspiration for good writing. When I get stuck on how to mark time quickly or what phrase to use as a transition between unrelated life events in a story, I spend time reading obits for examples. They’re also ideal for helping writers identify a singular event to chronicle in a life. You don’t always have to write a birth-to-grave story; consider the life of Katherine Johnson, the mathematician whose work for NASA became the central narrative for the popular book, Hidden Figures. Papers like The Guardian or The New York Times are filled with obituaries exuding strong writing and examples of how to distill a life down to its essence in a few hundred words or less.

I also turn to obituaries for motivation. I am full of self-doubt and “poor me”s, especially when my writing gets stuck. In the name of “research,” I’ll pull up my file of obituaries and begin reading about the ordinary people in the world who did extraordinary things—despite advanced age, disabilities, or a lack of education and resources. Their stories and ability to overcome keep me going.

And then there’s the most obvious reason for reading obituaries: subject matter. I am currently finishing my second children’s book on John Bonner Buck, an expert on firefly research and bioluminescence, whose obituary I clipped way back in 2005. Buck’s life’s work centered around a question that I believe all children ask: Why do fireflies flash? My book explains how Buck found the answer and went on to become a preeminent scientist in the field of bioluminescence.

To make the most of obituaries in your work, I suggest the following:

1.     Scan obituaries for compelling characters.
I skip the celebrities and look for people that I haven’t heard about, people who made notable achievements in a particular field of study, worked behind the scenes on a well-known event, or devised a new way of doing things. Don’t forget to delve into the archives for the forgotten stories of people who deserve to be known.

2.     Set Google Alerts to narrow interests.
Sifting through obituaries is one way to find interesting subject matter. Another is to set a Google Alert and have the search engine curate content for you. You’ll get obituaries delivered to your inbox about people working in fields that are of most interest to you. Every now and then, you’ll get a gem that you would have never sniffed out on your own.

3.     Branch out and look for other sources.
Once you’ve identified a person to consider writing about, do a quick search for other sources to learn more about their contributions. Obituaries in other publications and articles about their work help you compile research to consult when you’re ready to write and help you build a stronger story. For example, I ran across an article about Buck describing him as a “scientist’s scientist.” The idea that he loved process and the practice of science became an underlying subtheme in my book.

4.     Discover secondary themes.
Speaking of subthemes, a good biography has several running through throughout. In my latest picture book, SAVING AMERICAN BEACH: The Biography of African American Environmentalist MaVynee Betsch, the story centers on her activism to save a beach, but it’s the subthemes of music, environmentalism, discrimination and racism, and resilience that carry the story.

5.     Write in the genre that’s most comfortable to you.
Above all, obituaries are simply sources of inspiration. I have a degree in journalism so writing nonfiction is what I’m best at doing. But obituaries can inspire writing in genres from poetry to science fiction.

The next time you’re struggling with characters, plot, motivation, and writing succinctly, take a break and scan the day’s fresh batch of obituaries or leaf back through your file for ideas. There are people whose stories are waiting to—and worthy of—being told.

Heidi Tyline King writes nonfiction picture books from her home in Tallahassee, Florida. Follow her on Instagram @heiditylineking and visit her at

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Inspiration can come from very unexpected places! Thanks!

Heidi, interesting! Congratulations on your books. I’ve always wondered about fireflies.
Gail Hartman

Wow! Interesting. I will definitely save your post just in case I ever decide to write non-fiction. Thanks for giving up one of your secrets:) Best wishes.

Great tip! Love PB bios.

Now this one I did not think of! Thanks for the idea!

What a great idea! Would never have thought to do this!

I’ll admit I never considered this, and never knew you could set up Google alerts to search topics for you! I learned a ton this morning. Thanks for sharing your methods with us!

Well that was advice I never expected to read, but it makes so much sense. And then to realize we can use Google to help us do the reading, as opposed to a physical paper, makes the advice even more practical. Thank you!

This is one idea source I haven’t really heard before, how interesting!

Wow! That is something I’d never have thought of. Thanks for the tip!

Obits! Who woulda thought? That is so interesting, and just shows that you can get inspiration from literally anywhere!

I never thought about using obituaries. Great idea!

Great idea! I’ll have to see if any ghosts will whisper ideas to me today

Thank you for sharing this interesting process and novel suggestion!

Super idea. Thanks.

An amazing approach to searching for golden PB ideas. I would never have thought of doing this. Thank you!

I would love to write a nonfiction picture book, but the thought intimidates me. I think looking through obituaries is a clever idea for inspiration. Thanks!

I have to admit, I’d never have thought about reading obits for writing inspiration. You’ve given me something new to try. Thank you for sharing.

I can honestly say I’ve not heard this idea before, and will have to try it out! Thank you, Heidi!

Proof positive that story ideas can come from anywhere. Sounds like I need to mine my own journalism degree for more fodder! Never realized it could be so versatile and lend itself to so many different types of writing. Also, before reading this post, the concept of subthemes never even entered my head. Thank you, Heidi, for all of these wonderful gems.

I never would have thought of using obits as inspiration. What a clever idea, both for writing style and content. Thanks for letting us in on your secret!

Thank you for sharing your unique, inspirational source for writing, Heidi. Lots of brainstorming opportunities to investigate today!

I never thought about this. I love reading the obits. I will look at them with fresh eyes from now on!

Thanks for suggesting this interesting way to build characters!

Great tip! I enjoyed reading the book along with you on YouTube.

Fascinating idea! Thanks for sharing it, Heidi, along with your specific suggestions.

I have always found obits fascinating as well, but haven’t gotten a newspaper in a long time and haven’t thought about just using the internet to keep reading them. Thanks for the reminder and suggestions!

Wow! Definitely a new idea here! Thanks Heidi; )

Heidi, you’ve spotlighted quite a fresh method for reviving & enliven someone’s LIFE story!
Thanks so much for sharing your process.

Fantastic! I love writing biographies, too. So many fascinating people in the world.

Love this post–totally new ways, for me, to even think about getting ideas!

I’ve used obituaries in my genealogy in the past so I can see how they would be useful to generate topics for writing.

Thank you for this article Heidi. It was an eye opener for me. Very interesting and unexpectant. Congratulations on your book.

Your title took me by surprise. Excellent tips. Thank you.

This story looks gorgeous! And what a unique idea, not just to read obits for inspiration but for a master class in summarizing and transitioning. Love it.

Thanks for the unique idea, Heidi!

What a terrific idea! Love it -thanks for sharing.

I am very intrigued by this. Well-written obituaries are so elevating and grounding at the same time. I don’t think I had “setting a Google alert for obituaries” on my bingo card for this week, but it might be something that happens. Thanks

Thanks for the idea! How interesting; never would have thought of this!

I’ve used news articles for ideas for fiction or for names but have never thought about using obituaries which could also give ideas for fiction stories. Thank you for the tip!

Your new book looks beautiful, Heidi. And thanks for sharing other ways you use obits. I never read them–I’ve been missing out!

Absolutely! I especially love the NYT end-of-year round-up of less well known figures who have had tremendous impact.
Thank you for sharing your inspiration.

I have used news articles for fiction ideas but never thought about obituaries— thanks for the tips!

Wow, a great inspiration. Thanks so much Heidi.

My first journalism job out of college was a newspaper obit reporter. Maybe that’s why I don’t read the obits now but you’re convincing me that I should. Great advice in this post. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks, Heidi. I love writing bios of lesser known folks and this is a great way to discover them!!

Brilliant! And The NY Times started Overlooked Obits to add women and people of color who have been overlooked.

What a great resource. Thanks Heidi and congrats.

Never thought about scanning obits! Thanks for sharing

Excellent post! My next PB bio, THE TOWER OF LIFE, is also based on an obituary I read in 2016 about Holocaust survivor and historian Yaffa Eliach, who built the Tower of Life in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. When I read her story about hope and resilience in the face of unbearable tragedy, I couldn’t put it down. You capture beautifully how reading obits can draw you into the lives of remarkable people. Can’t wait to read your books!

Saving American Beach was one of my favorite picture books of 2021! Love this idea for sparking ideas and honoring people others may not have heard of.

Wow! This is a great post! Thank you!

Golly, what n innovative idea. There are so many interesting people out there who are not celebrities. I will try the Google alert.

I feel like I learned things I didn’t even know were things. Thank you for this Heidi! Mind broadened!

Interesting idea! Thanks for sharing!

Very interesting, Heidi. So many things you can learn from obituaries. Who knew?

Very interesting, Heidi. Who knew everything you can learn from obituaries.

I’ve never thought of obituaries quite this way before!

Love this advice! Thank you for sharing!

I’ve saved a few obituaries as well. Time to take another look at them. Thanks, Heidi!

Eyes open. Looking for inspiration.

Great post with concrete examples. I love to listen to the tv obits on Willie Geist’s Sunday show called ” A Life Well-lived.” Fascinating stories! Love this tip,” When I get stuck on how to mark time quickly or what phrase to use as a transition between unrelated life events in a story, I spend time reading obits for examples.” TY, Heidi.

Thank you for pointing us to a great source of inspiration. What a way to honor someone’s life too!

What an extraordinary idea! Thanks for sharing.

I love to see a good story rise from the dead! thanks so much for sharing the inspiration! Best, LM

What a smart idea! Thank you for your insights!

Good idea because everyone has a story. Thanks for that reminder and inspiration.

I’ve used obituaries for years to find interesting names! I never thought (or even knew) about Google Alerts for people in different subjects I like to write about. Thanks for the tip!

Thanks for your unique post! Regular people DO lead fascinating lives. Never considered scanning obits for story ideas!

I love reading the obituaries. Thanks for the nudge to apply that interest to PBs!

I love your book Saving American Beach and your obituary mining is a fascinating idea. I used to have my students write an obituary for Charlotte after we finished reading Charlotte’s Web, but I never thought about using them as inspiration. Thanks!

That is a novel approach! Thanks so much for the idea. I know this sounds weird by my office is by a cemetery and walking through it is a great way to understand the community I live in and get naked for story ideas!

Heidi suggests an idea source that I have kways been drawn to naturally. I alwys check the obutuaries in local publications but never really considered them a source for children’s books. Her own writing provides great inspiration. I plan to read both and to explore obituaries with a new purpose! Thank you!

Wow! What a unique idea. And useful. I’ll be looking at obits in the future! Thank You!

I appreciate how you lay out not just the spark, but a process around it. Very valuable. Thank you!

I too have found obituaries very interesting. Another source- old City directories. Ones from the 1900’s list the names on a street, with occupations as well. I like to imagine how these Neighbor’s interacted with each other .

This is a great idea. I’m going to Google Obituary and start my collection of inspiring people.

Thank you for the ideas and tips, Heidi. I can see that reading through the succinct language of obituaries would also be helpful for fictional stories as well.

An awesome concept! And what a great way to use a google search!

I’ve been researching my family tree and have used obituaries to lead to additional relatives. Never thought to use them to find pb ideas. Thank you for opening my eyes!

What a unique idea! Can’t wait to start reading obituaries!

What an interesting idea! I would have never considered obituaries as sources of inspiration.

I think reading them can also help you to be reflective of your own life, and also be grateful for the privilege of your own life, too.


Thanks Heidi for the unique inspiration! Wow!!!

In addition to this wonderful source for biographies thank you for including the idea of using well-written obituaries as a means for improving our writing, in any genre!

Heidi, I chuckled when I read your suggestion because my family makes fun of me for reading obits. But, I love reading about the lives of others. I’ve never thought of using them for story ideas . . . until now! Thanks!

This is such a cool idea. Thanks for the inspiration!

As a family historian, obits speak to me but I hadn’t considered it for PBs. TY!

Thank you Heidi!

Thanks for your post today. As a lifelong tadophile, I’ve found many “stories” in the cemeteries I haunt. (I’ve got at least one in the “rough draft” stage.) Thank goodness for people who leave the stories for us to read.

Thank you, Heidi!

Thanks, what a great idea.

I would have never thought to look at obituaries for inspiration. Genius, Heidi! Thanks for showcasing unsung heroes of the community.

This creative technique is to die for! Thanks for the tip Heidi.

Heidi, this is genius! Thank you for sharing.

Obituaries are also sources of interesting character names. I also love genealogy — including finding interesting details in obits of my ancestors!

This is certainly an interesting post. I would of never thought to check obits for PB stories.

Well that’s something I never expected to read today! Just goes to show we can find inspiration in the unlikeliest of places. And as for setting Google alerts to do some of the research for you, that’s amazing! (I didn’t even know we could set our own Google alerts so that’s great to know). Thanks Heidi!

A friend way back suggested obits for short story ideas. As PB fodder is something new.

I read the obituaries every day. They are full of everyday lives that have interesting tidbits of information. I’ll be looking at them through a different lens now! Thanks for a great idea!

Obits–I’ve honestly never considered sourcing ideas from obits! Thanks for your encouragement to “color outside the lines” for inspirational stories Heidi!

Thanks for the idea, I’ve never thought to look at obits that way.

I love obits and funerals when I did not know the person even everyday people. Everyone does something unique, interesting or special. Its unfortunate that often we do not celebrate it until they are dead. I never thought of it as a great launching point but of course! Makes sense, love it.

This was an interesting idea. I have used headstones for unusual names for a character but didn’t know about reading the obits for info of lives. Thank you

Certainly a unique way to gather ideas! Thank you!

Such an interesting idea, Heidi. It reminds me that I read an obituary recently and learned about something I’d never heard of before. It’s going on my list for today’s pb idea! Thank you!

Interesting! I never would have thought of looking at obituaries for inspiration. Great tip on google alerts – thank you!

I love to read obituaries! Will now will read for inspiration also. Great idea, thanks so much for sharing.

I loved your advice about looking for subthemes. SAVING AMERICAN BEACH sounds like an amazing example of this!

Very interesting resource. Among my favorites are the well written obituaries listed in The Economist. Annie Guerra

What a fascinating idea! All of your books sound interesting as I love reading about who invented something or the why behind something, as I’m sure children do as well! Thank you for sharing your inspiration!

Thanks, Heidi! reading obits is such a great idea, and I love the idea of telling stories of people whose stories might otherwise go untold. Who’s to say that a picture book can’t be based on someone no one has heard of (at least no one beyond the person’s family) but who lived an extraordinary life? And extraordinary doesn’t even have to be huge accomplishments – even just simple things can sometimes be turned into stories for readers of all ages!

Very unusual.
Thank you for sharing.

I agree. Obituaries are often interesting sources of inspiration, and sometimes (surprisingly) even humor.

You’ve got me thinking about the fascinating people in my own family that have gone before. So far, I’ve only named fictional characters after them. But what about using more of their story? Thank you.

Thanks, Heidi! I’m so glad this treasure trove didn’t stay buried.

Thank you! Ready to search.

Thanks for so many concrete suggestions! I will try them!

Simple but useful advice. It’s an interesting way to start thinking about the legacy they left behind and what the details of their story may have been while they were living.

These past nine months I’ve been on contract for a hospice provider to interview their clients. Sometimes the conversations need the assistance of a health aid, but mostly not. I’ve yet to have the distance to integrate the experience, which as been profound.

Great ideas! Thanks for sharing and congrats!

These past nine months i’ve been on contract with a hospice care provider to interview their clients. Sometimes the interviews require the assistance of a health aid-sometimes not. I’ve yet to have the distance to integrate the experience.

I have always been fascinated by obituaries and the stories in them. I never thought to use them as inspiration for children’s books. Great idea!

Heidi, I’ve heard this advice before, scan the obituaries for ideas, but it never made a lot of sense to me until I read this post. Finally, I get it! Thanks.

Love it! Thanks!

Wow! What a great idea. Thank you so much.

Interesting idea and not somewhere I would think of looking to spark creative juices!

I would of never thought about looking through obituaries for inspiration. Thanks for the tip!

Loved this post. I never would have thought of this approach but it makes sense!

Reading obits can also provide a motivational “Memento Mori” that can help combat procrastination. Great post, Heidi.

This just goes to show us that ideas are never dead! Long live our ideas!

Mining obits for story ideas and people to write about– wow! Thanks for sharing!

Heidi – what an interesting idea! I knew inspiration could come from anywhere but never considered this. There are so many folks that had wonderful stories – obituaries are a gold mine! Thanks for sharing.

Now that’s an idea that had never crossed my mind! Reading obituaries for fun….inspiration in unexpected places, for sure!!

Thank you for sharing!

What an interesting post! Thanks for giving us new things to think about.

Well said. I wrote obits for my local newspaper for years; inside each one was a story waiting to be told…community involvement, accomplishments, family history. Thank you Heidi.

This is wonderful – thank you!
Johanna Peyton

Great idea. The bios await us! Thanks.

I’ve always been intrigued be reading obits as well, and find them to be such a wealth of information and inspiration, but had never thought of setting a Google Alert – thank you for such a great tip!

What a wonderful idea! And I like that obituaries are a reminder of ordinary people impacting the world. Thank you.

Wow!! How interesting!! I would never think of looking at the obits for pb material!! I think you’ve really got something here. Thank you SO much!!!

I find obituaries fascinating. There are so many people who have done wonderful things that we have never heard of!

Very interesting way to get ideas. I bet you could find some inspiring word choices on tombstones.

Interesting idea … I would never have thought of that!

What a great resource. I would never have thought of that one! Thank you.

As I leaf through research on trees, I find interesting tidbits about trees in cemeteries. 🙂 Thanks for the prompt to set my Google Alerts.

I have to say this is the most odd idea generator for children’s books I have read. I do not mean that in any offensive way, just that I would never have thought of it.
It makes sense though sense we often want our achievements to be remembered, it is just sad that there are so many who do such wonderful things that we don’t recognize until after they are gone.

What a great idea to find inspiration from an unlikely place

So many times I hear of someone’s interesting life, lived in obscurity, and want to share it. Great post.

Great advice, Heidi! Thanks for the inspiration. I’m getting the obit section from today’s paper right now to see what I can find.

I love this idea!

Wow, Heidi, what a fascinating source for new ideas. Talk about authenticity! I’m on this…

Very interesting place to look for story ideas, but I will give it a try. Thanks, Heidi.

This post was a total surprise, imagine getting inspiration from such an unexpected place.

Well, I never considered this and I’ll give it a try! Thank you.

What a great directory of life’s challenges and triumphs: obituaries, if we only look. Thank you for sharing your secret, Heidi. SAVING AMERICAN BEACH looks gorgeous.

I have always been one of those people who reads everything- cereal boxes, store flyers and, yes, I have even been reading obituaries since I was a child. I find the life stories of the unknown people there fascinating and have often wondered about their lives. Making the link to writing nonfiction biographies is interesting. I’ve usually written fiction, sometimes influenced by real people who I’ve known, but biographies…hmmmm? Something to investigate!

Google alerts! I didn’t know it existed, but I’m going to check it out. Thank you for some great suggestions.

Whoa, definitely a new idea to me! I like it!

What a great way to search for ideas. Thanks for your post.

You have given a lot of food for thought. Thank you.

Thanks for the unique suggestion!

Great idea to use Google algorithms for find what we want. I love reading biographies. Hadn’t considered writing them. Now I will. Thank you.

Thank you Heidi😊

I doubt I would have ever thought of scanning obituaries for story ideas.

I love reading obituaries! Such a great historical research. Thanks for a great post!

At first I thought your idea was too macabre. On second thought I decided why not search every avenue of information. Thanks!

What an interesting way to find ideas! I believe I will be doing some obituary research in the near future. Thank you for sharing!

Two true gems in this post — the obits and the multiple themes. Thanks so much!

What an interesting idea! I believe I will be reading some obituaries in the near future. Thanks for sharing!

I’m amazed that this resource can help with children’s books but I know some people look up old friends or people that touched their lives or the lives of others this way.

Great tips, I love how it can work for all genres!

Such a novel approach to inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

Wow, your source of inspiration surprised me! As I read your post, I thought how brilliant of you to glean story and character ideas from the lives of those living everyday lives while doing incredible things. These daily clips are truly mini-biographies for fodder. Thank you, Heidi, for your unique method of brainstorming. I’ll give it a try! Sending you encouragement and energy for your continued success…

Thanks for sharing your secrets! The best part of your post for me is the depth of your advice.

A unique idea that I would never have thought of. Thanks for the inspiration this morning!

Interesting ideas, thank you!

Thank you, Heidi! I never thought to look to obituaries, but you’ve shown that it does make a lot of sense! There are a lot of ideas and inspiration to be discovered. I am encouraged to give it a try and see what I find!! Xox Jen

Brilliant idea! Ordinary people are doing extraordinary things daily! Thanks for your post!

How interesting!

Thanks for this great advice! I’ve been dying for some new ideas. 😉

What an unexpected and clever approach to finding inspiration! Thank you!

Oh, what a great tip. Thanks for sharing!

I have been doing this with headstones in cemeteries, but your idea is better!

Wow! I would never have thought to look through obituaries!

Everyone has such interesting ways of finding ideas! I love hearing about yours – thank you for sharing!

What a wonderful idea. Thanks for the great advice. Congrats on your newest book.

What an interesting source of inspiration. Thank you for the idea!

Heidi, “Why didn’t I think of that?” I found a wonderful obituary about a historical character I’ve written about but never thought to look for obituaries of others. Thank you for turning on the light!

Some obituaries are pure works of art. Some are laugh-out-loud funny. They are, like social columns, a bit of history. Thanks for this wonderful post, Heidi!

Super idea on finding story ideas in the obits, Heidi! Never thought to do that. Thank you for sharing!

I get frustrated with a lot of obituaries because they spend more time listing survivors than telling about the person’s life. I want to know more.

Thank you, Heidi, for sharing a writing resource that I had not considered before, the obituaries. What a treasure trove.

Obits are fascinating! Brilliant idea to mine them for character and story inspiration. Thanks so much for sharing that and the Google search idea as well! Great post!

Obits (and gravestones) inspire me for sure, but your tips on how to turn these into stories is brilliant. Thanks!

Oh, what a fun and interesting way to gain new ideas! Any time I go to a funeral or memorial service and I hear more about the person’s life, I am always amazed and wish I had been able to know them more when they were alive! Fascinating! Thank you for sharing!

What a fresh approach to story hunting!!

That is one area of inspiration I would have never thought about. Congrats on your book, Heidi!

I’m off to dig through some obituaries now! Thanks for an inspirational post!

Thanks Heidi! A great reminder to keep my eyes, ears and mind open to ideas coming from unexpected sources!

Thanks for the idea.

What a great idea! Thank you for sharing and congratulations on your book.

I’m completely floored by this idea and can imagine how it could also inform character development outside of biographies. So great! Thank you for sharing.

I love reading the obits and have for years. Yes, truly inspiring people can be detailed in a few hundred words.

Congratulations on your new book, Heidi. What a novel idea to check the obituaries. Thanks for sharing.

How timely! I just printed an interesting obit this morning! But I wasn’t thinking of it in all the same ways, so now I have a broader perspective on how to use it. Thank you!

Great tips, thanks! What an interesting way to find out-of-the-ordinary ideas. Congratulations on your new book!

Heidi- I am also an obit reader. For many reasons – mostly for the characters. Great post’

This is such a unique take! Really appreciate the tips!

As a former journalist, my hat is off to you. This is such a smart idea!!

Fascinating idea! Helpful for us fiction writers, too.

This is a great way to share the lives of those whose accomplishments and contributions may have been overlooked.

How have I never thought of this? Thanks for giving away your gem!

Fascinating source for inspiration, thanks for sharing.

This is a great way to find subjects that are obscure along with unknown people. Nice tip.

HEIDI: I LOVE this unique form of generating story ideas! I have always been FASCINATED by the hidden GEMS of everyday, ordinary people I have found by reading obits. TRULY A TREASURE TROVE! You are SO RIGHT: “There are people whose stories are waiting to—and worthy of—being told.”
This is why I am SO PASSIONATE about writing picture book bios. It is SO IMPORTANT to show kids that we ALL have a story to share.

Heidi, I have to admit this is one place I have not mined for story ideas. Interesting, though. I think it might be a great rabbit-hole for those yucky, rainy, winter days when inspiration can wane. Thank you so much.

How resourceful!

Wow! Fabulous idea! I’m often looking at obituaries when researching for my family tree. I can see how this would generate info and ideas for a bio.

What a fantastic idea! Thank you so much! The contrast between obituaries (past life) and children (beginning life) hasn’t escaped me. Love that!

What a fab idea! I would never had thought of looking in obituaries. Thanks

That is honestly a place I never thought to look for inspiration but now I am intrigued!

Thanks for sharing your treasure trove with us! Reading obituaries is a great way to get thinking about the big themes in life and the very specific details of an individual life. Appreciate you sharing!

Never thought of using Obits that way – what a genius idea!

I read the obits in our small town paper and it’s fascinating to see other people’s lives. I also love to see the story written about them and a nice turn of phrase. Glad to see I’m not the only one who reads them. I’ll have to turn on my PB radar now, however! Thanks!

–Melisa Wrex (@mowrex on Twitter)

Wow! Even though I’ve often read obituaries and admired the people described, I never focused on them as a source for writing. Thanks for sharing this!

Reading obituaires and setting up Google search is a great idea. Thanks for sharing, Heidi.

This is a new idea to me–thank you for the great advice for finding people with interesting pasts.

A unique idea for mining ideas! Ordinary people’s lives are indeed fascinating and I love all your suggestions for making use of this simple resource. Thank you!

Thanks for this clever idea for finding great stories to tell!

this is a “dead giveaway”…for Storystorming. Love this idea. Smaller town obits often give amazing flavor to the stories stewing in our minds. TU!

Brilliant! I have heard of using obituaries for inspiration for stories before, but it hadn’t occurred to me how they are also a good source of looking at how others write transitions and cover a long time succinctly!

Inspiring and thoughtful. Thank you.

Looking forward to reading SAVING AMERICAN BEACH!

Thank you Heidi! I once worked with a man who read the obiuaries every morning, he was probably 28 or 29 at the time. I was 18 or 19 and had never met someone who randomly read obituaries, but it made me think of him as kind and empathetic, taking the time to read about strangers’ lives and think about them. Thank you for this – you are kind also obviously sharing your tips.

This is an excellent idea! Obituaries..never thought of it.

This reminds me of Heather Lende’s work (not kid lit, but good NF). She wrote about her experiences writing obituaries in Haines, AK.

So clever! Thank you for sharing this little big gem!

Thanks, Heidi. I may be cutting up the newspaper!

What a great idea, Heidi! Thanks so much for sharing your treasure!

Great suggestions! Thank you for your post.

That’s something I have never though of. Thank you.

This is a great idea! Thank you for the post.

What, Whoa (not Woe), Wow, really great idea and way to read about significant events in a person’s life. I’ve laughed and cried reading obituaries. But never thought of them as a resource. Insightful!

Biographies have always been a favorite of mine. I actually tracked down a copy of the 1st biography I ever read in 5th grade. Thank you for the great ideas!

I’ve never thought about looking in obituaries for inspiration. Interesting! Thanks!

What a clever idea! A nice way to celebrate lives well-lived, too. Thanks for the suggestion.

I love this idea! I can’t the number of times I’ve thought, been told, read, or discussed that reality is more interesting than fiction. Thanks!

Obituaries! I would never have thought it… I have had to use local obituaries regularly at my “day job”, I am surprised it never occurred to me, Thank you!

I’ve often thought about what a fascinating job it must be to write obituaries for the NYT or other publications. An obit does, indeed, tell a full story. Such a great idea to turn to obits for book inspiration. Thank you, Heidi!

Wow! I never would have thought of reading the obituaries for inspiration. Thank you!

Thanks for sharing this interesting idea, Heidi!

Thanks, Heidi! I see so much value in your suggestions! I’ll have to learn how to do Google alerts 🙂
Congratulations on your PBs! I can’t wait to read the one on fireflies!

The first tip about using obituaries to discover ways to mark time or transitions is super helpful along with all the rest! I appreciate you sharing!

Great tip! I would have never even thought to look there.

I had no idea Google could curate content like that. Interesting.

Great idea to use obituaries for ideas! Thank you for sharing!

Brilliant! I never would have thought to scan through obituaries. They really do tell a succinct life story. Thanks for the inspiration!

Thanks for the tips! For all here ~ There’s a website and FB group called Find A Grave where you can search for a person’s name and also pick up interesting pieces of information.

Thank you, what a gem of an idea!

Amazing where you can pull stories from! Great idea, thanks!

Wow! Thank you for generously giving away such a gem! Great tip and easily accessible, plus you went above and beyond to tell how to use technology to help narrow the search.

What a great idea to look for little know people who did fascinating things as inspiration for a biography PB.

This is so simple yet has never occurred to me. I read the obits often just to learn about people and their lives. What a wonderful idea and way to honor someone’s life that might be amazing but never be told otherwise. Thank you!

The secret is out! I use obituaries to find stories of women who have achieved amazing things, but who were overlooked during their lifetime.

I thought I was the only one who read obituaries in my free time… great idea Heidi!

Interesting. I’ll give it a try!

Interesting take, thank you!

Thanks for sharing your secret source! I have often found inspiration and great character at my local cemetery. Inspiration is everywhere if you pay attention.

Thanks for sharing your secret source! I have often found inspiration and great character at my local cemetery. Inspiration is everywhere if you pay attention.

Thank you, Heidi.

There are some amazing stories found in obituaries. Everyone has a story to tell.

Suzy Leopold

The fact that every single person has a story is one of the things that drives my writing. I want to know everyone’s story. Obituaries are a great place to start learning them. Thanks for the inspiration.

Interesting. Something I hadn’t thought of. Thanks for sharing.

Such an original and neat idea! Now I need to figure out how to create a Google search engine……

People are just…interesting. Thanks for an inspiring post.

Fascinating idea I would never have thought of. Thank you for sharing your secret. Really appreciated.

I never would have thought to mine obituaries for content and writing style, but you’ve convinced me.

I love the suggestion to look at obituaries even if nonfiction isn’t your forte. Thank you for such an interesting post!

It’s a very strange and interesting idea. I never read obituaries, but maybe I’ll look into them!

Thanks, Heidi! Time for me to check out today’s paper.

Wow, not in a million years would it occur to me to scan obituaries for story ideas. Simply brilliant! Thank you for the great advice.

Obituaries?! Who would have thought! What a great source of inspiration. Thanks so much for sharing! Can’t wait to use your tips and tricks!

Great advice! Very interested in SAVING AMERICAN BEACH. Thanks Heidi!

Great post–thank you!

Thanks for your post!

I learned that one of the original GLOW wrestlers died and that led me down a very fascinating rabbit hole! Thanks!

So interesting advice about obituaries! I read them rarely but when I do I am always inspired by people’s lives. Thanks for reminding me of all the possibilities that are out there from everyday people. They are more fascinating than we realize.

Your story about John Bonner Buck sounds fascinating! Great post!

Such a cool idea!

I find obituaries fascinating. Now I’ll read them with a focus on finding subjects to write about. Thanks!

I would’ve never thought of looking through obits for inspiration, motivation and good writing tips. This is great and there’s a lot of stories to be told! Thanks, Heidi!

That’s an interesting idea!

This is rather unique!

I sometimes look at gravestones and get inspiration there too. I haven’t really thought about using obviously

Thank you 😊

What an interesting approach! Thanks for sharing

Who knew that obituaries were such a wealth of information and inspiration? Thanks for the heads-up!

This looks like a beautiful book. There are so many great non-fiction themes & people to write about. You never know what will stick out to you.

Great suggestion–thank you!

Love these ideas! I never would have thought to look at obituaries! I have always been drawn to nonfiction picture books and biographies! Thank you!!

So you’re telling me all this time that my mother-in-law reads the obits out loud over breakfast, I could have been using this as research. Mind blown, thank you!

Never heard of scanning obits before. Genius!

What a very interesting idea. Thank you for sharing.

Obituaries – definitely not one of my often-used idea catchers. I have used them when I am already researching someone I’m writing about, but oh my goodness, Heidi…what a great idea to intentionally scan them for people…or topics…that would make a fascinating book for kids! I love this post!

Heidi, thank you for the terrific tips and the idea of scanning obits. Brilliant!

Wow… Not sure how I feel about obituaries… But I won’t discount it… I’ll let the idea float around in my brain for a while! Thank you!! Good “outside the box” post!!

Thanks, Heidi. Your post proves that story ideas can come from anywhere. I like reading orbits and learning about the fascinating lives of the ones who died. There are many be found.

Such great advice I’m dying over here!

Now, this is an idea I’ve not thought of specifically, but it is a terrific idea. Thank you!

I’m not sure that habit is something one should share in a personal ad–but it seems to work well for you as a writer! Then again, it could be a character’s secret hobby in a story!

Interesting. Would have never thought to look there…

I love the idea of google alerts for certain buzz words. Going to try that now.

What a splendidly morbid (I mean, inspiring) idea!

Thank you Heidi! Thomas Edison’s inventions and quotes appear in something I am brainstorming. Now I’ll mine his obituary for additional story ideas. My mind goes off in all directions…something I have done in the past, when writing epitaph poems with students was to research unique headstones. There are quite a few humorous ones out there!

I love perusing obituaries (or as my grandmother called them, “the Irish sports pages”) for the very same reason. Thank you for this post, Heidi!

What a unique source for inspiration. Heidi, thank you for sharing.

Very interesting! Thank you, I would have never thought to look at the obituaries for inspiration.

This is such an interesting idea. Thank you.

Clever! Thank you, Heidi. Your following line sticks: “There are people whose stories are waiting to –and worth of–being told.”

I never thought about reading obituaries for ideas

Thanks for the wonderful idea! I do read obituaries, but I’ve never considered them a source of writing inspiration, but of course they are. Thanks!

Wow, I never would have thought of this. What a great idea. And now I am going to ask myself if there is any other regular information source out there that I have been overlooking to mine for ideas. Plus, I hate to admit it, but I am so terrible with technology, I don’t know anything about Google Alerts and how to set them. That’s going on my learn-to-do-list for this week! Thank you for sharing.

I get character names from obituaries!

And I thought obits were only good for finding apartments in NYC! Thanks for the tip.

Thank you Heidi for the great advice!

Love the idea of going through obituaries for story ideas. I’d found some really interesting recently, and your post is helpful in terms of how to take a person or subject matter into an idea and story. Thank you!

Interesting, I never thought about this. It totally makes sense. Thank you for this post.

What a unique idea

Such an interesting post! Thanks for sharing.

Thank you for sharing your process.

What an amazing idea! I’ve never thought about approaching obits this way, but it makes perfect sense! Thank you so much for sharing! Gotta go check out the obituary section . . .

A fascinating post—obituaries as a treasure trove of new ideas. Thanks!

I’m a huge fan of fireflies! I can’t wait to read your new book.

One of my past jobs was as a newspaper obit clerk. Lots of stories.

What a unique angle!

What a great idea to scan obituaries for ideas. Thanks for the tip!

I worked for a small newspaper at one time! It was a newspaper to help fight homelessness, so there were quite a few obituaries… Still inspirational even then! 😦 What a great idea! I love the idea of Google alerts! Thank you so much for sharing your ideas :).

I love learning about the many ways people find ideas and inspiration. I would never have thought about using the obituaries in this way

Wow I never thought of obituaries before

Welp, I can honestly say that this idea for inspiration has never occurred to me! I kinda love it!

I never would have thought to do this! I’ll have to try it! It sounds like it would be interesting. Thanks for sharing your ideas

Thank you Heidi. This post has so much to delve into that will help my writing. I also really needed the comments related to subthemes to help me with what I am currently writing. I just saw Ekua Holmes stunning original art at the MFA and some of the images were set at beaches!!! I’m looking forward to reading your book. Thanks, Tara for inviting Heidi to post on your Storystorm blog.

What a great idea! I can’t wait to give it a try.

Thank you, Heidi, for helping us to mine obituaries for additional story ideas. I read them often and am so impressed with those who have made the most of the life that they lived, and also those who have done extraordinary things.
Happy New Year to you and best wishes for continued writing sucess!

Wow! I’ve never thought about this one, thank you! 🙂

Interesting. I would never have thought of that

I love the idea of mining for stories that might otherwise never be told” -Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” Congratulations on your beautiful, inspiring books!

Thanks for sharing your unique strategy. It is dead on.

Thanks for the great advice!

I love reading about the gift of discovery you shared. Thank YOU 🥰

Thank you for the unusual research method and the tip on using Google alerts! I’m off to learn how to do that.

Wow! Hadn’t thought of that for story ideas, but I remember when researching my ancestors, family death notices usually provided me with many details about the lives of my “long, lost” relatives.

Now, this is a new idea to me!

Never in a million years would I have thought of this idea. Love it!

Just proves inspiration can be found in what seems like the unlikeliest of places!

What a great way to find new ideas!

This is the most interesting tip for me yet! I had never given using the obituaries so much thought for character and storyline development! Genius ! Thank you!

How interesting! I’ve never read the obituaries just for fun/research. Will give it a try. Thanks!

love the tip to read obituaries. Thank you for sharing your valuable insight!!

That is such a great resource, Heidi. Thanks for sharing.

Here here! I haven’t read many obituaries but one I read over 15 years ago and still plays in my mind, it was beautiful. Thank you, Heidi for your post.

Never thought of using obituaries to harvest ideas for non-fiction books, but it’s a great idea. There are so many people out there who have fascinating stories that need to be told. Thanks!

What a special research twist – thanks for sharing!

Reminds me of how my dad always reads the obituaries – especially liked reading about the careers of older people.

Wow! Interesting! I would have never thought!

Interesting post! Thanks for sharing!

I love this. I read them all the time and always wonder how to use them in my stories. Now I will look at obituaries a bit differently.

Going to skim the obits right now. Thanks!

What an interesting idea! I’ve never considered looking at the obituaries for a new ideas. Thanks for the great post!

Obituaries! Who knew? Thanks. Such an interesting post.

Fascinating approach! I will look at obits in a whole new light – thank you!!

Thanks! This post proves story Ideas can be found in the most unusual places! 🙂

This does bring me to a new twist of an idea. Thank you!!

What an interesting idea! And I also always wondered about fireflies!

Thank you, Heidi. You are so right that there are soooo many lives with stories worthy of sharing; many of which need to be better known. Your suggestions for research are very helpful. Thank you!

I have to say that scanning the obituaries is something that has NEVER occurred to me! What an interesting idea….

What an interesting way to get ideas for books. Thanks for sharing.

Very interesting approach. Thanks

Really interesting ideas to try. Thank you for the suggestions!

One of my favorite illustrators, Maira Kalman, also said that she starts her day by reading obituaries! For a while, it has been a goal for me to do so. I will start tomorrow instead of just thinking about it!

I think I always knew in the back of my head this would be part of research for biography, but as the inspiration it seems ideal for finding those gems of people we wish we’d known…. and creating characters for fiction, or at least giving them some of their traits. Maybe even the purpose of their story! Thanks for sharing your methods!

I have to say, this is an interesting way to get inspired to write. I’ve often felt inspired by someone’s life while reading an obituary but hadn’t thought to connect this with writing. I’m not sure it’ll work for me but I’m willing to give it a try.

Such an inventive way to find inspiration! Thanks for sharing!

Never thought of using obituaries for story ideas! I live reading memoirs so this is very appealing to me.

Thank you Heidi, keep up the good work. There are so many stories that need to be told and it is good to know someone is out there making it happen.

What an interesting way to gather ideas! Thanks for sharing with us!

This is brilliant!

Thank you for sharing these great ideas.

What a great idea – thank you!

This is an interesting idea – thanks for the inspiration Heidi :o)

Such a great idea! Thank you!

Reminds me of Cecelia Ahearn’s great novel, One Hundred Names. Everyone has a story, and obits are a great idea for finding new ones. Thanks!

Wow, I’ve never heard of this technique before!

Fantastic tips! Thanks for sharing!

This is an interesting technique, Heidi. I see all kinds of possibilities. Thanks

Going to begin today checking the obits. Thank you Heidi.

Who would have known this one can find inspiration in obits? What a great idea.

Wow, this is such an interesting idea-mining tidbit! And I also like that it’s also a source of motivation, obits are usually distillations the extraordinary things that ordinary people do. Love it!

I love reading obituaries but never thought to use them to help my own writing. Great post!

What a unique way to brainstorm! I’ll give this a shot.

It really is amazing what can be learned from a person’s obituary. I like the idea of setting a Google alert in my field(s) of interest…might find a fun surprise in my in-box!

Very interesting! Thank you for sharing.

Thank you. I never thought about reading the obituaries either – although it’s something my parents always did! Congratulations on your book!

I have never thought to scan obituaries for ideas- can’t wait to see what comes up! This is great! Your book looks fabulous! Just requested from our local library, and I can’t wait to read!

Heidi, this advice is golden! Thank you! Reading obits can help fiction writers find interesting character traits and names. Just this a.m., I read one where the deceased had enjoyed a number of things including a vodka tonic. Now, you wouldn’t put that in a children’s book (and not usually in an obit!), but that’s the kind of detail that makes a character interesting. I look forward to your book about Buck, as I am a firefly admirer myself!

What a brilliant source of ideas. I do not write bios, but I am going to look for notable actions and truths that could serve as main themes in my manuscripts.

Thanks for the advice on an unusual source.
*runs to find out how to set a Google Alert…

Wow this post takes the cake! I’m intrigued by what a google alert is! Thanks 🙂

I love learning about those lives and accomplishments hiding in obituaries (I have degrees in history and law). Thank you for sharing your system of researching them.

Love this post! We subscribed to NY Times Sunday over the summer and I loved reading the obits. Found so many fascinating people there and even clipped some of them–old school style–but you’ve given me new inspiration on how they can inspire my writing. Thanks!

Oh my goodness…how original!

Great idea for helping with character development. Sharing unique techniques is like sharing the secret in a family recipe.

Hi, I have not received Day 13. Has it not been posted yet? Regards Liesl Couperthwaite

On Wed, 12 Jan 2022, 14:03 Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) wrote:

> Tara Lazar posted: “by Heidi Tyline King I hesitate to give away my > treasure trove of ideas, but let’s be honest: There are more people dead > than alive, meaning that there are plenty of obituaries—and people who led > insanely interesting lives—for all of us writers to mine” >

Heidi-Thanks for sharing these wonderfully thought out ideas! I have written a manuscript on fireflies and bioluminescence. I would love to chat with you sometime about it. It’s such a fascinating subject to me! Marianne Blackstone Tabner

Some truly awesome suggestions, Heidi. Thank you!

Thank you, Heidi! I love this idea!

This is a very interesting and fascinating way to generate ideas. I like that it reminds you to overcome your own self-doubt and fears.

Heidi, I can honestly say I have never thought to check the obituaries for story inspirations. Such a great idea!
Lucy Staugler

Great idea, I’ve never thought of that! Thank you for your time. Best

Heidi, thanks for sharing your tips for using obits as an idea generator. I really like the concept of finding ordinary people who have done extraordinary things, or people who have overcome great adversity.

Obituaries…who knew? And Google Alert. Two great tips! Thanks, Heidi.

What an great idea, Heidi. Thank you!

I confess, I never would have thought about mining obits for material. Thanks for the insight!

Obituaries for inspiration! What a cool idea. My mother always read the obituaries first in our local paper! So I’ll think of her, too, when I use your idea. Thanks!

I always run across “obit” people…and! He/she was amazing…but I need to keep them in a file……and pull them out.
Thanks for inspiring me! Great ideas! Thanks

Inspiration can come from anywhere!

Someone wrote morbidly awesome, and it captures exactly what struck me about this post. Thank you!

I love the idea of using obituaries to create fun and inspiring/interesting stories about people who may not have been heard of. Thanks for the idea.

Thank you for this. Such great ideas and tips!

Thanks for the insightful post, Heidi!

This is a great idea – culling obituaries for inspiration! Thank you for sharing it with us! Also, I had no idea you could set up notifications through Google like that – thanks for that great tip as well! And congratulations on SAVING AMERICAN BEACH – it sounds wonderful!

Thanks for the inspiration to look in a place I had never thought to look. This post gave me the ideal to write about my grandmother. You will have to wait for the book to see why!

WHO KNEW?!? Great post! Thanks for sharing this idea.

So interesting! A source of inspiration I never considered before. Thanks for the tip!

Genius! Thanks for sharing!

The world is full of fascinating people. What a great way to remember them.

You rock, Heidi! I can’t wait to see you again in our picture book critique group!

What an unconventional source of ideas—but so brilliant! Now you’ve got me wondering about fireflies. 🧐 Thanks for sharing your secret source with us!

Fascinating place to get inspired!

Thanks for sharing! I had not heard of this idea and love finding a new way to mine for story ideas.

I know another author that uses obituaries for possible inspiration and character traits. It’s an interesting source for sure. 🙂

This reminds me of Bachman’s books. I have no idea if he finds ideas this way but his characterizations read as if he has plucked them straight from the obits! This might be fun to jigsaw/cut up too and rearrange details to see what comes of it. Thanks for the suggestions.

Wow! I have never thought of that. Brilliant!

This clearly brings to mind the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail – “Bring out your Dead, Bring out your dead!”

Obits seem like a great way to find interesting subjects and people to write about. It will certainly keep me from reaching a “dead end” in my writing! 😉

Unique idea. People lead such interesting lives. You can also mine the obits for character names to use in fiction.

Day 9’s post made me think of a food item, which led to questioning who created that food, doing a Google search, then finding their obituary. I concur, it is a good resource!

Interesting way of finding people for biographies.

thanks for sharing your process!

What a fascinating idea, thank you!

Obituaries are writerly gold!

Thank you for sharing this idea, Heidi!

Love this idea! I’m going to start reading the obits. Thanks!

I think reading gravestone inscriptions is also interesting. Thanks for sharing about obituaries.

Great idea to think of secondary themes to go with your biography and using your research to write in other genres in addition to nonfiction. Thanks for sharing Heidi!

Hmmm. An interesting tip. I’ve gotten an idea of where to go and look.

I’ve enjoyed reading about interesting people in the obituaries, but never made a connection to my writing. Thanks so much for these great tips!

Austin Kleon also reads obits for inspiration. Pretty neat Thanks for sharing!

Congrats on SAVING AMERICAN BEACH, Heidi! You’ve layered so many hooks and themes into this fascinating book. I enjoyed hearing how you mine obits for ideas and themes. Obits are great examples of life summaries, and I’ve also discovered old tombstones can be humorous or heartbreaking one-line pitches about that person’s life. Great inspiration for any genre we’re writing.

Thanks for sharing this super resource!

Obituaries of ordinary people doing ordinary things💖

Thanks for your post Heidi. I read obits too and am always impressed with complex lives. I’ve never found a story idea though. I look to magazines like this month’s Smithsonian. The chronicle of African American lives in the January/February issue is amazing. It’s not my story to tell, but someone should. There are many children’s books that should be created from these pages.

Heidi, I never would have picked up the obituaries before reading your wisdom. Thank you. Congratulations with, SAVING AMERICAN BEACH. I’m excited to pick it up and add it to my shelf.

It was a stroke of genius to think about that! Thank you, Heidi, for showing us that inspiration can come from the strangest of places…

Really great idea. I like the idea of research, but it’s also such a nice way to honor those who’ve died by reading about them. It’s like The Ofrienda (sp?) for Day of the Dead.

What a great post, Heidi. I love books about lesser known people and I like fireflies. I am looking forward to your book about John Bonner Buck.

Heidi – Thank you for your awesome post. I love reading obituaries, but often get a little down about all these amazing people who are no longer with us! Your post inspires me to change my filter and to seek them out. Can’t wait to read your book about John Bonner Buck.

What a brilliant idea, using obits for inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

Morbid but useful

What an interesting post! I never would have thought of this. Thank you for sharing.

What an interesting Idea. It never occurred to me to look for inspiration in obituaries. Thank you for the suggestions. T

Love this idea! I’m not a habitual obit reader, but they often catch my eye – I’m going to dig deeper now.

For someone very interested in true crime and some more “dark” type things, I am surprised I’ve never considered checking out the obituaries. Great post!

I’m working on a nonfiction biography right now – and haven’t read a single obituary written about her! Will definitely be looking them up. Thank you!

Thanks Heidi for your totally unexpected post. I have never read the obituaries because I always associate them with death and sadness. You have opened my mind to a totally different way of seeing and analyzing, and for that I will be eternally grateful to you.
Good luck in your future books research.
As a teacher (recently retired) I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your Curriculum Guide for SAVING AMERICAN BEACH and your kind words “Teachers are at the frontline in educating, inspiring, and nurturing wonder in our children.”
Go illuminate everybody with FLASH!

This is perfect timing for a biography I’m working on now. Thanks!

I love this idea, Heidi! I have a journalism background as well and am partial to non-fiction, but I’ve been writing fiction as well. We’ll see what gets picked up first! Thanks.

Talking to an elder will surprise you of what they may think of as “just the way it was back then” can trigger some wondferful writing ideas. I have checked old newspapers for stories that have given me ideas for PBs, even humorous ones. I have gone to funeral home sites to read what someone has written about the deceased in a rememberance. Obits are a great source. Thanks!

Wow! Talk about interesting ways to get ideas. Congrats on SAVING AMERICAN BEACH. I love the cover!

I have done a lot of writing exercises but can say that I have never thought of this! Thank you for sharing your creative idea.

Fascinating post! What a great way to find ideas.

Congratulations on your books – What an interesting idea (and I read the obits – as Carl Reiner says – if you are not in them, it’s a good sign for the day).

I had two ideas just reading this post! Thanks, Heidi!

I don’t think I would have EVER thought about regularly mining obituaries! Thanks for the idea, and I am excited about both of your books!

Fascinating! Thank you!

What a great idea, Heidi! This is a new source of inspiration for picture book writing. Thank you!

So many great ideas from this post! Thank you!!

I would never have thought of this Heidi! Many thanks!

Absolute pure genius! Deeply grateful for your share, never would i have thought about obituries for extracting inspiration for stories.
However, what a great idea I am imagining all the untold stories of many who lived amazing lives.
Life is amazing!
Thank you❤

Going to file that idea.

Very creative! These ideas are very helpful, I like the google alerts idea right in my inbox. Thank you.

Have you read “If you lived here I’d know your name” ?
Your post reminded me of this story about an obituary and social column newspaper writer. On another note, I look through my account for cool info. Thanks for your ideas.

Maira Kalman also spoke of the power of the obit. Macabre yet insightful.

Love this idea! I just found this gem in an obituary for Mary A. Pink Mulaney, “Put picky-eating children in the box at the bottom of the laundry chute, tell them they are hungry lions in a cage, and feed them veggies through the slats.”

Inspiration is EVERYWHERE!!

I love this idea. Recently read an obituary where I really wish I had met this person.

What a wonderful idea for inspiration. I often read obituaries for people that make me want to know more. Even taking elements from different obits and blending could make from some interesting fiction.

Thanks for the post, Heidi. I been reading obituaries for a long time. Initially, because I’m just nosy, but now for naming ideas, interesting occupations, and family experiences. I love a good kidlit bio so I’ll be looking for your books.

Thanks for a new way to find ideas!

This is brilliant! I would never have thought about the incredible amount of info and inspiration you can find in obituaries.

Genius idea! Thank you for this golden nugget of advice.

Love this idea! Thanks for sharing your secret, Heidi!

Thank you for sharing your secrets with us.

Thank you sharing your secret with us!

I had not thought of setting Google Alerts to collect information on topics that interest me. What a great idea to collect interesting information to write about. Thank you for that tip.

Absolutely fanTASTic suggestions, Heidi! Thank you!! 😀

There are some really great tips here. I’ll need to stop teasing my mother about starting her day by reading obituaries!

I have read some obits that are works of art, not your ordinary dry, chronological list of achievements. They are filled with heart and emotion and tenderness. Really good writing.Thank you for the reminder to look in unusual places 🙂

Wow! That was interesting. Death related news are, also, a good source of information.

What a great idea and a great way to honour someones life.

Productive inspiration! Thanks to you I’m already on my way to a new exciting project. Much appreciated! The real obituary here is “writer’s block.”

I, too feel compelled to read obits. With people I know, I always learn new details and with those I don’t know, I get a snap shot of their life. Sometimes I find a connection to them in a family member who I know or a shared interest. I always learn something by reading them. Thanks for your inspiration.

Hadn’t considered this idea before today 😊. Thanks for sharing.

What a fantastic idea! I’ve long read obituaries with fascination, but not before connected this practice to mining for story ideas. Thank you!

What a different perspective, thanks for the suggestion.

Thank you, Heidi, for this suggestion. Obituaries certainly do offer a summary of what was important or meaningful to people in their lives. I think writing about someone’s life that would typically be lost to history might be a project I’d like to try.

I really connected to this post. Thank you! What a way to honor people, their legacies, and inspire the next gens.

I wouldn’t have thought to look there but I mean when you think about it, that is exactly what the obit is! Brilliant. I have several versions of my own obit. Now that I know authors are looking there for inspiration I think I’ll have to beef up my next draft.

OOOOH girl, this was fantastic!! Great post and got the creative juices flowing.

Brilliant! This is a genius way to look for ideas.

What a fantastic idea! This is truly gold.

I like the idea of using obituaries to create compelling characters.

Can’t wait to read this story!

I’ve never been a fan of the obits but I shall read them with new eyes.

My mom is not a writer, but she reads the obituaries every day to honor the members of the community. I’ll have to ask her to start saving the unusual ones for me.

Ooh! If I can’t think of a name for a character, I’ve been known to “borrow” names from headstones in the graveyard where I walk.

I’ve often thought about perusing graveyards to find names and dates and wonder about the person’s life – but not once have I thought of obituaries! Genius. Thank you so much for sharing.

What an interesting idea! Years ago, when I was working for a bank in Dallas, I would often spend my lunch time visiting a centuries old cemetery located down the street from the bank. I would read the names and wonder about the wonderful lives they must have lived. It’s a shame I didn’t write down some of those names and epitaphs…

Great post!

Honestly, I put off doing this one for a few days and was very skeptical about looking at obits but… you were so right! Fascinating! Wow!

I would never have thought to read the obituaries for ideas. Love it! Thanks for sharing!

I never would have thought to look at obituaries. But I will now!

I never in a million years would have thought to use this method to help curate ideas. Thanks for sharing!!

Thanks for sharing. An idea I never would’ve thought of.

Great idea! Obits for inspiration!

Thanks for sharing your idea research! Great post.

Such an interesting post. I was trying to focus on more fiction ideas this year, but the NF seeds keep coming. thanks

What a unique idea!

Wow! I NEVER would have thought to look at obits! Thanks

“Write in the genre that’s comfortable to you.” Thanks–I love that!

This blog is The. Best. New info that’s practical, useful, and unique. You had me at HTL Finds Inspiration in the Obituaries! 🙂

What a clever idea! Love it – can’t wait to try this. Thanks for sharing!

Wow, that’s one place I never would have thought to look! Thanks for the great suggestion.

Oooo, set search engine to work for me, I’d forgotten that! Thanks for your other great tips too. Take care!

Thank you for sharing your secret with us!

Wow! I would’ve never thought of looking at obits! Thanks for sharing.

Brilliant idea! I walk my dog through an old cemetery near where I live. It’s a great source of names — and imaginings of what their lives might have been.

What a great resource! I actually have a WIP that came from an obituary but this is definitely something I’ll be doing more regularly. Thank you!

What a great insight! Thanks for sharing!

I love google alerts- I am morbidly excited to try this out

Ohhh this is so clever and I can’t wait to try it.

Inspiring tip, thank you! Would also be a good daily reminder of our shared commonalities & human experiences.

Obits! Never thought of that. Great idea.

Great ideas – thank you!💗

I love obits! It’s so satisfying to see the greatness in everyday people’s lives. Thanks for the tip on Google Alerts. I can see lots of ways to use that. Thanks.

I’ve never set a Google Alert. Off to Google the how-to!

What great ideas for finding ideas! Thanks so much!

I’m dying to try this out. Plan to check out the obits in the NYT tomorrow. Thanks for sharing your idea.

Very interesting idea to search obituaries! Reminds me a little of family tree research and finding little gems like news articles about ancestors and the way they wrote the news with a bit of commentary almost like an editorial. Some fascinating story ideas in those! Thanks for the tips- I have to jot down these ideas…

My mom found herself in the obituaries once (at least someone with the same name)! Sounds like a great place to find a story.

very interesting; sometimes i scan the obits, but I never thought of finding a story in them.

It’s absolutely true that some people’s stories deserve to be told. I started some time ago collecting and writing down stories and anecdotes that interested me, often about family members from the past, or even complete strangers. I have already used several in poems and one in a picture book.

I read obituaries at times. I feel like there are so many people we have never met that have such interesting stories. Thanks for the advice.

I will have to check out the obituary page!

When reading about reading obits sparks an idea. Thanks!

Great advice for scanning the obits! Thank you!

Wow! I remember having to read obits when I interned at a financial advisor… but reading for inspiration and celebration of life feels much more

I have a manuscript of a famous man who has since passed and I have rewritten it in so many formats and approaches! It has personal connections and you have suggested ways that it could be improved again! Thank you!

I don’t write biographies, but I bet obituaries include a lot of interesting details that could be used in other types of picture books.

Now I need to learn how to set a google alert!!! I never would have thought to use obituaries for inspirations!!! Thank you!

I never considered this, but it sounds worthwhile. Even if the person’s life doesn’t spark a story, you will have read about a fellow human.

What an interesting way to brainstorm! Thank you!

I love your idea of reading obits, and can’t wait to set up a search for nuggets of non-fiction to write about. Thank you!

Wow! I never would have thought of reading obits to get ideas. But you are right. Ordinary people do extraordinary things every day. Thanks!

I love mining obituaries. What a fascinating reads. I love your other ideas for how to use them too beyond ideas. Nice concise upbeat tone writing!

I love Saving Savannah Beach. We’ve sold a number of copies at our little bookstore in Boulder, CO. What was your secret sauce in pitching an idea that has sub-themes of environmentalism? I’d love to know more about how you pitched this book and how you overcame any difficulties. Beautiful work!

A truly inspiring idea to look for role models reading through obits. Thank you for pointing in that direction!

I’ve never considered reading an obituary for fun.

I never thought that obituaries could be such a great source of inspiration! Thanks so much.

I used to be a journalist and in slow moments I used to love reading the obits that were drafted ready for broadcast when the time came. I wish I still had access to these today! They were fascinating.

This just shows that inspiration for a story can be anywhere! Thank you!

Thanks for sharing your treasure trove

I bet you find the most interesting of stories and lives! You also find a treasure trove of great names to use for future characters!!

Thank you for the unique idea!

This proves that inspiration can be found everywhere.

Thanks for this! I love obits. As a teen growing up in New York City I attended a few funerals I read about in the newspaper. I sat next to Walter Cronkite at John Steinbeck’s funeral where Henry Fonda read from The Grapes of Wrath.

I never would have thought of the obituaries, but it seems so obvious now! Thank you for sharing!

Ooh, google alerts! 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Heidi!

This is one of my favorite blog entries ever. Thank you!

A fascinating approach to writing!

Mining for gold in the obits. Brilliant!

I love reading obituaries and send the good ones to my adult kids! I guess I am hoping mine will be as interesting?! 😉

“Don’t forget to delve into the archives for the forgotten stories of people who deserve to be known.” Love this reminder for highlighting and celebrating the lives of those who have gone before, particularly those who no longer have anyone to grieve for them…

“Don’t forget to delve into the archives for the forgotten stories of people who deserve to be known.” A gentle reminder for highlighting and celebrating the lives of those who have gone before us, particularly those who no longer have anyone to grieve for them…

What a beautiful concept … reading obituaries to find unsung heroes, then bringing their stories to life.

It’s so nice to hear a fellow obit reader’s take on why they’re fascinating and often inspiring reading. Thanks for the breakdown on how useful they can be for learning how to glean the essence of a person in just a few hundred words.

Thank you. What a fantastic idea. I never thought about writing a non fiction picture book, but this post has inspired me to do so.

I love the idea of using obituaries to inspire us to celebrate the existence of people who have passed. Thank you.

What a unique, fascinating idea! I just love this, especially the tips about using obituaries to hone craft, and the one about setting Google alerts. Thank you!

Fabulous, just fabulous.

I too love obituaries. How does one set up a Google Alert? Something new to learn. Thank you.

I heard about using obits, but you really focused in on individuals who did important things that no one heard of.

Really great tips! Thank you so much, Heidi.

I had not thought of obituaries as a way to scout out new ideas. Thank you!

Thank you for the advice.

Thank you so much for the idea. I often get pulled into reading interesting obituaries when I’m researching totally unrelated things. (Googling any name always brings up obituaries, it seems!) What a great idea to mine that for inspiration.

Thanks for the great suggestions. I will definitely try the Google Alerts!

Thank you for sharing Heidi – such a unique way to brainstorm! 🙂

Thank you for the unique suggestion!

Its amazing to read about the lives people have lead that can spark a story idea or character development

Thank you for sharing!

Very interesting! Thank you!

Great ideas thanks!

What an original idea, for PB inspiration, to check the obituaries!

Many times when flipping through the paper I stop and read the obituaries. I have always felt that everyone deserves his or her life to be acknowledged and honored in some way. I love this method for finding undiscovered or unknown people and areas of interest that could use more light shown on them.

Is it weird that I love the idea of being inspired by obituaries so much? I’ve always loved reading them to learn more about people, even if I never met them. Thanks for sharing, Heidi!

Wow! Talk about stretching horizons. This is new for me. Thank you.

Wow, so fascinating and makes so much sense, thank you!

This is one I can honestly say I have never heard before but it’s so creative–the obituaries! I’m gonna give it a try.

I love this idea of reading obituaries for interesting life stories.

Families must be tickled to have the legacy of their dead relative further acknowldeged.

I l have perused obits for decades and have found many to be uplifting and some are fountains of humor. The tributes in the guest books atre also very enlightening! Thanks for this refreshing article.

I love reading your comments and hearing your opinion.

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