Where Do Ideas Come From
Want to be a writer? Don't know where to get ideas for stories? People ask me questions all the time. “Where do writers get their ideas? How do they come up with plot lines? With characters?” I used to ask the same question myself before the writing bug bit me, and I took all the suggestions I’d been given and figured out how to use them.
For one thing, always carry a notebook with you – big, small, tiny enough for a purse, it doesn’t matter. Just something to keep notes in. Say you’re in a restaurant having Shrimp Louie and a chilled glass of Chablis and the people at the next table begin arguing about wine. Okay, what if they are co-owners in a winery. One wants to sell, the other doesn’t. And if it’s a family winery all the more intense. So you jot down the gist of their conversation and maybe a word or two about the people themselves so you have character references.
Another good place to people watch is a mall. Every kind of humanity will pass before your eyes in the space of an hour. You can look at each one and play the What If game. What if that guy covered with tattoos is really part of a biker gang running drugs? What if the couple looking so romantic are actually married – to other people? What if the old woman sitting across from you is really a millionaire looking for someone to give money to, but her family is fighting it, trying to have her declared incompetent? Well, you get the idea.
Newspapers are a great source, too. Even letters to the editor. I read one in our local paper from a woman who had just moved to town and was renting a house, gone jogging and was caught in a downpour and a very nice man in a truck – with a dog – gave her a ride home. From that I came up with the idea for a romantic suspense about a woman who returns to her hometown after leaving it twenty-five years before. No one knows her after all this time. She’s changed her name, she’s a true crime writer and she’s back to solve the mystery of her sister’s murder.
You can even steal a little bit from television. I watched an episode of CSI in which a couple left their dead baby for the police to find and faked a kidnapping. The baby was actually killed by their five-year-old child. It was an accident but they didn’t know what to do. Okay, here’s where the What If came in for me. What If a family had a child that was really a bas seed, had already killed her brother and the woman was pregnant again? How would they find a way to remedy the situation? Watch for ECHOES OF THE PAST, out in May from Triskelion Publishing, to find out how far I took the What If game with this one.
When something triggers an idea in your mind, pull out that little notebook and jot it down. You never know how you can flesh it out at a later date. Describe people you see who fascinate you, places that might make good settings for stories. Anything the you find interesting, someone else will like, too.
But the most important thing to remember is that ideas come from YOUR MIND. So give your imagination free reign. Nothing is too absurd or off the wall. New York Times bestselling author John Lescroart said, If you write a page a day, at the end of the year you’ll have a book.
So start watching what goes on around you and putting those ideas down. Maybe at the end of the year you’ll have finished your book.