July 1, 2007

Story Ideas

As a writer, the question I get asked the most is ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ The answer to this question is very simple. It is also a bit complicated. Confused? Hang in there, I’ll clarify.

Story ideas come to me all the time, from lots of different places. Sometimes it is as simple as a line in a song sparking my imagination. Usually a line of dialogue comes to me first. From there, I begin to imagine just who said it, the hero or the heroine. Or maybe it’s something the villain says. From there, I begin to see the scene unfold. (Yes, as odd as it sounds, my stories come to me like movies in my head.) I have written an entire book around one particular scene.

In fact, this is how AFTER MIDNIGHT came to me – as the opening scene. From there I had to figure out who the characters were. That brings me to the next part of the creative process for me. Who are the hero and heroine? Why are they doing what I envision them doing?

Again, I’ll use AFTER MIDNIGHT. The book opens with the heroine playing the piano in a bar after closing. Why, you ask? Well, that’s one of the questions I asked myself. Why is she doing this? Why is she drawn to play? Why doesn’t she play more often?

However, not every story idea starts with a line of dialogue. Sometimes it begins with a question. For NOT WITHOUT RISK, it was this question:

What if a killer set his sights on you and the only way to survive was to revisit a past you swore never to look back on?

For me, story ideas that come to me in the form of a question are easier to flesh out than those where I ‘see’ the scene in my head or that begin with a line of dialogue. Why? Simply because when I have one question, it’s simple to come up with a second question:

What if you then had to trust the type of man experience told you was untrustworthy?

Then, a third:

What if you fell in love with that man? Is love worth the risk?

Oops, I guess that’s four. LOL

Anyway, as you can see, for me at least, answering the question “Where do you get your ideas?” is not easy. I get my ideas from everywhere - people, movies, a line in a song, a news report on the television. From there they either become dialogue, scenes, or questions I feel the need to answer.

Still confused? I think I am. Which brings me to my favorite quote - so true in my case.

"Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing." ~ Margaret Chittenden