Friday, April 13, 2012

Where Do Your Ideas Come From? The Curse of the Novelist

Photo credit: qisur (Creative Commons)
One of the most frequent questions I'm asked is, "Where do you get your ideas?"

My answer: The craziest places. I'll start with how I got the idea for Let Us Prey.

I was attending a monthly writers' meeting in Minneapolis, where Mary Janice Davidson (NY Time Bestselling author of the Undead series from Berkley Publishing) was speaking. She told a hilarious story about a multiple author book signing she did where one of the authors had arrived with a bodyguard (or more than one, I don't remember). She said the author had just been at a conference where she'd had a run in with a "fan" who was upset about something she wrote. Now it's been awhile, so I don't remember if there was a physical altercation at that conference, but that particular author felt some sort of protection was needed for future appearances.

I must say, I barely heard anything else that Mary Janice Davidson said, because I was using this little tidbit to outline a story in my head. But I'm a mystery writer, not paranormal, so there was no way I was jumping on the vampire bandwagon at the time.

Before I left the writers' meeting, I had Mimi, Charles and Nick, along with the name Gotcha Detective Agency, clear in my mind. Instead of joining everyone for lunch, I went to the Macaroni Grill by myself and plotted the story in my notepad while eating pasta and drinking Chianti.

A lot changed in the story from that day to the time Let Us Prey was finally published, but the seed of the idea remained the same. And today, at the Romantic Times conference, I hear that J.R. Ward had bodyguards outside the bathroom doors, so no one could go in while she was "indisposed." Life imitating art? You'd have to have read Let Us Prey to understand this reference. (Thanks so much to NY Times Bestselling author Jennie Bentley for telling me about this kerfuffle at the RT conference).

If you are a writer, where have your craziest ideas come from? As a reader, do you wonder how writers come up with this stuff?

9 comments:

  1. What a great story! I'd be tempted to use it, too.

    As for where ideas come from, I mail-order mine from a small general store in Nebraska. ;-D

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    1. Haha, I just saw this. Can I have their address? Or better yet, Nebraska is just one state over, I can go visit. I'm constantly amazed at where the ideas come from. I have more than I'll ever be able to write. I have a screenplay that came from my veterinarian gelding my horse and throwing the "spare parts" to his dog to eat. TMI probably.

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  2. The vet probably kisses his dog too.

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    1. LMAO. It's a pretty good story that came from that incident. I'm in rewrites now.

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  3. My craziest ideas lately have come from the mouths of politicians, then I push the boundaries of their absurdity just a little further and Voila!, I have high concept irony.

    Some of my best ideas have come while writing parts for specific actors. I'll contemplate the actor's strengths-- comedic timing, athleticism, etc.-- and create a unique character that utilizes all those strengths. Then figure out what ironic situation would that character find herself in and what her character arc would naturally be, and I have my story!

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  4. Like you, my ideas can come from anywhere. I keep my notebook literally with me all the time. Just a small phrase that someone might say, or a spark from another piece of literature, poem, comic book, television show, or movie. I am constantly inspired by what is around me. Like you again, I have many more ideas that will ever get the attention I want to give them. I have roughly over thirty story ideas, concepts, and/or treatments stored up, and I still have more in my notebooks that I haven't written up and more in my head that I haven't written up. I do fall in love with some of my stories, but they can come from anywhere and at any time.

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    1. Isn't it great to have such an imagination? If only we could write the stories (well) faster! Working 70+ hours a week doesn't leave me enough time.

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