Thursday, March 1, 2012
Where Do You Get Your Ideas?
I've never not had ideas for stories. Never. So the reason I'd go blank the first few times I got this question is because the whole idea process happens naturally. Now I'm a grown-up writer on purpose. By that I mean I've matured creatively. Certain aspects of my craft are done on purpose. This has made me a better writer. The one thing I don't do on purpose is hunt for ideas. My brain just works that way. However, I realize that one day I may need a strategy for coming up with ideas. So here are a few I'll share:
1. Pimp your peeps! Sounds seedy doesn't it? What-ev. A good book is worth it, sugar. Think of dramatic, funny, suspenseful, and scandalous incidents in your family and friends circle.
Then play the "What if?" game. Many times the germ of whole books come from one snippet. For example, a novel I wrote is set is the small town of Solitude, Louisiana. Solitude is in West Feliciana Parish. My late uncle told me about visiting Rosedown Plantation as a child. He would swing on the huge white gate while my great aunt had coffee and cake with the last descendant of the original family that built Rosedown. He said great aunt Julia looked just like Miss Barrow. Everyone knew what that meant, but speaking it aloud in West Feliciana Parish was (still is) taboo. Years later A Time To Love was written with a subplot inspired by that story.
A family account about a mistress and wife who formed an alliance, to the dismay of the husband, inspired Best Enemies. The real story took place in 1920s rural Louisiana. Best Enemies is contemporary, but the idea of a wife and mistress who become friends to solve a murder has roots in that one afternoon when my elders talked and, curious ten year old Lynn eavesdropped.
2. Be nosy. The cleaned up word for this is for writers to be "curious", or "observant". Let's be real. We're all up in OPB, "other people's business". I use the bad news that CNN, the local newspaper and a variety of news outlets love to report. This informs me about the criminal world, key since I write mysteries and romantic suspense. Of course I can fall back on pimping my peeps since I have some unsavory branches in the old family tree. In After All I used a local scandal that involved the public housing agency to build an entire suspense subplot interwoven with the romance plot. I simply used the newspaper articles that told the whole unsavory story. Easiest research I've ever done. Coincidentally I had met one of the players, a contractor who was later convicted and served time.
3. Use where you live shamelessly. Louisiana is a gold mine. Use your state and hometown. Historical facts and events can make the "What if" game a lot of fun. In A Darker Shade of Midnight the history of Haitian descendants who came to Louisiana plays a big part in characterization (the heroine and her ancestors). In the sequel I'm writing now, Between Dusk and Dawn, I use more fascinating bits. One little know fact is that a group of Blacks from Louisiana moved to Mexico in the 1870s to escape Jim Crow. I weave these kinds of references in to add spice to my novels, which are mostly set in Louisiana.
February is Black History Month here in the U.S., and March is Women's History Month. Because I love history, I celebrate continuously. History helps me fill out settings, build characterizations and generate plots.
For more on getting ideas see this helpful site- Creative Prompts for Writers
I must feed my need for good fiction, so keep writing!
What part of writing comes to you naturally, and what have you had to work on? Setting, description, dialogue, plotting, transitions, pacing?
Posted by Lynn Emery at 12:00 AM