Where do ideas come from?

Where DO your ideas come from?

That’s a ques­tion a writer often hears. And, the writer has to think about it. Yes, the idea came from some­where, but how did it devel­op and grow into a sto­ry? Quite pos­si­bly, the writer may have for­got­ten what sparked some­thing, that in turn, pulled togeth­er a bunch of mem­o­ries, ideas, hap­pen­ings, or, just pos­si­bly, a flight of fancy.

I remem­ber the spark that start­ed my young adult ghost mys­tery. It was a sign that direct­ed one to “Sandy Bot­tom Road.” We passed it by, I nev­er saw the road, but I just could­n’t for­get that name. Even­tu­al­ly, Sandy Bot­tom Road became a major part of that book. How­ev­er, I don’t remem­ber the twists I devel­oped on the way.

More recent­ly I wrote a short sto­ry to sub­mit to a future book of short sto­ries. They want­ed sev­er­al mys­ter­ies with a time trav­el theme. My sto­ry was­n’t cho­sen, but I’ve been play­ing around with the idea, devel­op­ing it into a pos­si­ble new series.

What did I throw into the pot to let it sim­mer into a full fledged project? I’m rather old so my mem­o­ry goes well into the past. The mem­o­ry I had took place a year or two after the end of World War II. I was in high school and a fel­low of about high school age came to school with a stu­dent for about two days, then dis­ap­peared. The sto­ry was that he’d arrived in Seat­tle on a Russ­ian boat as part of  the crew and jumped ship.

I nev­er heard what hap­pened to him, any­thing about him, or even his name. But I decid­ed to supply/invent his sto­ry. When my sto­ry failed to find an audi­ence, I decid­ed to add a few oth­er things and mere­ly use that part as an intro­duc­tion to a time-trav­el mys­tery series. The next step was to research his­to­ry and decide where else to send my ama­teur sleuth. I need­ed a more his­toric destination.

Hmm. Recent­ly I’d heard about a repli­ca of the Lin­coln funer­al train tour­ing the coun­try. Nope, did­n’t think about that soon enough to actu­al­ly vis­it the train. Now that would have been per­fect, but I was too late. But there are plen­ty of sites on the inter­net where I found a lot of infor­ma­tion. Next stop, look­ing up slang and music of the era. Check­ing out where the funer­al train was and when. Find­ing the may­or of one city (Philadel­phia) where the train stopped. Dis­cov­er­ing a few rumors from that time — rumors that if car­ried out, could have been dis­as­trous (I did need a crime for a mys­tery, yes?)

Some­thing else perked in my mind. A year or so ago, maybe longer, I read about a series of short books being devel­oped by a team — uni­corn West­erns. They decid­ed that with uni­corns, they would­n’t have to wor­ry about being his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate, or even phys­i­cal­ly pos­si­ble, I guess. It was­n’t the uni­corn idea that made a spark, it was the short books, to be offered at 99 cents each. The first three would come out one a month. Now, THAT is what sparked my inter­est. Short books, at 99 cents each. Hey, maybe I could write three of them, pub­lish and keep writ­ing. (Like I may have men­tioned, I dream big.) And there’s cer­tain­ly a lot of his­to­ry in our past that could be looked into. Hey, such books might even spark an inter­est in learn­ing his­to­ry, always an admirable notion. Yeah—then…

Then I applied a whole lot of imag­i­na­tion. So I’m cur­rent­ly work­ing on a new book. (Or, I should be doing that instead of writ­ing this blog. But that’s anoth­er story.)

I’ve had peo­ple ask me where I get my ideas. Now, I’d like to ask the read­ers — When you read a new book, of what­ev­er kind of fic­tion, do you won­der where the idea came from? Or, do you make your own con­nec­tions and think, I bet this … was the spark? (If so, just maybe, you have a book inside you wait­ing to burst forth!)

Sailing into a hurricane

Why I write about boating

When we were a bit younger, my hus­band and I were into boat­ing on Chesa­peake Bay and beyond. Our first boat was Cloud Nine, a sail­boat. We end­ed up sail­ing, then pow­er-boat­ing for many years. We met oth­er boaters and trav­eled in groups. One of our ear­li­er trips was part way down the Intra­coastal Water­way. Of course, when you are trav­el­ing at a rate of three to five nau­ti­cal miles an hour, it does take a while to reach your des­ti­na­tion. We all, of course, brought our liv­ing space with us, kitchen, bed­room, sit­ting room, and, if you will excuse the men­tion, the facil­i­ties. (That did neces­si­tate an occa­sion­al vis­it to a pump-out station.)

A few days out we heard an ear­ly hur­ri­cane was head­ed our way. We stopped at a small mari­na and pre­pared. We took all sails down, laid them out on the lawn to fold them, and stored them inside our boats. At the mari­na oper­a­tor’s insis­tence, we anchored out in the cove with at least two anchors each. Then he came around to each boat, picked up every­one who want­ed to go ashore, and brought us to the bed and break­fast he also oper­at­ed. How­ev­er, since his wife was away, there was no break­fast. But he did loan us his truck to go to the store for a few sup­plies. A cou­ple of the hus­bands stayed on their boats. For­tu­nate­ly, my hus­band was­n’t one of them.

Also for­tu­nate­ly, the hur­ri­cane turned west a few miles before it reached us and nev­er hit us. It was dou­bly for­tu­nate, since the house had lots of win­dows that the own­er did­n’t cov­er them in the least.

The next day we trav­eled a few miles south and came to a mari­na where one boat had sunk in its slip after hav­ing rubbed a hole in the prow as the waves bounced and shook it vio­lent­ly against the pier.

All our trav­el­ing inspired my mys­ter­ies. I do men­tion a hur­ri­cane in one of my books, but the char­ac­ters involved are most­ly on land. So, although where I live is in the midst of Amish ter­ri­to­ry, and those sto­ries do well, I was much more inter­est­ed in set­ting my mys­ter­ies on Chesa­peake Bay. We no longer go boat­ing, but I can still enjoy the water­front in my imagination.

A side note: Often boaters have dogs aboard, some even have cats or birds. One cou­ple we knew well had a large dog. Some­times, when the shore was lined with tall grass, find­ing a spot for Wat­son (the dog’s name, the cou­ple’s last name was Holmes) to do his busi­ness was dif­fi­cult (like in the pic­ture seen here).

Hmm, maybe I should put Wat­son into a book. What do you think?