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!)