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Monday, June 13, 2011

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

When authors do speaking engagements, one of the most frequent questions is “Where do you get your ideas?” For most writers, the problem is not getting the ideas, but narrowing them down to decide which we will choose as our focus.

So where do those ideas generate? The simple answer is to say “life.” Let’s look at examples.

My husband and my youngest son are both fans of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, so I’ve been reading them, too. As I was wading through the blood and gore of yet another brawl with supernatural monsters, I thought, “How would this book be written differently for a primarily female audience?”

Suddenly Maggie popped into my head, telling me about her encounters with the paranormal. The book that followed will, I hope, be the first in the Maggie Rising Case Files. And no, Maggie is not a female Harry Dresden. Although I think of her as a living, breathing person, she has only my memories, experiences and imagination to work with, making her a very different character from the one Jim Butcher has written.

Example Two started last October when my husband and I fulfilled a lifelong dream with a trip to the Mediterranean. We started in Florence where the Renaissance began and flourished. Our guide led us through various sites, including the church of Orsanmichele where a grain market was turned into a place of worship – although that didn’t stop the flow of grain.

I was thinking of how it would have been to pop into the church for a peck of barley during services and suddenly I could see Lucia in her simple clothing, entering the church to buy grain. As I study and learn more of that period, she is becoming real to me too and will one day be the focus of an historical novel.

Ideas come from news stories, from reading other fiction, from neighbors and friends who tell incredible tales that take root and grow in a writer’s mind, from everyday life and how we live it. The trick isn’t getting those thoughts; it’s deciding which of the many are worth investing with our time, energy and love.

p>Have you had a character or plot come to you in an unusual way? Write and share your story.

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