A beta reader of my novels asked me, “Where do you get your ideas?” To answer her question, I thought of how each novel grew. Distracted Living came from seeing a woman running along the lakefront in Chicago while talking on the phone. “What is her story?” I asked myself and filed the idea. At the time, I was commuting 3 hours a day by train, bus and on foot. At first, I was excited by the prospect of capturing great dialogue from overheard conversations. Unfortunately, I heard a lot of,” I’m on the train,” and never, “the body is in the trunk.” The running and talking lady became Cilla Perkins, protagonist and civility activist.
For another project I wanted to describe a Chicago neighborhood in the 1970’s from an outsider’s POV. I finally entered the novel through the mind of a storekeeper who watched the main characters before becoming part of the action. Was George a creep or a concerned citizen? I had to write the book to find out.
A recent novel was ripped from the headlines, as they used to say on Law and Order. Sandy Hook happened while I was contemplating what the world would be like for my youngest family member and Angels in Play was born.
Most of my novel ideas start as questions I want to answer. Some of the characters, like Cilla Perkins, step right up and introduce themselves. Others, like George, refuse to go away until I put them on paper.
An interesting article on the subject: http://tinyurl.com/o6p5kz7. I’d love to hear how others get their ideas. Please feel free to leave a comment.