Novel Ideas

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.

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3 comments on “Novel Ideas
  1. Geralyn says:

    I, too, find inspiration from the people and places around Chicago. While writing at a local coffee shop, I created a physical character description from a David Bowie album cover hanging on the wall. Another time, I wrote a poem with an imaginary story line for a stranger who walked every night in the opposite direction at a local park. Can’t wait to check out your books!

  2. djtfontana says:

    Great article Eileen. And yes, so true. I believe each and every one of the characters in our writing have their inception from some sight seen, or sound heard, and they waft up from that into our reality. And sometimes, they are from friends and family we know and love. Can picture your grandfather and his band and this brings back such really great memories of Halsted St. blues clubs in the ’70s in Chicago.Fun times.

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