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How I Get Ideas for My Stories

07-Feb-2014

When people find out I’m a writer, (usually, because I’ve told them, as creating a story is all I think about for the most part, and they‘ve found me staring off into the distance like a person destined for the looney bin), the first question they usually ask is from what vast, great beyond do I get my story ideas. The truth is, (insert drum-roll here), there’s really no rhythm or rhyme for the ideas, and each story is usually made up of several unrelated things. Sometimes, a story idea begins flitting around my mind because of nothing more than an unusual word, an unusual name, some off-hand comment, or something I’ve seen that strikes a chord within me for whatever reason. I take these ordinary things and ask myself, “What would happen if this happened or that happened?” I even have people who tell me constantly, “Hey, do I have a great idea for a book!” And guess what? They usually do!

My first book, Dwindling Sands, (the first in the Hourglass Killer series) came to me while driving home from a vacation. As I drove, listening to a book on a compact disc, I saw a Jeep on the opposite side of the Interstate, sitting on the grass with both its doors opened. The Jeep appeared to have been abandoned. I found this curious. Immediately my mind began to make up scenarios on what could have possibly happened to leave a Jeep abandoned by the roadside.

The key element in the Hourglass Killer series — the hourglass — came to me while I was watching a movie where the key element was a pocket watch. I wanted something to be found at the crime scenes that would be oddly out of place and could be what connected the murders to each other. Once I decided on the hourglass, I wove a story around what made that item important to the killer.

For Flawed Beauty – which was originally titled, Squalid, I was visiting my sister who is a teacher/librarian and she mentioned the word “squalid.” As I didn’t know what the word meant, I dug out my cellphone and looked it up. According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, squalid means, “marked by filthiness and degradation from neglect or poverty.”

I immediately broke out my handy-dandy notebook and wrote the name and definition down. Later, during the same visit, my sister told me about an article she’d read about how prevalent human trafficking was in the United States. I wasn’t aware of that, either. If you’ve read Flawed Beauty (or when you do) you’ll see how those two things coalesced to become a story.

I’ve found after having written a dozen books that everything begins to become a story! I always keep my notebook handy and write down the ideas as they come to me. I’m happy to report that I have a notebook full of future ideas. So, if you’ve ever considered writing and looking for a story idea, just open your eyes and ears and ask yourself this one fundamental question . . . what if


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