Today’s guest blogger is M. L Hamilton. She taught English and journalism for over twenty years. Now she writes mysteries and cozy mysteries She also enjoys reading, knitting, amateur photography, and spending time with her family. She and her husband live in Texas. She will also give a free copy of one of her books to a person leaving a comment – selected at random.
“Where do you get your ideas?”
This is one of the most common questions asked of writers. The answer may surprise you.
A writing instructor at a recent conference said writers are “weird.” He illustrated this with a hypothetical situation where a close friend has been in a terrible accident. The writer makes a visit to the hospital where the friend is lying in bed, possibly unconscious. The writer approaches the bed, take the friend’s hand, leans over and thinks—How can I write this into a scene? I’ll have to ask the doctor the name of that machine….
Every writer in the room nodded in understanding. Whether by nature, training, or a combination of both, fiction writers tend to think differently than the general population. We find possibilities everywhere we go.
Daily life: My first novels came out of my experience growing up at a youth camp.
Another author I know developed a mystery after noticing the sound of her husband’s footsteps coming down the hall. Walking her dogs on a dark, shadowy street inspired yet another mystery.
Overheard conversations: Be careful what you say in public. Many authors make a habit of eavesdropping on conversations in restaurants, on public transportation, or anywhere people are talking. A line taken out of context can blossom into a full-blown story.
Signs: Sometimes, an odd sign draws an author’s attention and imagination. I once found a great title for a novel on a street sign. Now if I can find the story that goes with it.
Imagination: Writers enjoy playing the game of What if? Nearly every time I set out on a journey, I think, what if I’m in an accident? How will my family know? Who will tell them? How will they react? Perhaps a less tragic idea came from my family’s discussion about the possibility of our older son returning from military service and attending college with his younger brother. What if they ended up rooming together? With seven years between them, it might make an interesting twist on the Odd Couple.
Newspapers: Most people get their news from electronic sources these days, but all kinds of stories come out of the pages of a newspaper. Take any top news item, give it a few twists and you may have a bestseller. Even more fun is to find a story you weren’t even looking for, like the elderly woman who arrived at a retirement home with only a jacket, purse, cane, and a medical card as her sole form of ID. Though alert and friendly, she refused to give any background information other than to speak of her husband who had passed away many years earlier.
I ran across this story years ago when I was first studying how to write fiction. I remember thinking, Ooh, now there’s a story! Soon I was playing What If? What if she were hiding from greedy relatives who wanted her fortune? What if she secretly robbed banks and was hiding from police? What if she were a former teacher and…well, if you’re interested, you’ll have to read the book to see what else I came up with.
Here’s a blurb from her latest novel, Pendant. A field trip gone awry. A student gone missing.
Haunted by a teacher’s worst nightmare for more than a decade, Elaine finally stumbles across a vital clue—and discovers someone will do anything to keep the truth buried.
When her life is threatened, she allows the one person she trusts to whisk her away to safety in Texas. But assuming a false identity and hiding among the quirky residents of a retirement home is not what she had in mind.
Now Elaine must solve the mystery from afar, as soon as she figures out if her friend is keeping her from danger…or keeping her from the truth.
Also available through B&N, KOBO and iBooks
Please leave a comment on where your story ideas come from. She will give a free copy to one of those who leave a comment.