Novelist and more.
“Where do you get your ideas?”
The age-old question. Like many writers my thematic switch is constantly on.
I primarily like characters. Developing them, what makes them who they are, their goals, etc.
Most books I read and write are character driven. I’m lucky enough (or unlucky enough depending on your point of view) to be able to write 40 hours a week. An advantage I guess, for earning a disability pension from serving in the military. Needless to say many of my characters both male and female have some sort of disability. A facial tic, a mental disorder, missing limbs, I feel it makes it obvious that a character has overcome something that makes them stronger.
But back to the question: “Where do you get your ideas?”
Just this last week I finished a story about a homeless man and one night of horror in the house he chose to squat in. The idea came from passing by the same homeless man near my home on the way to my martial arts classes. I’ve had several opportunities to talk to him several times and have. A quiet man, very appreciative of anyone talking to him, and I wondered where he went at night. After reading an article in Writers Digest magazine the story formed and it became a horror story.
Yesterday I was looking through Spectrum 20 at the local bookstore. It’s a yearly collection of artwork covering statues, sci-fi/fantasy/horror art. I used to look at various art collections and create entire back stories related to the pictures which had nothing to do with the intended purpose. I’ve met Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell several times and their art inspired several short stories.
I once met a beautiful woman, spectacular personality, highly intelligent, very kind and open, who was controlled by her abusive boyfriend. I noticed a half-inch scar on her cheek she concealed with her hair and makeup. This half-inch scar made her feel ugly, stupid, and insecure and it was the way the boyfriend controlled her by reminding her no one would care about her because of this “ugly” scar. I was fascinated by the tiny scar, I thought it gave her face character. Yes, I wrote a story about it. Yes, she broke up with the guy.
The current trend of tattoos made me write a horror story about them. I’ve met many people who regret at least one of their tattoos and wish they’d never gotten it. I don’t have tattoos, I like too many varieties and don’t like permanence on my skin, but I can see the attraction…and the regret.
While an extra in a locally produced movie, we took shelter from the heat in an antique store. Two short stories came out of that. The subjects were a wall of glass canning jars for vegetables and a chaise lounge.
An overheard phrase created one of my favorite stories: “I want to be the combat Barbie doll in love.” yes, someone actually said that.
Frazzled parents standing serenely in the middle of screaming yelling children sparked another.
Sometimes a person will walk by and I’m immediately struck with a fascination for them. I’m not talking someone with blue hair, or multiple piercings in their faces, or sports jerseys, or a stereotype (although I’ve written about them too) but the ordinary blue jean wearing person rushing to their next location. The spark may come from their style of walk, what they’re carrying, their hairstyle, their overall look, their manner, their bearing, the way they sound (Indians are my personal favorites, several of my friends have no idea they were the inspirations for space explorers or time travelers), the way they interact with people, how they show their love to another or their contempt.
Since I prefer to write in a crowded noisy area on my laptop, I’m consistently bombarded with overhead conversations, often glancing up at the crowd around me. I make a mental note, or send myself a text for later, and that person may become a protagonist, an antagonist, a bit player, or secondary character….or completely forgotten.
Locations are an easy thing for me too I believe. Google maps is fantastic at street view. Thankfully I’ve traveled a lot having only missed Europe and Africa. But my locations can be a house I pass. There’s a deserted revolutionary mansion with incredible history just down the road from me. If the wife of the owner had not risked her life to ride alone, on horseback, without servants, 50 miles to her General husband to warn them the British were coming through, the town I live in would have been burned to the ground. A factory (several deserted ones around here), a lake, a forest, a school, an apartment, whatever sparks me to look at least three times at it.
OH! That’s a rule I have!
If something sparks my interest three times then I write it down. I feel if it kept my interest for that long then readers would be caught too. More than three times: then it HAS to become a story.
So there is the short answer…kinda. I’m sure many of my fellow writers have the same mind-set.
Keep your mind open for opportunities and you’ll have an endless supply of ideas.
Now a song is playing on my radio and I just thought of a theme song for a protagonist…gotta go!