Thinking like a
One of the most frequently asked questions of authors is, “Where
do you get your ideas?” It’s an easy one to answer.
“They’re everywhere you look.” You simply need
to learn to think like a writer.
one of my favorite authors talks about seeing stories in everything
he encounters in his daily life, whether it be a newspaper article
or an abandoned utility trailer rotting by the side of the road.
He tells how he read a story about a great fire that occurred in
rural western Michigan during the 1800’s that became the seed
for “The Burning of Rachel Hayes.” Author Ann Prospero
once gave a lecture on character development and described an airline
employee who had helped her at an airport saying that she had created
a whole new character based on her brief contact with the young
I do speaking
engagements from time to time and when I’m asked where my
ideas come from I generally ask the audience to focus on the podium
in front of me and I tell them that there can be a story in something
as simple as the lumber that the podium is built from. I tell them
that the oak used to construct this podium came from a tree harvested
in the Bear Paw mountains of Montana and that in 1877 Chief Joseph
of the Nez Perce stood under the shelter of this tree while he addressed
his tribe saying, “Hear me, my chiefs, my heart is sick and
sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more against
the white man.” I go on to say that this wood is graced with
the power to bestow greatness to all who come in contact with it.
A bit of a stretch? Sure, but you get the idea.
My first mystery
novel, “The Unreal McCoy” was inspired by a newspaper
article that I had read some thirty years prior to putting the first
words on paper. It was a story about an event that was so unusual
that it stayed with me all of those years. It’s a very small
part of the book but it was the germ that the story grew from. It
was the same with the second and third books, just a little something
that I stumbled across in my daily life that gave me the idea.
The most rewarding
part of looking for stories in everything you see and characters
in everyone you meet is that you’re allowed to disconnect
with reality and let your mind wander into the world of fantasy
without feeling foolish or guilty. It’s now a part of your
job and so your imagination becomes totally unbridled. Envisioning
people and situations becomes the doorway. Following them is the
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