It seems that every time we meet a new reader the subject of storylines comes up. One of the first questions we are constantly asked is, “How do you get your ideas?”
The answer is everywhere.
We always have ideas. They come to us in the form of a picture, a song, a piece of dialogue, or an object we find interesting. Sometimes it’s an event which we say, “I wonder ‘what if’ it happened this way?” Then we take our small idea and bounce it around. We ask each other questions letting the answers take us to wherever they lead. We have learned that a good story is a process. With the two of us working together, we’re able to start with a small inspiration and expand it into a full blown storyline over breakfast. And, we’ve also discovered this process of working on one idea usually creates another storyline for a future book.
An additional way is to be a people watcher. We are notorious people watchers. We love to have lunch at our favorite restaurant and observe different personalities, interactions, and interesting characteristic actions. We see a couple across the room and imagine an entire story about them. Did they meet online and this is their first in-person date? Or, are they superheroes plotting how to save the world?
How about the great looking guy you noticed in line at the supermarket or at Starbuck’s? Do you see him as the hero (or villain) in your next story?
The ‘what if’s’ are endless. And, fun.
If we find ourselves still stuck for an idea, we take a break. Maybe watch some TV. Television is a great way to get inspired and discover ideas for characters, plus, we can see what is hot on the networks. Or we pick up a book we’ve wanted to read for a long time and spend an hour or so letting our minds refill the empty well with words.
When we wrote our paranormal novel, Death Unseen, we knew we wanted our heroine to have psychic powers. We wanted her to be able to see in dreams the murders as they actually took place. We did extensive research on precognition dreams before we started writing. This information was cataloged in our heroines character chart. Then we decided to take it a step deeper and give her some extra powers. Who we ended up with was a psychic heroine with clairvoyant powers who also had the ability to experience death in dreams.
Now our psychic heroine has to convince the police this skill she has is real. Will anyone believe her? Probably not. So, we made our hero a Navajo Tribal Policeman with intuition of his own. We wanted someone who was open minded enough to eventually believe her. We spent hours on the internet researching tribal policemen and Navajo beliefs. We established an extensive file for all our research material in case we needed to recheck our sources at a later date.
We also wanted this book to be a murder mystery, so we made the killer a madman who is after our hero’s DNA. We opted to have our story set around Lake Pleasant, in Arizona. The area is abundant with wildlife so we agreed to have a bobcat and a hawk as the animals involved. Again we did research on both animals before we started writing.
We ended up with something like this:
Navajo Tribal Policeman, Lance Logan, discovers his cousin’s body brutally mauled and senses there’s more to the death than it appears. His intuition leads him from the Four Corners, New Mexico to Phoenix, Arizona where he finds himself embroiled in another murder case.
Carly Carlton could be considered an ordinary woman—except for two traits she tries to keep hidden—clairvoyant powers and the ability to experience death in dreams. Her talent to see beyond the veil of reality, as she and Lance try to find a killer, helps to soothe his embittered heart and softens his revenge.
Unbeknownst to either, Lance carries the DNA key coveted by a maniac—intent on creating a human with animalistic-killing tendencies. But the madman’s plan doesn’t include Carly’s expanding talents or her unconditional love for Lance. She will do anything too save him—even if it means sacrificing her own life.
And that’s how we do it. A completed story all started because we wanted a heroine with ESP.
So the bottom line on where ideas come from, remember this.
Writing is just like everything else, the more you do of it, the better you will be. Don’t worry if your story line starts with a character you put in a certain situation or from a plot you have running through your head. Make use of something you’ve read in the news, an event that keeps catching your attention. Play with your ideas. Have fun with them, brainstorm with your critique partners and get those ideas down on paper. A story will come, trust us. And more importantly trust in yourself.