This is probably the most common question asked of me by folks hearing for the first time that I write mystery novels. And my go-to answer is generally, “Why, everywhere!”
But the other day, when a neighbor—who’s just now reading through my Sally Solari series—asked me this question, after providing the same stock answer as usual (with the addition of, “Hey, you might end up being the murderer in my next book”), I started musing about what a more specific answer to the question might be.
Where do I get my ideas?
It’s a potent question right now, as I’m currently in the process of doing exactly that: coming up with ideas for a new book. And it’s not easy. In fact, it’s driving me kind of bonkers.
Sure, I can tell you how or when I come up with ideas. While riding my bike, or walking my dog, or—best of all—while lying in bed in the morning before I come fully awake. (I get some terrific ideas while lying in bed. At least I think they were probably terrific. Problem is, I mostly forget them by the time I’m up and anywhere near a pad of paper of my computer…)
But where these ideas come from is an entirely different question.
I can assure you that, sadly, no golden-haired, white-gowned muse has ever once appeared before me bearing pearls of plot points.
No, it’s almost always laborious grunt work that gets the deed done. Work that makes my head hurt. Brain storming and scribbling down whatever bizarre notions come to mind. Talking to my self aloud and asking question such as: “Why would she do X? Who would it affect if she did so? Would it be completely weird if my villain did Y?” Staring blankly out a window, forcing my mind to relax and let go, to allow random thoughts to come inside and see if they can make themselves at home in my new story line.
And sometimes they simply don’t come, and the harder I try to beckon inspiration, the more stubbornly it stays away.
That all said, however, there have been a few occasions in my life when I have had an idea simply plop down into my head, seemingly out of nowhere. The solution to a problem I’ve been grappling with miraculously comes into focus, or a plot twist that perfectly answers the question I’ve been searching for suddenly comes to mind.
I have no idea why this happens, or where the ideas have come from, but I can tell you that it’s gold. No, it’s better than gold. It’s triple cream brie cheese!
Readers: Do you ever talk to yourself aloud to work through issues in your life? Does it help?
Writers: Where do you get your ideas?