The Chicks are excited to welcome acclaimed short story author Sandra Murphy today, tackling a question we’ve all thought about…
Where Do Ideas Come From?
Something happens + a question = an idea for a story or book.
Writers say, ‘I couldn’t think of anything to write’ or ‘The Muse wasn’t speaking to me.’ I don’t believe in writer’s block or The Muse.
Ideas float in the air like dandelion fluff. They’re in your newsfeed, in a scrap of conversation, or what you see. That’s ‘something happens.’ The question that fuels every mystery is, ‘what if?’
In the news. In this week’s news, a 410-pound cube of gold, worth $11.7 million was found in NYC’s Central Park. A one day only art installation, it was heavily guarded. What if, instead of being art, the gold had dropped from a plane?
The Velveeta Cheese company had an art installation too—an eight-foot-long box of their cheese, aka liquid gold, to show ‘you don’t have to be rich to be golden.’ What if hordes of squirrels overpowered the security guards and stole the cheese during the night?
Overheard conversation aka eavesdropping. My short story ‘The Exterminator’ for Die Laughing: An Anthology of Humorous Mysteries, is based on eavesdropping. Walter’s a no-kill exterminator. In line at his favorite coffee shop, two women are overheard to say, ‘It’s the exterminator! If he’s here on a job, I don’t want to stay.’ Two men in black suits, white shirts, wearing pinky rings, mistake Walter for a hit man. Desperate for cash, Walter takes the job only to realize, if he can’t kill bugs, how’s he going to whack a guy?
Eavesdropping at your favorite spot likely won’t net you a hit man but it will give you fodder for a good story. Be sure to pick a spot away from the main crowd so a neighboring table will feel it’s private enough to dish the dirt without being overheard. Use an earbud as camouflage. Don’t lean toward the conversation. Falling out of your chair is a dead giveaway you were snooping.
What you see. A scruffy panhandler sits on the sidewalk, a used but empty coffee cup in front of him. As shoppers walk by, he asks for spare change. Without warning, he jumps to his feet and chases another man. What if he’s not a beggar but is an undercover cop on a stakeout?
Spin what you saw, heard, or read. Standing off to the side and watching doesn’t make you a wallflower. It makes you a better writer.
So, what have you read, seen, or overheard that could turn into a mystery? Leave a comment and let me know.
BIO: Sandra Murphy lives in St. Louis, Missouri, south of the Gateway Arch and Anheuser-Busch, near the mighty Mississippi River. On a hot summer day, the smell of hops awakens her imaginary friends. They spin tall tales and she submits them as her own. Her short story, ‘Lucy’s Tree’, won a Derringer award in 2020. Her latest efforts include ‘Room Service’ for Monkey Business: Crime Stories Inspired by the Films of the Marx Brothers, and editing Peace, Love, and Crime: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of the 60s and Happiness Is Listening to Your Dog Snore, a collection of quotes about dogs.