Monday, September 15, 2014
I have an idea....
Every writer has heard that question. Every reader has probably asked it, silently if not aloud. Ideas are the genesis of every fictional story ever told, but they're as unique as every snowflake in a winter storm. And where they come from, and how they evolve, is unique to every storyteller.
For me, ideas usually start with a question: "What if?"
I've written a book inspired by a couple of lines in the song,"Hazard," by Richard Marx: "I swear I left her by the river. I swear I left her safe and sound." I thought about the young man telling the story in song and wondered, what if a young man was suspected of a murder he didn't commit but never left town, even though the case was never solved? How would the townspeople treat him? How would he look at himself? What about the policemen who couldn't gather enough evidence to arrest him?
Out of that idea (and a lot of writing and revisions) came my October 2014 Intrigue, CRYBABY FALLS.
Another story that came out of a "What if?" question was my second Cooper Justice book, CHICKASAW COUNTY CAPTIVE. After reading about a series of horrific real life news stories about mothers who killed their children, I wondered, "What if you were the only survivor of such a murder? What if your mother killed your brothers and sisters but you somehow managed to live through the ordeal? What would your life be like? That's the story I gave to Kristen Tandy, the heroine of CHICKASAW COUNTY CAPTIVE, exploring how that ordeal colored every part of her life, from her job to her relationship with the hero and his young daughter.
But not all my ideas come from a "What if?" question. One of my favorite books I've ever written sprang from a snippet of a dream I had one night. I dreamed I had gone to a private island off the US coast to help an elderly woman who lived there. I don't remember what I was helping her with; I only remember that she had a beautiful garden and a tall, muscular and brooding male property caretaker who didn't seem to trust me one little bit—until one night when the power went out and someone tried to break into the house on that tiny, secluded island. The caretaker and I banded together to drive away the intruders and in the process, we started to bond.
That's all I can remember of the dream, but those vivid images stuck with me for several years, until I wrote SECRET ASSIGNMENT, the fourth book of my Cooper Security series. In that book, the youngest Cooper sister goes to Nightshade Island to help Lydia Ross catalog and store her late husband's papers and belongings. Lydia's burly caretaker, Gideon, doesn't trust Shannon at first, but soon they join forces protecting Lydia and the island from a group of ruthless men determined to find something the late General Ross had hidden, something that could have a far-reaching impact on a lot of lives.
Do you ever wonder where writers get their ideas? What books have you read that made you wonder, "How on earth did the writer come up with THAT idea?" Or if you're a writer, what's the most unusual genesis for one of your own stories? Tell me in the comments! I'll be drawing the name of a commenter at random later to win a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift certificate.