Monday, September 15, 2014

I have an idea....

"Where do you get your ideas?"

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.

13 comments:

bn100 said...

Don't really wonder

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Rita Bay said...

I've wondered about the origins of Dragons of Pern and the Harry Potter series. Amazing world-building.
My own stories come from "what ifs" and visits to inspiring places. Rita

Naima Simone said...

I love playing the "What if" game when brainstorming! The coolest things come out of it. Even the most outlandish things can be whittled down to great ideas. I've always wondered how does Kresley Cole keep coming up with her a-MAZING ideas for the Immortals After Dark series. And J.R. Ward, too. And of course, Nalini Singh. Between the Psy-Changeling and the Guild Hunter series, I just want to borrow her brain for one day! LOL!

Ideas for my stories come from everywhere. A song, a book, a commercial, even a sermon in church. :-) My Secrets and Sins series came from a Sex and the City marathon crossed with a 48 Hours Hard Evidence episode. Weird, right? LOL!

Charlotte said...

Hi Paula,I write stories from my own life experiences, some were very horrid and life changing which have been used in local plays, along with other oral histories relating to the same subject; others come from dreams and my very vivid and somewhat weird imagination. I come from a long line of story tellers whose motto was "We never let the truth get in the way of a good story." I'm sorry to say I haven't yet read your work but I love the way you have come up with ideas for your books and I have already put them on my "to read" list. I know how to speed read but to me it just doesn't have the same effect as taking my time and digesting each beautiful phrase the author so carefully crafts. I am very
anxious to read your stories. Best Wishes.

Cari Hislop said...

I'm also afflicted with the "What if..." question. All the time! But I've also been inspired by becoming angry about something. I can think of three of my stories that came to life that way. My 'Taming the Shrew' came about after listening to these other women slagging off red hair (one of them was about nine months pregnant). The pregnant lady didn't want her baby to have red hair etc... I was horrified (and angry for all red haired people). I created a whole family of orange haired brothers one of whom ends up with a red haired woman. I channelled all the anger into the story. It's strange to think I've earned money from getting angry.

This year I finally started writing a Science fiction story that came out of a dream I had years ago.

I usually feel surrounded by endless possible stories. I can't walk through an antique store without wondering about the stories captured by every old item (or the lives of the people admiring the objects).

Ashfa said...

If there's one book that I've wondered where the author got the idea from, it's the Harry Potter books. It's just mind blowing!

Then there's The Name of The Wind and The Hunger Games as well. Pretty amazing concepts.

Anonymous said...

I am astonished at Diana Gabaldon's books and how she thinks. True what ifs indeed.

Carol Bibb said...

my last comment was posted as anonymous

Nashra Anwer said...

I've to say Harry Potter too but besides that, I've always admired how A Game of Thrones had been written.

Marcy x said...

The Hobbitt. I know Quest stories have been around but Hobbitt? I have always thought he was a bit inspired by the Bibkical story iof David and Goliath besides good and evil battle. Mardox@consolidated.net

Paula said...

Wow, thanks everyone for the great comments! I've been having issues with my Google account (couldn't remember the password!) so I'm slow commenting.

The randomly chosen winner is....

Ashfa!

Ashfa, please email me by using the "contact" button on my website: www.paulagraves.com.

Let me know if you want an Amazon GC or a B&N GC.

And thanks for the great comments!

Callie James said...

Sorry I missed the original post, Paula. Work has been insane. I really enjoyed this. And Crybaby Falls ... that sounds very familiar. You wrote that ages ago, didn't you?

Thanks for a great post!

Shadow said...

Oh! Good post! Ill admit, ive asked the question, out loud and silently. I love your "what if". Awesome way to daydream and find a story! Your books sound awesome! I cant wait to read them, especially Crybaby Falls. That one really has me intrigued! Thanks for sharing! Very fun post!