How Did You Come Up With That?

Writers get this question a lot. How DO writers come up with the stories and characters that populate their books? Do they have some master file of ideas that they peruse when the urge to write a book hits them? Do they do extensive research on different topics and select one that nobody has ever written about before? I think not. If most writers are like me, the ideas for their stories come from bits and pieces of life - overheard snatches of strangers' conversations, news items, a random phrase. Anything can stimulate those creative juices.

I developed the idea for my Harlequin Intrigue, The Stranger and I, from a news story. Here in Southern California, our border with Mexico is in the news a lot. I heard a news story about a tunnel underneath the border that the Border Patrol discovered, which was huge and high tech. It even had lighting installed! Terrorists using those tunnels to get into our country is a real and frightening possibility. I started thinking about what would happen if a woman traveling in Mexico stumbled across such a tunnel and wasn't even aware of its significance? I began writing The Stranger and I with the first scene where the heroine, Lila Monroe, witnesses a murder at the entrance to one of these tunnels - and the story took off from there.

For something less frightening and more fun, I got the idea for my erotic novella, "Hot on Her Heels," coming in Secrets Volume 24 in July '08, from my friend. She told me that she had taken her 80-year old mother to Las Vegas for her birthday, and they attended an all-male revue, The Thunder From Down Under. Her mom had a blast, and the men from the show paid particular attention to her - sitting on her lap and letting her stuff bills in their g-strings! I turned that scenario into a story about another feisty old broad who gets taken advantage of by a hot dancer in a Vegas strip club, and the private investigator who infiltrates the club as a dancer to recover her stolen diamonds.

So you never know. Your lunchtime conversation about your sister falling into a fountain on her recent trip to Italy could be overheard by some imaginative writer at the next table and turned into a romantic comedy! It all starts with "What would happen if....."

How about it? How did you come up with the plot for your latest romance?


Anonymous said...

Hi Carol. Your novels sound great! I'm sure I've incorporated something I've seen or heard in one of my stories. But for the most part, I dream them.

(from WritingGIAMx2)

Wendi said...

Hi, Carol!
You're right, if writers got paid for every time we were asked how we come up with our ideas we could make a living without ever selling a book. :-D
Ideas come from everywhere for me. Sometimes I think they fall out of the sky. My novel Cowboy Games was a complete lightning strike idea that hit me as I was walking across my bedroom. I literally ran to my computer and typed the premise before it could get away. Another idea came to me when I was challenged to write an intriguing first line. I wrote the line and then figured out the story. :D
I've gotten ideas from news stories and odd scenarios that I've come across, but those tend to be harder for me to write. Maybe because the ones that seem to come out of nowhere have really been brewing in some back corner of my mind without me even realizing they were there. So now for everyone going, "HUH? What in the H E double hockey sticks is she talking about?" I guess the simple answer is, I'm not sure where I get most of my ideas. I just get them. LOL!

Carol Ericson said...

Hi Tina, do you mean you literally have a dream, wake up, and write down the idea? I'd have some weird books if I did that!

Hi Wendi, Cowboy Games is a great title! I have to do that too - type up an idea before it gets away from me. My boys always say, "That sucks for you," or something like that, and I thought it would be great title for a YA paranormal about vampires (not that I write that genre). Then lo and behold, I read something recently about an author who had a book by that title (or something close), and it was a YA paranormal. LOL I figure she musth have pre-teen boys too!

Lexi said...

I've had ideas pop into my head at the strangest times. I was at a stoplight next to a hospital, heard a police siren and boom, a story was born about a convict that escapes custody while on a medical visit to the hospital.

A lot of times my ideas come from TV shows or movies. I get a certain character in my head and a new scene for that character pops into my head.

Anonymous said...

That sounds familiar, Lexi. I have read or seen scenes I didn't like, and while working out alternatives I've ended up with the core of a new story. More often, though, I start with a dream. My upcoming story BAREBACK (Loose Id, probably February 2008) started with a recurrent nightmare I've had since I was a little girl.

Amber Green

Vonda Sinclair said...

Interesting post, Carol! It was great seeing where your story ideas came from. A couple of times, at least, my story ideas have come from songs the first time I heard them. Sometimes whole scenes played out in my head before the song ended. I love it when that happens.