Where do you get your ideas from?
Let’s be serious here, eventually, doesn’t EVERY author get that question from someone at some time in his/her life? Of course, he does. The majority of the answers will be the same: from real life.
Where else are we going to get ideas? Sure, writers create a fictional story, put characters in larger than life situations, but doesn’t the seed or the spark usually come from real life experiences?
I remember attending the Killer Nashville conference when the featured guest was Jeffrey Deaver. He was telling how The Burning Wire came to be. He was having his place rewired and became involved in a discussion with the electrician. The guy was explaining some of his work and how dangerous certain parts of the job could be. Deaver then dived right in, fascinated, and started asking more question. Thus, the discussion sparked one of his novels.
I can’t think of any other answer to that question. I can think of an entire plot, but many of the scenes come from real places I’ve visited or anecdotes I’ve heard. I’ve mentioned how when doing research for Beta I met several people who, because of their personality, made it into the book. Ditto with other novels I’ve written. The irritating Coke machine I mentioned in the Origin blog series became Senior Year Soda which was the longest short story in the Death of the Demon Machine anthology. That story was written, edited, and polished up in less than a month, and I think it’s one of my better shorts. Bits and pieces of the story-not all of them-were taken from real life and from stories I’d heard people tell.
I have visited the area where Mallory and Lawrence are held captive in Delta (coming soon to a bookstore near you, I hope). I found it by accident while exploring the outskirts of Des Moines. There is a scene in that same novel where Mallory is tailing a cheater and encounters an elderly woman who has no compunction about commenting on Mallory’s, uh, physical characteristics. This was based on a real person, a relative of a writer friend.
Years ago, I wrote a short story set in a bar where a mysterious individual enters and soon havoc ensues. I started that story while waiting for my parents’ flight to come in. There used to be a bar just north of the airport and I went in there to sit and write and this story took shape. Sometime later, after joining the Barnes & Noble critique group, I met a romance writer and she and I collaborated on the short story. At the time, she wanted a change made to the fate of one of the characters and I agreed. To this day, I can go back and read that story and I cannot tell which of us wrote what part. I thought the story really well written and I may have to dig it out and submit it somewhere. The bar is no longer on McKinley, but it is in the Petersen stories. It became The Red Tomatoe, owned by Edward Brougham III.
Real life experiences, real places I have visited, funny stories told to me by others. They are all fodder for scenes or plots or a cool character in a book.
So, before you ask an author, “Where do you get your ideas?” be aware that YOU may end up in a future story just for asking that question.