Monday, January 11, 2010

Where do you get your ideas?

Writers are always being asked where we get our ideas.

Sometimes it’s an unanswerable question: the idea just comes out of nowhere.

Sometimes it’s easy – the subplot of In the Shadow of the Glacier is about a spate of bike thefts. I had begun work on that book, and had a rough outline and an idea of where the story was headed when my brand new bike was stolen. I was so angry, I went home (after calling my mom to come and pick me up) and put in a sub plot about a spate of bike thefts in the town. Have a look at the cover and you’ll see a bike in the foreground.

I have an abominable memory, but I seem to be able to remember ideas when I get them, so unlike many, if not most, writers I know (see Donis below) I don’t keep a notebook for ideas. I just store them away in the cobwebby vaults of my mind. I also tend not to worry about remembering or saving ideas that are not immediately useable. I won’t even think of the plot of a forthcoming book until I begin it, not wanting to be distracted from the current.

What brings this to mind is that I had minor day surgery on Thursday. I woke up in the recovery room, looked around and immediately had an idea for my new book.

I am writing a scene where the bad guy attempts to set the protagonist’s house on fire in order to scare her off. They will be unsuccessful. But lying there in the hospital, I realized that it would add to the drama if she is slightly injured, maybe just slips on a patch of ice while running from the fire and ends up concussed and in the hospital.

It will be a good place for the police to question her, because she has been avoiding them, and obviously at that point she will be in a very vulnerable position, flat on her back, barefooted, wearing a hospital gown that has gotten twisted around the IV (as happened to me!).

She will be weak, whereas normally she perceives herself as strong.

Great idea, and I probably never would have thought of it had I not been flat on my back in the recovery room.

(P.S. For people who have read my books – the above scene is not from a Molly Smith book. Molly, of course, does not perceive herself as strong.)

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