People often ask me (and other writers) where I get my ideas. I wish I had a clever answer, but I really don’t. Small Things, for example, came from reading something about people who remembered what they were doing when they first heard man had walked on the moon or JFK was assassinated. I thought, sure, we remember where we were and what we were doing when we first heard about momentous events that effect everyone (I remember, for example, exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first heard about the twin towers being attacked) but what about the events that are only momentous for the individual? And then I thought of a young boy, and how he might remember where he was and what he was doing when his best friend was murdered. The young boy changed to a young adult (Shawn, who is about to turn 16 in the story) and the novel, which was originally in first person, became more of a coming of age tale about dealing with the repercussions of Tanner’s murder and finding out who committed the deed and why.

In Leap Year, the novel I’m currently working on now, the protagonist has the power to open a door somewhere and come out another door somewhere else, provided there is something connecting the two doors. (An unmarked door in Paris, Texas, for example, could take him to Paris, France, while a Starbuks in Cleveland could take him to… well, just about anywhere there happens to be a Starbuks!) That came about from the thought that someone born on leap year might live to be four times the age of a normal person simply because they only celebrate one birthday every four years. And then I thought what if other, similar things were true for this person? If he found a heads-up penny on the ground, would he really have good luck for the rest of the day? How about if he stepped on a crack, would that translate into his mother needing spinal surgery? What if a black cat crossed his path?

Those are just two examples, and of course not all ideas grow into fruition. Sadly, there is no magical fount that writers drink from to get ideas. They come from the world around us, from reading, from thinking, from observing. And, occasionally, one of those ideas actually sparks another idea, and another, and before you know it you have a book plotted out in your head. Then all you have to do is write it. 🙂


2 Responses

  1. I tackled this same subject on my blog more than a year ago, in which I discussed the background of my ebook short story, “The Angel of Lies.” That story came out of one of my phobias (statue phobia, you can look it up, and yes, it sounds as stupid as it actually is). The act of writing the story actually cured me of that phobia for more than a decade. Sometimes it’s not so much an idea (or series of ideas) that sparks a story. Sometimes the story NEEDS to be written.

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From Joe's writing

Kingfisher and Quarry had a different partner than they did when he first met them all those years ago, a girl a little younger than Emily named Nadine Pahari, who currently walked along between them. She didn’t speak much. Shawn wondered what her story was but was almost afraid to ask. She and Emily had a brief conversation on the plane ride to the Yukon, the barren tundra they presently found themselves in, but that was it.

— A Pattern of Shadows, chapter 1