#howtowrite: Mining Ideas

http://lorilrobinett.com

A frequent question I get is “Where do you get your ideas?”

My answer is simple. Everywhere. Look around you. Listen. Read. I’ve got several novels drafted – here’s how I’ve done it.

http://carypress.com/denim-diamonds-by-lori-robinett/

Denim & Diamonds by Lori Robinett

Denim & Diamonds is my first novel. The story began to germinate when I worked at a law firm. A client came in, needing an estate plan. She had several horses that she cared about deeply. They were her primary concern. She wanted to know how she could structure her estate so that her little farm would be taken care of. That got me to thinking . . . and the Diamond J was born.

Widow’s Web/Fatal Impulse (my next novel . . . hopefully to be released in 2015) was inspired by a story I heard when I was 10 years old. My family vacationed in Colorado, near Salida. At some point, Mom talked to a local about the mountain roads, the steep drop-offs, the dangers of driving. I remember a woman telling a story about a car that went off Highway 50, somewhere near Monarch Pass. The woman said the woman’s body wasn’t recovered until the next summer because the ravine was so steep and rugged that it was too dangerous for rescue crews to go down. The car was left there, a mangled mass of steel. The idea of someplace being so rugged that a body couldn’t be recovered stuck with me. I thought, what a great way to get rid of a body! (yes, even at 10, I thought that way – is it any wonder that I devoured Stephen King novels in my early teens?)

Alien Threat (still in draft form) was inspired by conspiracy websites that picked up a local news story several years ago when a local research scientist was killed. Apparently there have been a lot of scientists killed in unusual ways. Too much to be coincidence? Not in my novel.

If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, there are several resources you can mine for inspiration:

  • Read the news (especially a couple of pages back in a newspaper)
  • Pick up a book and turn to the 3rd page and read a line, then turn to the 30th page and read a line
  • Think of a book you like, then imagine that story line in a different genre (what if Harry Potter was written as a romance?)
  • Think of two movies you like, and imagine them in a mashup (Harry Potter meets Rocky)

When you come across ideas like that, find a way to record them:

  • Keep an idea journal.
  • Jot ideas on scraps of paper and drop them in a jar.
  • Write the idea on a sticky note and stick it to your wall.
  • Write your idea on an index card and keep it in a card file box.

So . . . where do you get your ideas? When you get an idea, how do you remember it?