Often when I’m doing an interview, one of the most popular questions will be how or where do I get my ideas for stories. Sometimes the interviewer is more specific and asks where I got the idea for a particular story. That can be a hard question to answer clearly. That’s because ideas bombard an author from every direction. The trick is picking the idea that will develop.
That initial idea is like a spark, but in order to write a 100,000 word novel, that spark has to become a long burning creative fire. It’s not good if your creative spark dies out in chapter 3 or anywhere before you write “the end.”
That’s why before I start writing a story, I have to let an idea simmer a while in my imagination. Often I do a “What if” page. What if this happens? Or that happens? I’m not an outline/plotter but more of a seat-of-the-pants writer. That means I get that initial idea, mull it over a bit by jotting down a few ideas and then put my fingers on my keyboard with the hope that my characters will spring to life and whisper their story into my imagination.
I shared a little about my character planning last Wednesday. Tonight how about a glimpse of the first paragraph of my “what if” page for my upcoming Hidden Springs mystery, Murder Is No Accident? My spark of an idea was this old Victorian house. Then I said what if and tried to get my brain going down the right trails to a new mystery.
Hidden Springs Mystery What if Page
Think Cozy Mystery
“The little town that time forgot but murder didn’t.”
We have our main characters – Michael in love with Alex who unfortunately is not on site.
Time of year – September
Okay. What if we have an old house steeped in history that has gotten a little rundown over the years especially after Miss Fonda’s husband died and she began to have memory problems even though she’s not all that old. They didn’t have any close relatives and the wife once she got older became something of a recluse just because of her physical ailments. She tended to live in the past as her short term memory suffered. She and her husband were happy in their house that had been her family home. For years they only used the downstairs portions and then after Miss Fonda got older she pretty much lived in three rooms. The cousin, Fred Elwood, tried to see after her but then he dies of cancer and his wife takes over the job. Ellen does her best but she isn’t about to move in with her. “Not in that creepy old house. People have died in that house.” It’s bad enough that she had to go see about Miss Fonda in the house for three years after Fred died. She thought it an answer to prayers when Miss Fonda broke her wrist. That meant she’d have to give in to moving somewhere besides the old house.
I obviously already had Miss Fonda in mind. She turned out to be older than I first thought. She didn’t turn out to be a recluse. She and her husband weren’t all that happy in the house. At least her husband wasn’t. Ellen actually didn’t have that much to do with the story. I sent her off to Arizona or somewhere. Oh, and Miss Fonda had a cat. That was the “think cozy mystery” part. 🙂 And it ended up being October instead of September. I do like that line “The little town that time forgot but murder didn’t.”
So, that lets you see how I wander down some story trails to figure out what might work and what might not work.
You have two more chances to get another entry in the giveaway by leaving comments on this Sunday post or on next Wednesday’s post to perhaps win either Murder at the Courthouse or Murder Comes by Mail. I’ll pick my last winner, at least for this giveaway, next Sunday. I’ll be doing more giveaways in February and March. So if you’re at least 18, you can leave a comment and get an entry in the giveaway.
But now for this Sunday’s winner. Phyllis M. was the name that rose to the top of my drawing hat. I’ve sent Phyllis an e-mail already.
So tell me, do you think this old house will make a good setting for a mystery?
As always, thanks for reading.