Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Where Do You Get Your Ideas???

 Supposedly this is the question authors are most frequently asked.


Where Do You Get Your Ideas???


My answer to that is --- EVERYWHERE.

I am blessed.

I have no shortage of ideas. I have notebooks with ideas, computer files with ideas. I've learned to write them down when they hit, so I don't forget. That image of the writer scribbling on a scrap of napkin is all too true!

It's sort of magical, because when I go back and look through those ideas, the excitement for that story builds all over again.

When Harlequin announced the Killer Voices contest, I needed a suspense story. I remembered an idea that had come to me one night. I'd been standing at my kitchen sink washing dishes, and I could hear a block party on the next street over. That suspense writer brain kicked in and I thought WHAT IF...  Ultimately the story changed so that original idea wasn't even recognizable, but it got me started. Christmas in Hiding was the result.




A few years ago, I was sitting having coffee with my editor at RWA, and we were talking about the popularity of Amish fiction. RWA's conference that year was in Times Square. I live in NYC, but normally I avoid Times Square like the plague. I remember at the end of the conference thinking that I got the appeal of Amish life - simple, calm, as far removed from Times Square as your imagination could take you.

That got me curious to learn more about the Amish. A few weeks later, I was chatting with an author friend about her editor wanting both books set in Texas and Amish books. I joked that she should do Amish in Texas.

I was joking, but the idea stuck, so I Googled. What I found intrigued me SO much that I knew I had to use it in a story. (More about that in a minute.)

When I started writing Texas Witness Threat, I had one idea in mind. It was a question I'd thought of a few years ago. What would it feel like if you were someone who suffered anxiety and then you witnessed a murder, but no one believed you because there was no body? I have no idea where the idea came from. I was walking along the street when it popped into my mind. But I wrote it down.

When I actually started to write the story, I had no idea where the story was going - and then I remembered the result of my Google search. 

When I searched Amish in Texas, I discovered there had actually been a number of settlements, but none of them lasted very long. Oh well. 

But then I found this article, and I was so intrigued. You can go read it, but the gist is that after Ike devastated parts of south Texas, a group of Amish from Indiana came down to help rescue the animals and rebuild the fences and homes.

Amish Volunteers Help Gulf Coast Ranches Rebuild After Ike.




In that moment, a story was born because my brain started playing What if? What if they came to help, liked it, and stayed?

The result was the book with the snake cover. 

My box of books arrived last week, and I have to say, snake not withstanding, I like the cover. The art department did a fabulous job with the colors. The book glows.


I had to laugh though.  When Christmas in Hiding arrived, I took a photo of Fenway with the book. 


When I tried to replicate that for his book, he shied away from the book as if the snake was real! Oh, Fenway.


I could go on and on with where I got various story ideas, but enough about me. Where do you get your ideas? 

When we teach children to keep a writer's notebook, we tell them to fill it with seed ideas, so they'll never have to say they have nothing to write about. 

Do you have a notebook full of writing seeds or a folder full of napkin scribbles? Tell me what inspires your stories.


22 comments:

  1. The snake is no deterrent to a great story! And I love the idea of the Amish resettlement in Texas. Go Lonestar State!!!!

    I love when random ideas take seed and bear fruit, Cate. Congratulations!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ruth's, I was so intrigued by that story. I watched a bunch of videos and was especially intrigued by how Amish house construction can help withstand hurricane force winds!

      Delete
    2. How interesting, Cate! Amish ingenuity, right?

      Delete
  2. I am not a writer that has notebooks filled with unused story ideas. Ideas are REALLY hard for me. But just like any other muscle, the imagination gets looser the more you use it. I'm learning to let my creativity run with just a spark and it is getting a little easier. I love to hear where other writers get those ideas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glynis, it's not always a good thing to have so many seed ideas. Sometimes I think I'm more enamored of the ideas than actually turning them into stories. You're absolutely right about that muscle memory though. Practice definitely makes things easier.

      Delete
  3. Cate, great post. My process, if I have one, is more from the inside out. Right now my ideas come from stories I've already written. It's like sourdough bread, the original book is the "starter," then I start developing backstory for the secondary characters, and off we go. Obviously that doesn't work for stand-alones. I'm also inspired by "big" events, i.e., everyone who went on the Oregon Trail had a story, everyone who smuggled Jewish children out of Munich had a story, everyone who went West during the Dust Bowl had a story. The trick is, when I place my people in those venues, to not make them cliche or stock characters.
    It's a smorgasbord and I think it depends on your career goals at the time and also what you're capable of writing at the time.
    While my process is usually more organic, with characters rising out of other books and taking the spotlight, I'm in a different place now. Am winding up my first Oregon Trail series and while there are seeds planted for following more characters from the first three books, I wanted to try something different. So I'm giving Revolutionary War a shot, specifically Lexington and Concord, and I have to start from scratch and get to know two brand-new characters, an H and an H nd their family and friends. So I'm working from the outside in on this one, and relearning everything I ever knew about character development.
    It all falls back to "What if" and "why not," doesn't it?
    I will be back later.
    Kathy Bailey

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathy, I'm excited that you're writing American Revolution! My first books were all set in that period, but back then no one wanted to see American Rev. I think that has definitely changed now, thanks in no small part to the John Adams miniseries and of course Hamilton. I'll be looking forward to hearing much more about this as you develop the ideas,

      Delete
    2. We'll talk more on Friday. We always do.

      Delete
  4. Love the cover Can't Wait to read!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Sarah! I appreciate your enthusiasm.

      Delete
  5. Cate, can't wait to read your snake book! :)

    I used to be bombarded with ideas. Now, not so much. I'm not sure why. For the last couple years, I've had to work to get a new story to unravel. Often, I see the hero or heroine, but they're slow in revealing tidbits about who they are and what they're hoping to achieve.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that's only natural after so many books, Debby. Trying to make them unique while still hitting the same genre requirements is challenging.

      Delete
  6. I have no shortage of ideas, either. Shortage of time... well, that's another story. :-) But I agree. Notebooks full of ideas, snippets, lines, character names. Yes. And a few little opening scenes typed out just waiting for me to tell the rest of the story.
    I went on a writer's retreat a few weeks ago and got the idea of writing a story about three authors who are helping each other write her own story at a retreat of their own--starting each chapter with a snippet of the author's story. It's going to take work, but I love the idea so much I want to make it happen someday. And another idea popped in my head the other day when I was talking to a preschool mom about her trip to Waco, TX and how she'd toured Baylor. But I won't say anymore about that one, because it's too good to risk having it stolen by someone who might have time to write it before I can. Ha!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL I totally get that, Amy. Shortage of time is the big problem. I will never have enough time to tell all the stories in my head.

      Delete
  7. Fun post, Cate. I come up with lots of ideas from things I see or hear. I play the What If game a lot. It's something not everyone understands. One day I was listening to something on the news. My sister and sister-in-law were in the room with me. I made some comment about "What if..." I don't remember now what it was, but my sister said something to the effect that maybe it was just what was said. My sister-in-law is not a writer but is an artist, so she understood and said it's because I'm a writer that I think that way. As an artist she can also look beyond what is given. I thought that was interesting how people can look at things differently.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a great story, Sandy. I sometimes wonder what non-writers do to entertain themselves. I started my very own book as a remedy for insomnia. I would make up the story as I was trying to fall asleep. The problem was I kept falling asleep at the same point, so ultimately I decided to write it so I'd find out what else happened.

      Delete
  8. Mary Cate, I love how you came up with your ideas! Like you, I've had stories morph so much that they're hardly recognizable from my original idea. But they're always better once an editor gets hold of them. :)

    My favorite story of where I got an idea was for A Family for Faith. On a plane on the way home from RWA, I saw a dad trying to put a bow in his daughter's hair. He struggled so, and then finally gave up. And there was my story idea!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love it, Missy! I had a similar story pop into my head when I saw a dad at church with his daughter.

      Delete
  9. Hi Cate:

    If you consider the two titles, "Amish Christmas Search," and, "Christmas in Hiding", a whole lot of ideas come immediately to mind. The two seem like a ready made two-in-one special Love Inspired Holiday offer. All that's needed is a novella to bridge the two stories. I don't think this has ever been done in publishing history. Who would write the novella?

    Vince

    P.S. Is Fenway named for the Red Sox or the NASCAR racing team?


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love your idea, Vince.

      And Fenway is definitely from the Red Sox. My husband was from Boston.

      Delete
  10. It’s obvious some patients with herpes are being enslaved to the antiviral and other supplementary Orthodox medicine just to help suppress the virus and not a cure. I have been with the virus since 2015 until I was introduced by a blogger who also narrated her story online on how she was cured of Genital Herpes after using Dr Sikies Herbal Medicine. This is a year and 2 weeks since I was delivered from genital Herpes. All thanks to God for using this Great herbalist to heal me. I have promised to keep telling good things about Dr Sikies. Please feel free to share Your problems with him and don’t forget to tell him I did refer you to Him. Thanks. Write him on mail Drsikies@gmail.com He deals with Alzheimer virus, Cancer, HIV, Herpes, Genital, warts, ALS, BV, UTI, Virginal infection, Genital, Wart, HPV, Hepatitis A/B, Good luck, HSV, Pregnancy, Ex back.




    here is his website: https://drsikiesherbalcure.weebly.com

    you can reach me via mail: anitalawson515@gmail.com


    ReplyDelete
  11. Love the what if questions, Cate! You never know where they will lead. I keep computer files with bookmarked headlines and notebook ewith seeds for stories.

    ReplyDelete

If you have trouble leaving a comment, please "clear your internet cache" and try again. You can find this in your browser settings under "clear history."