Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Where Do Writers Get Ideas?

I came across an article yesterday on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's website about a woman's body found in a pen of nine hybrid wolves. Her body was intact, but had been partially eaten. Unlike many people, my first reaction was not "yuck." The first thing that went through my mind was there's a story in here somewhere.

It made me wonder how and where other writers get their story ideas. I have a story file containing newspaper clippings, pages I've printed from things I found on the internet, notes I've jotted down, etc. I even have a Word document called Lines to Use in Future Books.

One of my favorite articles came from the FBI website about two men who were arrested for bringing in female illegals from Mexico and selling them for sex slaves. Another favorite is about employees of UCLA being investigated for selling body parts of corpses that had been donated for research purposes. I don't know if they'll ever work their way into a book, but they are in my file if I need them.

My novel, LOST SUMMER, came from an article I read on date rape drugs. The novel I'm working on now was sparked by not only my love of Gettysburg and battlefield preservation, but by the controversy over building a casino next to the battlefield.

Story ideas can also come out of nowhere. I'll be having a conversation with someone, and something they say sparks an idea. People you see on the street. Wisps of dialogue in a restaurant. You get the picture.

So, other writers out there--where do you get your ideas?


Annette said...

First, let me say, YAY a new post!

Okay, now that that's out of the way...I, too, have a drawer full of newspaper clipping and a Word file of opening lines and potential titles. Recently, there was a brouhaha going on in a neighboring township where a new supervisor and his "lieutenant" took over the board of supervisors and fired a couple of little old ladies who'd worked in the office there forever, even going so far as to have them arrested for theft. The news coverage was hysterical and I kept waiting for someone to kill the guy. Well, that never happened. At least not in real life. But there's a story there and it might end a bit bloodier than reality. (cue evil laughter)

Rebecca Drake said...

Like you, Joyce, I seem to find plenty of inspiration in the news. Real life is often stranger than fiction and I've certainly met some characters.
Some of my early inspiration came from those Time-Life Books on the FBI and great criminals of the early 20th century. Baby Face Nelson, Machine Gun Kelly, John Dillinger, Al Capone--these were the bad guys who stoked my imagination.

Kristine said...

I also collect news clippings, but I tend to build my most of my plot ideas around issues that are important to me. I often think about what scares me and then build a character and situation around that. Ideas for stories and novels come when I play with those issues and take them to the extreme. I love playing the "what if?" game.