Readers ask me this question quite often. Story ideas come at me from everywhere. A song, a picture, something that catches my eye. Even an overheard phrase.
Take yesterday. I was at the grocery store, waiting to pay for my things. I looked up from reading the latest Kardashian escapade on a magazine cover and saw a tall, handsome young man in a gray suit walk by, carrying a bouquet of flowers.
Instantly Kim was forgotten. In her place I concocted a reason for the man’s fragrant burden. Maybe he was married, and just found out his wife was pregnant. Or, perhaps he and his wife (or girlfriend) got in a huge argument that morning, and he decided to soften her up with a floral apology.
Maybe he was meeting a girlfriend’s parents for the first time, and was hedging his bets with flowers for the mom. He could even be preparing for a blind date. The ideas were endless (as was waiting for the older lady in front of me to write a check. A check? Who writes a check nowadays?).
Then I delved deeper. Maybe he was supposed to be out of town, and instead he’d picked up flowers for his mistress, and was going to spend an illicit night of pleasure in her arms. And the wackiest of all: maybe he was giving someone flowers as a signal to an assassin that she was the person to be killed. Or, he was a serial killer that left a bouquet of flowers next to each woman he’d slain.
Okay, so maybe the last two are real stretches of the imagination. But that’s how I get my ideas. Something catches my eye, and my imagination runs with it. When I saw a prison road work crew while on a drive with my son, bam! My book Prisoner of Love was born
A couple years ago my husband and I went on vacation up into Oregon/Washington, to the Columbia River Gorge. That trip spawned a three-book historical series that takes place along the Columbia. And the song “Smoke Rings in the Dark,” by Gary Allan, gave birth to my first western, with a little help of past vacations in Texas.
Recently I’ve just started a story about a Greek tycoon and the woman who cuts him down to size. I didn’t want it to be cliché, so I started thinking of how to make my heroine different, not the same sweet, innocent young girl at the millionaire mogul’s mercy. And then my twenty-two-year-old son came along and said he’d signed up for Bartending School (not quite the school I’d envisioned for him when he was eight or nine, but, to each his own). And then the light shone down upon me.
My heroine in that story is a bartender, and she’ll definitely lock horns with Mr. I-Get-Everything-I-Want-Because-I’m-Rich, simply because she’s independent and he’s egotistical. The rest of the plot fell into place.
My family is getting used to my lightning flashes of inspiration. They now start to look at me in that tolerant, “There she goes again” manner. Or they even play along, like my husband did on Valentine’s Day when he took me to dinner. We sat on the restaurant’s patio and people-watched.
He was very good at coming up for reasons why one young couple wasn’t holding hands (they’d argued, but had already paid the babysitter, so they were going to stay out even if they were fighting). Or, the shy, college-age couple at the next table, who he said had just started dating and were having stilted conversation. His suggestions were really imaginative, and I told him so.
Yes, stories come at me from everywhere. They burst into my head at any given moment. Some hit me so strongly that I put aside a planned plot for another, unexpected one. I can only hope that God grants me a long life in order to share all these wonderful ideas spinning around in my imagination.