By Donna Schlachter
We recently returned from a research trip to California, where we stayed in a bed-and-breakfast situation, sharing meals with our host family. They were a delightful couple, and during one of our conversations, she mentioned she’d been working on a short story for a number of years. I asked some questions, and finally she admitted it was more a novella, because it was too long for a short story. When I suggested perhaps it was truly a novel, which was why she was struggling to finish it, she said she didn’t think she could never write a full-length novel.
When I confided that I write novels, she wanted to know where I got my ideas. I told her my ideas come to me because I’m always looking for another idea for another book.
So I shared with her – as I’m sharing with you now – where I get my ideas. Try out a few. We have about a month left in the summer, and the weather is perfect for getting out and about.
So where do I look for ideas?
On this trip, we visited Echo Canyon, the setting for a Pony Express novel I’ve written, as well as a historical fiction I penned. The palisades, box canyons, and caves in the walls of the canyon provide good fodder-and settings-for a couple of scenes in each book, and for more scenes in the next book I plan to write about the Pony Express. It’s a timeless topic that people love to read about.
We went to an aviation museum. While there, we learned about a PBY, kind of a flying boat, that was used to hunt down and destroy submarines. If you have watched Raiders of the Lost Ark, that same plane is in one of the scenes. I got to thinking about a pilot who is sent to hunt down a submarine but mistakenly fires on a small ship, sinking it and sending survivors into the water. He can’t admit he made a mistake, but that memory haunts him for years, and how he decides to make restitution to the families without telling them who he is.
We went to a firearms museum set on the grounds of the Winchester House, which gave me ideas about what if the house was a B&B, and a body was found in the formal garden one morning.
We went on a tour of the USS Hornet, a World War 2 aircraft carrier. There were so many nooks and crannies – plenty of places to hide a body.
On the way home, we stopped at Cove Fort, originally built as a way station in 1867, which gave me lots of fodder and research material for another historical suspense set at a similar fort in a similar time period.
So you see, ideas are everywhere you look. The trick is to let the ideas flow, look at the setting in a different time period or from a different perspective, and allow the characters to speak to you.
Donna Schlachter writes historical suspense from Denver, while her alter-ego, Leeann Betts, pens contemporary suspense. You can check them out at www.HiStoryThruTheAges.com, www.HiStoryThruTheAges.wordpress.com, www.LeeannBetts.com, www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com.
So agree. Ideas are everywhere and two writers at the same place get different ones! That’s what’s so neat about writing. While there are no new plots, every writer puts his/her own spin on it. Thanks for a great post.