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.