Beats me. I just stand still for a few minutes and am inundated with them.
Hello – I’m Janis Patterson, an author new to Carina. I’ve published many things under the name Janis Susan May, but as I’m now specializing in mysteries, I’m using the name Janis Patterson. THE HOLLOW HOUSE, a cozy mystery set in 1919
So – back to ideas. So many people ask me where I get them and I don’t know how to answer, as I have no clue. Everything is an idea. Look around you. Every item, every person can be the springboard for an idea… if you look at them right.
There’s a car with a crumpled fender. Was there an accident? Was he hit deliberately? Did he run away from an accident? Was his car stolen, damaged then dumped? How would these affect him?
There’s a woman in a very expensive dress but wearing cheap, ugly shoes. Why? What does that say about her? Did she rush to dress this morning, her mind on other things? Is she really broke and making a last desperate attempt to get a good job? Did she steal the dress she is wearing? Is she just an eccentric who doesn’t give a flip?
See? The world is full of ideas if you will just look a little bit beyond what you see.
But… repeat after me. An idea is not a plot. An idea is not a plot. An idea is not a plot.
An idea is part of a plot.
An idea is essential to a plot.
An idea by itself is not a plot.
For a plot you need lots of ideas – hundreds of them, all braided together to form a cohesive story. And everything in your life is a potential idea.
For example – about a year ago The Husband and I were stranded in
The Husband is a Captain in the Navy, so we went to the USO, where he promptly went to sleep. I looked at a few magazines, then started to think. An airport full of angry people, a wife stranded in a USO… Hmmm.
From that unfortunately commonplace episode grew the short story DANGER FROM WITHIN. It is about a Navy wife (no surprise, that) who is trapped in a USO by a storm that closes the airport. There is a threat by terrorists, a murder in a locked room full of motivated suspects and a victim who most definitely needed killing. Wonderful fun! And it all started with a cancelled flight. The story appears in the anthology MURDER TO MIL-SPEC.
Commercial: MURDER TO MIL-SPEC is a very special charity anthology done by the magnificent Tony Burton of Wolfmont Publications. Every year he does a crime anthology on one theme or another and all the proceeds are donated to a specific charity. For the last few years it has been Toys For Tots. MURDER TO MIL-SPEC benefits Homes For Our Troops, that wonderful organization which remodels/builds homes for catastrophically injured military people coming home from the war. The authors and the publisher donate their work, the readers get a good bunch of stories and a great deal of money goes to a good charity. It’s a win-win situation.
So where did the idea for THE HOLLOW HOUSE come from? (By the way, I’m told it should be released in October – I can’t wait.) To be quite honest, I have no idea where 1919 came from. It just seemed to fit, being a time of great grief (World War I had just ended, as had the flu epidemic that killed almost as many civilians as the War had soldiers) and a time of great excitement and hope for the future. I won’t give anything away about the story, but the flawed, courageous heroine was based in one particular part on a woman I knew a long time ago. I started to wonder ‘What if…?’ and I was lost. From those two small germs of ideas grew a book that simply begged to be written.
My second book with Carina is a novella called LURE OF THE MUMMY (under the name Janis Susan May, due out sometime this fall) and I can tell you exactly where the basic idea came from on that. In Salima Ikram’s book about sacred animal mummies there is the picture of a rather battered cat mummy. The poor thing is one of the scariest images I’ve ever seen, and as soon as I saw it I had the spark of an idea that grew into my novella. Can’t tell you any more without giving away the story!
So, you see ideas are everywhere. We’re all surrounded by hordes of them every day. What makes the difference is how you see them and what you do with them.