Where do you get your ideas?
People ask me this a lot. Seven books into my series (two not yet released) it’s actually become a little challenging to come up with new and original crime scenarios. I’ve included a lot of crimes in the Lei Crime Series ™, from the “basics” of the genre like rape, robbery and drugs to the finer points of money laundering, identity theft, sex trafficking, burglary and of course, murder. It’s challenging to find something really different in the crime mystery genre!
I follow Steven King’s advice in my favorite “how to” book On Writing: “Read a lot.” (I wrote a separate whole post on how his book has influenced me here.) I think of this omnivorous curiosity I was born with as fueling the creative machine—interesting grist creates the best new ideas. I keep a file of articles that have caught my interest over the years, and many of them have sparked plot ideas eventually.
Here are some of my favorite places to gather ideas:
- Vanity Fair in-depth crime articles (love these! Bizarre, and many so much better than fiction!)
- People Magazine always has a crime section—not as sophisticated as the Vanity Fair ones, but usually at least colorful and unusual. Recently I was captivated by the story of three women held prisoner for years in a house who escaped…Psychologically fascinating.
- WIRED Magazine-tons of great ideas regarding our now and future world in here. Good writing too.
- Local News—usually pretty boring and depressing, but occasionally more than the usual mayhem occurs, like the recent unsolved cane field arson fires or the crazy guy who threw women off a hiking trail.
- National Geographic- my favorite magazine continues to educate and expand my world and thus, my writing.
- Blogs, websites, etc, online
- Other writers (not for story ideas themselves, but for treatments/writing style. Gillian Flynn, whose books profoundly disturb me, has influenced my writing with her innovative use of POV and playing with timeline)
- Art. My husband is a woodworker and photographer, and my association with his world has influence both plot and character development, plus enlivening my life with imagery that stimulates my brain in unknown, indirect ways.
- Photography. My photography hobby has stimulated my writing—not sure how, just know it has.
- My therapy clients. I never use anything direct from our sessions, but their stories and struggles color my fiction with shades from bruising to kleptomania. I’ve also learned to have a keen ear for dialogue due to “tracking” therapy sessions with a degree of memorization accuracy one client called “uncanny.”
- Grapevine gossip. I hear stuff: “did you hear so-and-so’s pot plants got stolen after the new window washing service got hired?” hmmmm. Interesting.
- People send me ideas. Lots of them are good!
- Movies and TV. Yes, I admit it. I’m influenced.
- Experiencing and doing things. A three day hike in Haleakala Crater inspired my upcoming novel, Unsound. Many physical challenges in my life have led to my best writing.
Where do you get your ideas? Anything I missed?
I love this eclectic list! I’m the same way, sponging up ideas everywhere and anywhere. The universe has lots of stories floating by. All you need to do is wave your net around in the air, and you’re sure to catch some inviting ones!
Great list, Toby, thanks so much for sharing! I also keep a file of newspaper articles that have intrigued me, AND a huge list of potential book titles. Sometimes a title idea (or a photograph!) can spark a whole plot.