This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Diane will be awarding a $25 Amazon Gift Card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on her tour.
Where do ideas come from?
You’ll never hear me say I have nothing to write about. I have at least one idea each day that could be an entire novel. I don’t say that to brag. In fact, it’s a bit of a problem. With so many ideas, it’s easy to lose focus. Discovering new ideas is so exciting that it’s hard to continue plodding along with the same story for weeks, months, years, when I could be dabbling in a new idea every day. If only I had the gift of brevity! I could be the most prolific short-short fiction writer ever.
So where do all these distracting ideas come from? For me, inspiration comes mostly from the people I observe (and overhear) in everyday life. To steal a line from Stephen Chbosky, it’s one of the perks of being a wallflower. Every story I’ve ever written, short or long, has started with a character.
A woman with a birthmark on her forehead sitting alone in a coffee shop reading. The kid with the fresh tattoo on his arm bagging groceries down at Price Chopper. A couple on a train talking about how yet another of their friends has named her daughter Emily. Any of these can spark an entire story.
I observe these people and I want to know more about them. What brought them to these particular places at this moment? What do they want? What do they need? How do they interact with the world?
I try to put myself into that person’s shoes. What if I had noticeable a birthmark on my face? How would my mom act if I came home with a huge tattoo? What would it be like to have the same first name as four other girls in my first grade class? Sometimes the characters who come out of this exercise are a lot like me, and sometimes they are nothing like me, but they all start with me trying to get inside their heads.
Another of my favorite tricks to find inspiration is to write about situations I would hate to be in. That’s how I got to know my narrator in Watch Me Disappear and in the novel I’m currently working on. In Watch Me Disappear, the nightmare situation is having to start over at a new school for senior year of high school. In my current work-in-progress, it’s having to move back in with my mom as an adult who has been independent since college. The characters who I discover this way are like parallel-life versions of myself. They aren’t me, but they are informed by my experiences.
Arlo Guthrie says finding ideas for songs is like fishing. You cast your line and hope something bites. I think that if you pick a good stream and keep your eyes and ears open, something will.
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Lizzie knows it isn’t right to eavesdrop, but is it really eavesdropping if her neighbor Maura makes all of her phone calls on her parents’ pool deck in easy earshot of Lizzie’s backyard? And of course it’s wrong to go snooping around on someone else’s computer, but is it Lizzie’s fault that Maura keeps her computer turned on (and logged in to Facebook) all the time?
Lizzie Richard’s father has moved the family around every few years to advance his career, so she has never had a chance to develop the kind of “BFF” relationships she thinks most kids have. She’s bracing herself for another lonely year at her third high school when her new neighbor Maura gets sick of watching her little brother when she could be partying. Thanks to Maura’s plotting, Lizzie becomes everyone’s new favorite babysitter. Seeing her opportunity, Lizzie breaks her strict parents’ rules and uses Maura’s computer to create a secret Email address and Facebook account. She is quickly friended by Missy, a fellow transfer student as eager for a friend as she is. Things are looking up for Lizzie until Maura’s ex-boyfriend Paul sets his eye on Missy. Caught between her new best friend and the neighbor whose friendship promises instant popularity, Lizzie doesn’t know what to do—because she’s fallen for Paul, too.