If there’s anything people want to know when they talk to me at personal appearances or on television it’s this: “Where do you get your ideas?”
Not from some mysterious “novelist’s muse,” that’s for sure. I get ideas for my mystery novels from television, movies, and from real life. Since I am a mystery writer, I read lots of “true crime” nonﬁction books to try to understand what causes real people to kill two husbands in their sleep, or murder a wife so she can't get the kids. Many of my plot ideas come from the daily news. I just take the real events and twist them for my own use.
For example, the opening of Option To Die involves two Bradenton Beach police ofﬁcers chasing a speeding gray Audi on a beach road. When the car ﬁnally comes to a stop, they open the door to discover a woman behind the wheel who is naked and dead. It’s later learned that she is a local attorney.
In the real event, which happened a year before the book came out, the woman was a prosecutor, the car belonged to the wife of the man who was in the car with her, she was naked only from the waist down, and - of course - she was not dead. Although, after the arrest, she probably wished she was dead.
When you read something in Google News, think “What if?” You are on the road to developing a plot. Another great place for novel ideas is television and movies. It may seem hard to believe, but TV provides lots of good ideas for novels. Look at a typical episode of a dramatic series, say, “What if?” And alter the basic story to ﬁt what you want to do.
IDEAS ARE EVERYWHERE
I can think of a dozen movies, including 2013’s American Hustle, which were based on magazine articles. Make notes or record your ideas on your smartphone. Let nothing escape you. Ideas are all around us, but we have to pay attention. Train yourself to notice the little things you see and hear and save them so you can ﬁnd them at a later date. Finding ideas and saving ideas is the name of the game for novelists.
Seek new experiences. Talk with new people. Be curious and patient. Let people ramble on about their personal problems. (Just don’t try to solve them.) By being open to people around you, you're gaining experiences; glimpses of private lives. You’re learning what makes people tick. How they behave. As a writer, you need to know the inner workings of people because people are the heart of your writing.
----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.)