Monday, July 3, 2017

Finding ideas for your novel.

If there’s anything people want to know when they talk to me at book signings or on television, it’s this: “Where do you get your ideas?”

Not from a “novelist’s muse,” that’s for sure. 

Most of my ideas for my Veronica Slate, Frank Tasker and Kate Mandolin mystery novels came from true crime nonfiction books, television, movies, and from real life. I read true crime books to try to understand what causes people to kill two husbands in their sleep, ten years apart, or to murder a wife and burn down the house so she can't get the kids.

Many of my plot ideas come from the Dateline NBC and 48 Hours television programs. I just take the real events and twist them around for my own use. When you read something on Google News or see something on MSNBC or Fox News, think “What if?” You are on the road to developing a plot. Ideas are everywhere, you simply have to pay attention.

For example, Option To Die, my third published mystery novel, opens with two Bradenton Beach, Florida 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. They learn she is a local attorney.

In the real event, which was in the Sarasota newspaper, 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. (After the news hit the papers, however, she probably wished she were dead.)

Come up with an adhesive idea.

To create an idea for your novel, find an adhesive idea, an idea to which other ideas will adhere.

Take the ideas and connect them to something else. Create an idea that leads to more questions.

The adhesive idea, which helped me create Kill Cue, my first novel, was “What would happen if a disk jockey was killed while he was on the air, but nobody knew it because the station was automated.”

At the time, I was working nights at an automated FM radio station on an old dirt road in Sarasota, Florida. The next idea to stick to my adhesive idea was “Why would someone kill a disk jockey while he was on the air?” That directed me to “Why would Veronica (my protagonist) investigate?” In addition, it led to “What secret was the disk jockey trying to hide?”

For my third book, Option To Die, I had been reading about real estate agents being raped when they showed homes to sketchy strangers. My adhesive idea was, “What if someone was killing real estate agents, but their motive was revenge for a real estate deal gone wrong?”

Since Sarasota, Florida, my setting for the Veronica Slate mystery novels, happens to be the former winter home of the Ringling Brothers, Barnum, and Bailey circus, and I had visited the now defunct theme park, Circus World, near Orlando, I came up with the idea of building a theme park in Sarasota called CircusLand. I created rides, a computer control room, and even designed the clown make-up for the employees.

Funny thing. After the book came out, the Tampa Bay Tourism Association got a dozen calls inquiring about buying tickets to my fictional theme park. Most of them were from Colorado and Idaho.

----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.)

Lary Crews