Sunday, January 15, 2006
Where do you get your ideas?
This is one of the most popular questions asked of authors. Is it divinity? Epiphany? Are they for sale at Wal-Mart?
I was on The Michael Dresser Show yesterday and, of course, the question of where I got the idea for The Great Pretender came up. While there are many, many books centered around cheating mates (gazillions actually), there aren't very many re: dual family double lives.
I guess this idea could fall under divinity for me. Nothing specific triggered it. It just seemed to be in my head and a short story was born. We always hear of wives finding out about mistresses---but what about a mistress finding out about a wife? Hmm......let's say, ten years after the fact? The idea was born.
As for my second novel, THE GREAT BETRAYAL, due out in the Fall, I remembered a tragic incident that happened to an elderly ex co-worker and friend of mine.........One night, her otherwise healthy husband woke up with a start, with chest pain. It's so bad, she has to drive him to the ER.
They wheel him away.
She sits in the waiting room, concerned but not overly alarmed. Her husband's never had health problems. Twenty minutes later a doctor comes out. Sorry. Your husband just died. Wham. Just like that. He was gone. That's it. Dead.
She was lost. So shocked she couldn't move. She told me how impossible it seemed that one minute he'd been in the car with her, talking to her, walked with her into the ER. Now a man was telling her he was dead - she would never see her husband again. She became a fish out of water. The world had suddenly become some foreign place that she now had to learn to live in. She told me that her husband had died some fifteen years before, but she was still not over the shock of those first few seconds.
We lost touch and I haven't seen her in nearly eight years, but I've never forgotten what she expressed to me and how much it resonated. I was about 19 at the time, but I remember feeling the anguish as she spoke. As if I had experienced it myself. I suppose that's why it stayed with me.............I added a "what if" to that scenerio and built a story around that supposition. So there you have it.
Another great source for plot ideas is talk shows! Just flip on Dr. Phil or Oprah....and if you're desperate - Jerry or Maury. They're all pure gold minds for sewing seeds of all sorts of plot possibilities and "what if" catalysts. And it's so amazing how a story can branch off from a single idea. A test of "what if".