Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Story Ideas Come From the Strangest Places

Some writers get their story ideas from reading newspaper items or hearing things on the news, especially us we mystery writers. Others get theirs from dreams. One of my writer friends dreams an entire story every night then gets up and writes it. I hate her. I really do.

Okay, maybe I don't hate her, but I really, really am jealous. My dreams are so fragmented, I could never pull a story together. Not to mention the fact that it would entail remembering the dream. Kudos to those who can, but not this lady.

Anyway, my friend, and frequent guest here, Slim Randles, shared a most unique way to get a story idea.

When Jim Kennedy uses his big backhoe, a crowd usually gathers. He's an artist, you see. He runs his massive-toothed monster gouging holes in the backyards of his neighbors, putting in their pipes and even the occasional swimming pool, and does it with the grace of a surgeon.
 At Bud McFarland's place the other day, he was there to install Bud's new septic tank. This was to be a massive septic tank, Bud said, "big enough so if I want to put in a hotel, I don't have to worry." 

It was a balmy day in May, past coffee time, and the backhoe master was at work. Bud was standing there watching Jim work his digging magic in the backyard, along with half a dozen others, including us. Now and then Jim would just do something to show off his skill. At one point, when Jim's backhoe cut through a buried tree root, there was about a foot-long section of root lying alone at the bottom of the hole. 

"Hey," Bud yelled at Jim, good-naturedly, "firewood!" 

Jim grinned and reached his long steel arm down into the hole, gently picking up just the one piece of wood, lifting it out of the hole, and delivering it to Bud's outstretched hand as though it were the crown jewels. 

As we watched, Jim lifted the massive concrete vault of the septic tank and placed it gently in the hole. Then his helper hooked a chain to the septic tank lid and Jim lifted this into the air and swung it over the hole. But instead of lowering it, Jim stopped the machine in mid stride and hollered at the new septic tank owner. 

"Hey Bud!" he yelled, "Got any bodies you want to hide?" 

The perfect place for a murder victim. Agatha Christie didn't even come up with that one. 

You have to admire professionalism wherever you may find it.

I thought you might like to meet Slim so here is a sample of his online Home Country Television spot.






Maryann Miller
is a novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent release is Boxes For Beds, an historical mystery available as an e-book. Stalking Season is the second book in the Seasons Mystery Series. The first book, Open Season, is available as an e-book for all devices. To check out her editing rates visit her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas. She believes in the value of a good walk or a good chuckle.

17 comments :

  1. Inspiration is everywhere if you are looking for it: characters, quirks, conversations, outfits, buildings, cars, etc. I often say to my husband, 'That's a great place to hide a body." Being a pathologist, he just shrugs and says "Yes, he'd probably die of _____."

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    1. Isn't it funny the kinds of conversations we writers have with family and friends. I once suggested to a friend when we were walking in the mall early one morning as part of an exercise group that the dark corners at the ends of hallways would be a good place for a killer to hide. My friend was not amused, but that was actually the genesis of my story for the mystery, Open Season.

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  2. This is humorous and interesting.

    Another way to find inspiration is to type any word in the Google Images search box and use what comes up as an idea generator.

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    1. Good idea, Kathy. I love images for stimulating ideas. That was an exercise I did once for a Humanities class, and I really liked it. Thanks for the reminder.

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  3. It's okay to hate that writer you're jealous of, Maryann ... I can totally relate to that emotion.

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    1. Oh, Christopher, hate is such a strong emotion. How about just a good dislike? :-)

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  4. Personally I love having inspiration come from nowhere when I'm learning something new. For instance, when I'm reading my psychology textbook and read about a unique psychological disease or something. I always think "huh, that'd be a cool thing for a character to deal with."

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    1. That is a great way to come up with ideas, especially characterization.

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    2. I was surprised to hear a poet once tell me most of her inspiration comes from nonfiction sources as well!

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  5. I wish I knew where my ideas came from; it would make life a great deal easier. I've written many, many mysteries, and I've yet to put a body in a strange place - although I did put the dead Jack of Hearts under the Mad Hatter's tea table.

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    1. Knave of Hearts; not Jack of Hearts. My head's in Victorian England right now. Sorry.

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    2. I know how easy it is to make those slips of thought. A friend recently spoke of having random thoughts that just started popping out of her head, and I imagined a great explosion with all those thoughts billowing about like confetti. LOL

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  6. If I am not responding to comments for most of the day it is because I am working on costumes for the holiday show I'm directing. I'll check in later. Good tips so far, and I look forward to others that come in.

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  7. I do love this one, Maryann. Typically, I don't write murder stories, but the idea of hiding a body beneath...whatever...in a septic tank has odorous possibilities, After all, who would ever pry off the lid and dig through...whatever...to look there? :-)

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    1. You are so right about the "odorous possibilities." LOL

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  8. Lots of good ideas bantered about here! I did dream a story--once, but never again.

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    1. Did you dream the whole story from beginning to end? That's what my friend does.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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