Thursday, May 28, 2015

Where Do You Get Ideas?

One question authors are asked frequently is “Where do you get your ideas?” I don’t know about other authors, but I have an idea tree at the edge of my yard, and when I’m ready to start a new book, I just go out and pluck one from the branches. But sometimes, the tree’s not in fruit-bearing season, so I have to look elsewhere.

Sometimes the ideas for books come when you’re looking for something else. When I was embarking on the journey to write Dangerous Connections, book 5 in my Blackthorne, Inc. series, all I wanted was a place to set what my daughter calls my “MacGyver Opening Gambits.” I thought my covert ops team might be dealing with the Mexican drug cartels, so I was searching for a setting in Mexico. I ran across an article about how American engineers were being kidnapped to build cell phone networks so the cartels could communicate privately, and wham! The story took a whole new direction.

For my Mapleton Mystery series, which is set in a small town, I have to deal with the Jessica Fletcher/Cabot Cove syndrome trap. Book 1 deals with the first homicide in the town’s collective memory, and I didn’t want to be killing off Mapleton citizens in each book. I’d already done the cold case (Deadly Bones) and the “Gordon goes out of town” (Deadly Puzzles), so I needed something different for the next book (Deadly Production). I noticed that my daughter was tweeting about having to get up at 2:30 in the morning and when I asked her why, she said it was because she was an extra on Game of Thrones.

Voila! A movie company comes to Mapleton, bringing in an entirely new cast of characters. And surely, there will be one I can kill. (Sorry, that’s what mystery writers do.) Not being overly conversant with movie-making, I pumped my daughter for information about the process, and asked her to vet some of the scenes in the book. (Should you watch the show, she's the blonde Wildling in Season 5, Episode 8.)





Right now, until the end of May, you can buy a download of Deadly Production for the introductory price of 99 cents. All buy links are here.


When life seems too good to be true—watch out.

Mapleton Police Chief Gordon Hepler thinks his troubles with the small-town politics are behind him. The town council has even awarded him a reserved parking place. But an early-morning summons from the new mayor has Gordon on alert.

Instead of yet another budget dispute, the mayor announces an independent film company is making a movie in Mapleton. For the mayor, it means good press for Mapleton—and more importantly—more money for the town coffers. For the citizens, it means rubbing elbows with celebrities. For Gordon, the news means headaches, extra shifts, and scheduling issues. But he’s a pro. He’ll ensure the company has his full cooperation while continuing to protect his town.

When a member of the film crew is found dead, everything goes sideways. The mayor pushes Gordon to adopt a business as usual mentality, and let the film company handle the investigation. But a murder on Mapleton soil makes it Gordon's jurisdiction, and nothing the mayor says can make him halt his investigation.

When other members of the cast and crew haven't reported in, Gordon wonders if he's looking for more suspects or more victims. Will Gordon listen to the mayor, or risk his job to find the truth?

Ideas are everywhere. Where do you find them?

Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She's the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

12 comments :

  1. You have touched on a key problem with cozy mysteries. When you keep the cauldron small, who do you kill off? Excellent way to accomplish that is to bring in outsiders. As to ideas, they are everywhere: in articles I read, television shows, songs, news stories, myths and folk lore. The hard part is putting the story seed through its paces and seeing if there is enough potential to germinate an entire novel.

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    1. So true. Making sure the idea is enough for a complete story is the challenge. But you have to start with that kernel.

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    2. I think every book should have two plots, at least.

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  2. First and foremost, I need to get one of those idea trees -- and a money tree, too, while I'm in a planting mindset.

    Seriously, I find lots of ideas in the news. Other sources include people-watching, reading a wide variety of materials, family/friend/gender interactions, job experiences, songs, and of course the infamous "what if" question.

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    1. People watching (and listening) is fun. At Book Club last week, one of the women was going through her calendar. "Let's see ... tomorrow I take the cows to be butchered." I'd love to work that into a story someday.

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  3. I sure wish I knew, Terry ... I could use one right now. BTW, BRP, what is with the little icon that is appearing in the middle of your website page these days? Something to do with Fazebook?

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    1. Chris - are you talking about that floating 'share' thingie? The blog owner didn't think we were getting enough visibility and decided to be more 'in your face' about it. If not that, then I'm not sure I know what you're talking about. (But I'm with you ... I find it distracting)

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    2. We're experimentifying. But none of us like it, so it's going to die now ;-)

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  4. I get mine mostly from the news and politics. When the former NY governor was caught paying a high-priced call girl, I wondered what kind of life she had. Voila, HOOKED. When DNA proved innocent men were incarcerated for crimes they didn't commit--MURDER DEJA VU. BACKLASH came straight from a compilation of men getting off heinous crimes because of poor judges. My new one uses a real crime, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, as part of the plot. Now, in the fourth book in the Diana Racine series, I'm using some political fodder which should alienate quite a few people. But that's the kind of story I like to write. Really, ideas are everywhere if you want to use reality mixed with some imagination.

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    1. There's no dearth of ideas, that's for sure. And when you're looking at places that cover the kinds of news you're interested in, stories fall from the sky.

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  5. I'm with Linda. Going out to plant an idea tree and a money tree. Be right back....

    Okay, that's done.

    Seriously, I just love it when ideas pop up out of research, and now we know where we are going with a story. Much of the plot of my third Seasons Mystery, Desperate Season, is based on research I did about the drug "cheese" and how it is distributed to very young kids. Now I just have to finish writing it.

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    1. Ah, yes, the old "stories don't write themselves" dilemma.

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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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