Sunday, October 20, 2013

Where do you get ideas for your writing?


The old dictum (Write about what you know.) is generally good advice. That’s probably why several authors have created successful cozy mystery series based on their hobbies (i.e. gardening, quilting, or cooking). Out of habit, I still thumb through scientific journals. When I read how a few mutations (changes) could turn a bird flu virus into one that can infect humans, I knew that I had the basis for a medical thriller. I called it Coming Flu.

Many authors looking for tax write offs, base their novels on vacation spots, such as the Caribbean islands. I’m not as smart. My next novel Ignore the Pain was based on a coca tea bag, postcards, and other cheap souvenirs that I collected on a trip to Bolivia. I didn’t get a tax write off and the location is grittier than a tropical isle. Readers may be pleased to know my souvenirs did not include a llama fetus from the Witches’ Market in La Paz, Bolivia.

But you don’t have to travel far for ideas. Have you ever wandered down a street in an old section of your home town and wondered what happened behind those facades last year, ten years ago, or even a century ago? Or just go a nearby mall and “people” watch.

Advertisements are under-utilized sources of ideas (particularly humor) for novels. Consider the endorsements of weight loss regimes and products on TV. The sizes of some of the servings of food in these promotions make even small salad plates look large. And many of those “delicious” shakes are nauseating. In my medical mystery Murder:A New Way to Lose Weight, readers get to see how desperate diet doctors can be. They might even be murderers.

But other ads for clothing, cars, and sexual performance medications on TV are also promising. Don’t’ forget those Friday night TV shows, which are thinly covered hour-long advertisements for bridal gowns.

Bug and I would love to hear about your favorite sources of ideas for writing.