One of the most common questions folks ask authors is where we get our ideas.
Recently I received a packet of letters from a fifth grade class who had read my books as part of their book club/literary circle. The letters were truly a ray of sunshine as was the supportive letter from their teacher.
And, there was that question. Where do you get the ideas for your stories? My books are a mystery series for the young reader, Annie Tillery Mysteries.
Having spent many years in the classroom, I wanted to give the best answer I could, so I gave it more serious thought that the pat answers I could have given. Your motivation to writer might be just to tell a good story. That’s the easy one because you know the details of the story. I make up my stories. It’s pure fiction. How do you explain where that comes from to a ten year old.
Where, for instance, did the ghost come from in The Madonna Ghost? How did I come up with the solution to the scene on the Brooklyn Bridge in Girl with Pencil, Drawing? How did I fit the reality of Istanbul and Cappadocia with the plot in The Secrets in the Fairy Chimneys?
My explanation involves the obvious. Most authors read a lot, do a fair amount of research, observe people and situations. All of this is stored in the file cabinets of memory. But then what provokes the combination of memories to coalesce into an idea?
This was my answer to the students, “When you write a book, you should write down all your ideas, your research and, pictures that might inspire you. And then all that stuff rattles around in your brain, and eventually something connects that really makes sense.”
Sometimes it’s an odor, or the weather that day, or a song you hear, and in some unexplained mysterious way the right synapses connect nerve cells and an idea is produced. We’ve all experienced it. You’re stuck. You’re stuck! Writer’s Block has taken hold. How to end that chapter? And then, while you’re staring out the window at the guy dragging out the garbage, BAM, it comes to you.