Friday, March 30, 2012

Where Ideas Come From: Part II

Most writers sooner or later hear the question: "Where do you get your ideas?" I addressed that in another blog (Dec. 4, 2011), but that addressed one book and one idea source.

So if an idea doesn't conveniently pop into your head, or you have a character in search of a plot, what do you do?

We all know that change can affect us in an instant. A telephone call, a doctor's diagnosis, the screech of brakes--and a life is changed irrevocably, forever. From now on, everything will be divided into life "before" and life "after."

Change your heroine's life is some tragic manner and then help her climb out of the pit and start over again. If you write romance, give her a stalwart and handsome guy to get her to her HEA. (If you don't know what that means, you don't write romance.)

You can have your character make a seemingly innocent decision that leads to consequences she (and the reader) never see coming. (Peter Taylor was a master of this technique.) Like a line of dominoes, that decision affects another and another until she's at a place she never expected to be.

This can be fun if it turns out to be a place she declared vehemently at the beginning of the story that she most definitely would never be. Will she have grown throughout the story to realize this is where she was meant to be in spite of her declaration, or will she end up bitterly reflecting on that one time she took a path from which there was no returning?

One of my favorites is "What if?" Think of a situation and its logical outcome and then ask yourself, "What if the heroine did something unexpected instead?" This is akin to the fateful decision, but different in that this time she consciously makes the choice and faces the consequences.

The "What if?" can also be an external force. In "Angels Unaware," Kat expects her husband to stand by her when she learns she has cancer. Wouldn't most husbands? But what if Jordan has no stomach for sickness, and he walks out? It's a combination of the tragic circumstance and an unexpected reaction.

I used all of the above to move my four characters in "The Lunch Club." There are tragic events. There are fateful decisions that have unexpected consequences. And over them all are the words "what if" as the characters pick themselves up and decide what to do next.

All of them find love--new love, renewed love and strengthened love--that leads them to their HEA.

Oh--"Happy Ever After."

Wishing all of you a blessed Easter season and the joys of springtime and renewal.


  1. I never looked at it quite this way, Sandy. Thanks. :) Happy Easter.