When I saw the topic for this week’s discussion, my initial reaction was, “What? You want me to give away all my secrets?” You see, I happen to teach an online workshop all about coming up with ideas, and as it so happens, I’m teaching it this month. But this is the topic of the week, and it’s my turn to blog today, so those of you reading this will get some brainstorming insights that others have paid for.
As writers of mysteries, thrillers, and suspense, I’m sure my fellow blogging buddies, like me, all scour the news for interesting true life events they can play with to invent new troubles for their protagonists. The writers of the Law & Order franchise are famous for dipping into the pool of current affairs for each episode.
However, besides the daily news, op-ed columns, and human interest stories, I turn to Madison Ave. for ideas. When I see an ad that intrigues me, I clip it and save it in my “Ideas” file.
For example, several years ago I found myself in the doctor’s waiting room, and I’d forgotten to bring a book with me. The few magazines on the coffee table were several years old and totally not of inter
est to me. Out of desperation I began flipping through the pages of ROAD & TRACK. I am so not a ROAD & TRACK sort of girl, so you can imagine how desperate I must have been! Then I came across an ad that touted an aftershave guaranteed to increase sexual attractiveness ten-fold. You better believe I ripped out that ad and filed it away in my “Ideas” file. I later used it in a book.
So even the most unlikely reading material can produce idea gold. But don’t think that you have to find an ad for something weird in order to stimulate your muse. What about the ad hanging on the bulletin board at the local dry cleaner? Someone is looking to sell a never-used, king-sized Ethan Allen bedroom set. Was this due to a wedding that never took place because one of them died? Or was one of them murdered? Is one suspected of killing the other? Once you begin br
ainstorming possibilities, you wind up with a plethora of ideas.
I’m currently winding up the second book in my soon-to-be-released amateur sleuth series. I can’t say that I used Madison Ave. for the overall plot arc of either the first book or the second, but I have used it to craft scenes that progress the plots of both books. I’ve also used news articles and human interest stories I’ve come across in the past. Each time I get stuck for an idea or need a way to get from Point A to Point B in a story, I pull out my “Ideas” file and read through the clippings I’ve accumulated. By the time I finish, I’ve found the answer to my problem.
The first book in Lois Winston’s Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series, Assault With A Deadly Glue Gun, will be a January 2011 release from Midnight Ink. Meanwhile, Anastasia is blogging at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers, and you can visit Lois at her newly redesigned website.