Where do my ideas come from?

My friends often ask me where I get my ideas. “It depends on what I’m writing,” I say. Memoirs are easy – I’m writing about a family member, a vacation or my wonderfully tolerant husband. Creative non-fiction is easy too – you just take liberties with the dialogue, but the story is basically true.

I soon discover that my friends are more curious about novels than anything else. “Where do those ideas come from?” They ask. Then, almost wistfully, they add, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel….” This is when their eyes glaze and they stare blankly into the distance, minds groping for an idea.

I snap my fingers, and bring them back. “You’re making it too difficult. Ask yourself what you want to know more about, what settings you love and how you might imagine yourself as one of the characters. Then, begin your research, and the ideas will come. The more you read,” I tell them, “the more you realize you can’t make this stuff up.” About then I begin rattling off a host of books and articles I’ve recently read. Their eyes focus, their ears perk up. Maybe I can do it, I imagine them thinking.

Put simply the events of our time or of a time gone by; shape my ideas, my plots and my characters. I’m reminded of a line in Steve Martin’s movie, LA Story. “Let your mind go and your body will follow.” Your muse is there…tucked inside. You just have to let it free.

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