Sunday, August 12, 2012

How do You Get Your Stories?

"How do You Get Your Stories?"

Many people ask that question. Here are a couple of answers.

The idea for my latest book, Ghost Writer, published this summer by Oak Tree Press to launch their new Mystic Oaks line, came on a ride home from work. Larry and I were carpooling at the time and used our commute to plot our work. As we slogged along in rush hour traffic, we heard an announcement that the film, Ghost Writer, was about to open.

In my mind, the question arose: What if the ghost was a writer? By the time we got home, the basic outline of the story was in my mind. And once I found the characters to go with it, they insisted on being immortalized.

Our first mystery started at the Maui Writers' conference. We attended following the publication of our first book, a memoir entitled 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park. We had a great time meeting other authors and swapping stories.

About the second day of the conference, we attended a workshop about what to do after you publish your first book. The first question the presenter asked was, "Now that you're published, what's your next book?"

At the time I was working on the Great American Romance Novel, still unfinished. (I'll get back to it someday. Probably.) Larry, on the other hand, had no new project.

Later in the same session, an announcement was made that the poet had fallen on the stairs and had been taken to the hospital. He would be okay, but his classes were cancelled. And Larry thought: What if the poet's body was mysteriously found on the stairs at a writers' conference, and there lots of authors with motive and opportunity pointing fingers at each other?

The next morning, we ran into a guy we'd seen around checking credentials. Since it was our anniversary, we were dressed nicely wearing leis. He commented on how nice we looked, and we stopped to chat for about ten minutes. As we walked away, I said to Larry, "We have to write that guy." He became the inspiration for AgapĂ© Jones, the protagonist of Murder… They Wrote and Murder in Paradise. (And 'that guy' has since become a good friend.)

Did you notice any commonality in the two stories? They started with the question, "What if?" That is how we usually get ideas. Once the seed is planted, it takes root and nothing short of writing it will make it go away.

For my fellow writers, how do you get your ideas? For readers, what are the most intriguing plot-lines?

Lorna Collins was raised in Alhambra, California and attended California State University at Los Angeles where she majored in English.
Between 1998 and 2001, she worked in Osaka, Japan on the Universal Studios theme park with her husband, Larry. Their memoir of that experience, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park, was published in 2005 and was a finalist for the 2006 nonfiction EPPIE award and named as one of Rebeccas Reads best nonfiction books of 2005.
They have written two mysteries together: Murder… They Wrote, published in 2009, and Murder in Paradise, published in 2010. The latter was a finalist for the 2012 EPIC eBook Award. They are currently working on at least two more in this series.
Along with authors Sherry Derr-Wille, Luanna Rugh, and Christie Shary, Lorna wrote several romance anthologies: Snowflake Secrets, finalist for the Dream Realm and Eric Hoffer Awards, published in 2008, Seasons of Love in 2009, and Directions of Love in 2010. Directions of Love received the EPIC eBook Award for best romance anthology of 2011. The group added debut author, Cheryl Gardarian for An Aspen Grove Christmas, published in December of 2010. The group is currently working on three more anthologies.
Ghost Writer is Lorna’s first solo effort, and her favorite book so far.
Today she and Larry are retired and reside in Dana Point, California.


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

That was fun to read, Lorna. Knew some but found out other delightful tidbits.


Lorna Collins - Author said...

Thanks, Marilyn. We've been friends for long enough that we've shared most of the stories. :-)

Sunny Frazier said...

I'm lucky. I worked with a narcotics unit and lived most of my stories (with much embellishment). Good thing I didn't decide to be a romance writer! Erotica, perhaps. . . .

Shalanna said...

You never know where inspiration will come from! Often I revisit the same or similar tropes (memes) in my work: there are a number of "lost girls" (runaways, girls who go on journeys to find or re-find homes, people who seem rootless) and a LOT of magic (it just seems to turn up like a good dime, as opposed to a bad penny!) Oh, and the "sisters" trope, which is odd because I don't have a sister. I always WISHED for one. I pretended I had one (my best friend or favorite cousin often played the role, willingly, because my mother was SO nice to them). When I saw the original "Parent Trap" movie, I fantasized for years about discovering the twin they gave away. Alas, I remained a singleton. But my sister sleuths didn't have to. They have a lot of fun together!

Harlan Ellison always said he bought his story ideas from a special mail-order house. Jung says it all comes from the Collective Unconscious. I know I have at least one Muse who sings to me now and then. Events from the past percolate for years and emerge changed. The real trouble is finding the time to write all of the good stories I come up with!

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Thought I'd add my ideas come from everywhere, my dreams, my experiences, things I read in the paper that make me think, "What if it happened this way?" and conversations that I've listened to in restaurants to name a few.

susan furlong-bolliger said...

I enjoyed this post as I’m always curious to where writers find their inspirations—especially mystery writers. I also find inspiration from the people and situations around me. One of my favorite past times is people watching. When I’m running low on ideas, I head to the food court at the mall, get a smoothie and sit on a bench and watch the people go by. Nothing like an afternoon at the mall to get a few ideas for a murder mystery!

Lorna Collins - said...

We're also people-watchers. My husband wrote his book of short stories (Lakevie4w Park) by walking around the lake at a local park every day at noon. He observed others and wondered what their lives were like. Then he wrote the stories he made up for them.

Lorna Collins - said...

You reminded me of a dear friend (now sadly gone). She was in her 80s when I met her, and I was surprised to find out that she wrote erotica. When someone asked her about it, she answered:: "Honey, I'm still young enough to remember and old enough not to give a fig. Of course, her language was a bit more colorful.

Lorna Collins - said...


I agree! Regardless of the inspiration, I never seem to have the time to write them all. Whichever of the voices yells the loudest gets written!