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Where book ideas are born

The story this last week of the missing Malaysian Airlines plane is everywhere and, as I write this blog, the mystery surrounding what happened is still very much a mystery.  In fact, right at the beginning of this sad occurrence I said to Miriam that it would be an incredible premise for a novel.  And then there were the other events of this week that were top of the news–the explosion in Harlem that destroyed two residential apartment buildings and the deaths at the South By Southwest Festival due do a car going out of control.  Those too, it occurred to me, as awful as they are, provide fuel for book ideas both fiction and non-fiction.

I often get my book ideas from the front pages of the newspaper; other ideas come from personal experiences or those of my friends and colleagues.  And then, of course, there are other sources as well like the Ted Talk by Steven Johnson which I ran across as I was considering all of this.

So many of my clients – especially those who write fiction come up with wonderful book ideas one right after the other and I so appreciate their creativity.  This has made me wonder more and more where all of these ideas come from.  And so, I ask you, dear reader, where do you get your book ideas—are they from unusual personal experiences or are they torn from the headlines of the news of the day?  I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Oh, and one more thing, it’s Miriam’s Birthday today so everyone please wish her a very happy  birthday!

7 Responses to Where book ideas are born

  1. Joelle says:

    The only book I’ve written “torn” from the newspaper is still sitting around gathering dust. I love it, though, so you never know.

    My ideas are usually one or two or three intriguing questions that I have carried around for a while and finally run into each other in my brain and I realize if I combine them, I might have a book.

  2. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    Well, I’ll admit that flight 370 has me rethinking all the old mad-villain-in-a-hollow-volcano scenarios from Sean Connery’s day, and of course every Hollywood hack is busy retooling the latest season of whatever overheated potboiler series they’re working on to reflect it. I just reread ZODIAC BY Robert Graysmith, which in spite of the amateurish dialogue and scattershot connections is an interesting look at a freaky time and series of events. (See the excellent movie with Robert Downey Jr. if only for the soundtrack) And since you’re finally old enough to see R-rated movies, Miriam, you can stay out till 11, but no caffeinated drinks unless you check with us first…

  3. D.C. DaCosta says:

    I don’t think I’ll ever run out of ideas.

    First, of course, one draws on one’s own experiences.

    Next, stories that have been told to you by others. Or overheard on the bus.

    Then, news sources. Truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction. The oddest coincidences…or are they coincidences?…happen in real life.

    Last, asking myself “What if?” What if your brother isn’t actually a blood relative? What if, at the funeral, you discover that your beloved grandpa was a complete louse? What if, when the snowbank melts, you find something gruesome?

    I don’t believe in writer’s block.

  4. Lynn says:

    First of all, Happy Birthday, Miriam. I hope this year will be a memorable one for all the right reasons.

    Ideas for a good story is not the problem; time to write them all is. Even a banal conversation can get me stopping someone in mid-sentence with a “Wait, wait! Wouldn’t that make a great story if…?”

    As for the missing Malaysian airplane, the mystery of its whereabouts becomes more and more intriguing! If that plane has landed somewhere and all the people are eventually found alive, then hold the presses! Everyone in the publishing industry will be scrambling to be the first to get the story in print!

  5. jeffo says:

    Happy birthday to Miriam!

    My ideas come from a variety of places. One came after an off-hand remark to my daughter about her friend. Another came when I saw a turtle crossing a road while I was driving my car. A third came from a combination of reading a book, reading a news story on the web, and hearing an interview on NPR–that interview was like Secret Ingredient X, it made everything clear.

  6. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    Um, OK, I hate to bring it up, but you kind of got us off in this direction Jane… Although I like old-school dress for dinner mysteries just for the style and ambience, I generally avoid true crime (with the exception of overacheivers like Manson and Zodiac)as being sordid and yucky. However, I think we all have to agree that L’Wren’s Scott’s death is one for Hercule Periot. Suicide, check-hanging one’s self, check- hold everything here, FROM A DOORKNOB!?? This isn’t a mystery blog, so I’ll leave the logistics of this to someone else to discuss, but this one’s rocking the espresso table at Starbucks, if you’ll pardon my saying so. And again, Happy Birthday, Miriam, and don’t EVER try this at home!

  7. Robert says:

    Ideas are all around us, all the time, free for the taking. The trick is to recognize which ones do, will, or can reasonably be made to come together into a coherent, plausible, inevitable story. Mark Twain had it right when he said, “Of course fact is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense!”

    We must never stop asking, “What if . . .”

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