As an author I am sure you struggle with building a quality story—one that will grab the attention of the agents and editors and subsequently your readers. We know all about the MBT Book Buddy for planning your strategy, we understand the concept of goal, motivation, and conflict.
But what I want to know is, how do you come up with a story line that is unique? How do you decide your story is going to be about a nurse trying to solve her own murder—before it occurs? Or a prodigal son returning home—only to learn the one man who can forgive him has died? Or a woman returning home with a child that isn’t hers—only no one believes her?
Or smaller yet, how do you come up with ideas that can inflict as much pain as an author can on their characters? Those scenes that are unique, yet add power to the story? How do you decide the location? Or find the strange but plausible thing that can occur to disrupt your character’s journey?
A couple of years ago I went to a Donald Maas seminar at ACFW. He suggested listing ten items that could happen and use the last one. The consensus was the first few on your list would be common solutions, and the ones you don't want to use. The items closer to the bottom of the list would be more unusual. And, that’s what you should use.
I keep a file of weird, but probable, news items that occur. One such news article I found was when a crotchety old man frustrated with the political system had to pay a fine. As the story went, he marched into the building carrying a sack of pennies. The city frowned upon his method of payment and refused the money. I thought it was hilarious and I’m saving it for a scene in one of my future manuscripts.
Another article told of a grain silo blowing up, dumping a layer of corn twelve-feet deep along the main streets of town. It even pushed a nearby home off its foundation by the rush of more than 100,000 bushels of corn. It’s another example of odd but true and waiting to go into one of my stories.
Just recently I read an article where an author took ideas from her books from other writers. Not in a plagiaristic way, but at the 50,000 level which she later built on.
Your turn: Where do you get ideas from? Do you brainstorm by yourself or others? Do you think about a song and possibly the story that could be behind it?