Monday, July 8, 2013

WHERE DO WE GET OUR IDEAS?


 
“I have been in love with story all my life,” says Gayle Roper, the award winning author of more than forty-five books. “Give me a story with strong characters and a captivating plot, and I’m one happy reader. Or writer.”
 
Among Gayle’s awards are the prestigious Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award, the Carol Award from American Christian Fiction Writers, two Inspirational Readers Choice Awards, and three HOLT Medallions. She has been a Christy finalist three times and has received the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Reviewers Choice Award from Romantic Times Book Report.
 
For her work in training Christian writers Gayle has won special recognition from Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, St. Davids CWC, Florida CWC, and Greater Philadelphia CWC.  She lives in southeastern Pennsylvania. She enjoys reading, spending time at the family’s Canadian cottage, gardening, and eating out every time she can manage it.
 
 You can find out more about Gayle by visiting her website.
 
WHERE DO WE GET OUR IDEAS?
 
Where do we get our ideas for our mysteries and suspense? People often ask that question, and the answer is, basically, everywhere.

Years ago I read in our local paper about a body found floating in the reservoir about a quarter mile from our house. My first thought as I read was, “What a great setup for a novel.”

Since I tend to write the innocent bystander dragged into a bad situation, that body was the perfect thing to put my innocent individual in jeopardy. What if my hero is out for a jog one evening at dusk and happens on the guys depositing the body in the water? What if they see him and chase him? What if he lives in a neighborhood just like mine and takes refuge in a backyard just like mine where my heroine just happens to live? And The Midnight Intruder was born.

Then there was the time I was vacationing with my family on an island in the middle of a lake. The weather turned bad and we were basically marooned because the lake was too rough for our little rented boat. “It’s just like a closed room mystery,” I thought. “No one can get in and no one can get out.”

The fact that we were the only ones on the small island didn’t stop me. I just made the island bigger and added more cottages. I took the cliff that in real life is at the end of the lake and attached it to my enlarged island, still a small, contained world but now big enough for victims and murderer. Voila, Death on an Island, fortunately out of print.

Another place to get ideas is from one’s own quirks. I’ve always had this thing about opening car trunks. What will I find when that lid goes up? A bad guy waiting to jump out at me? A body? The body won and Caught in the Middle came to be.

Or what if you’re hanging up curtains and you see something next door you shouldn’t see? What if you see a murderer? You get See No Evil.

There’s standing outside your garage door on a dark night as the door slowly rises. What’s waiting in there to get you? Or should I say who? I haven’t written that one yet.

Another experience I haven’t yet written about was the time I witnessed a hostage drama at the local police station. I went to interview the police PR person for the book I was writing. The cop I was to see forgot I was coming and wasn’t there. In fact no one was there but the dispatch guy behind his bulletproof glass.

“Let me see where your contact is and if he’s going to be back soon,” he said.

I stood in the anteroom on the other side of the bulletproof glass waiting when a tall teenaged guy came wandering in. He walked past me and through a door into the station. Next thing I knew, the kid had walked into the dispatch area and had a knife at the throat of the officer there.

“What do you want?” the dispatch guy asked as he tried to pull the kid’s arm from his throat.

“Call the cops,” the kid said, realizing that there was no one in the house.

The dispatcher put out an emergency call, then asked again, “What do you want?”

The kid said, “To die.”

As all this is going on, I’m still standing watching. What could I do? Call the cops? I was in the police station. It was one of those horrifying, fascinating moments.

In a few minutes a car pulled up out back and an officer walked in the back door. All he could see was me. “What’s going on?” he asked, perplexed by the emergency message but seeing only me standing there.

“Well, this kid’s got a knife on the dispatcher.” Strange moment.

The officer moved quickly to the dispatcher’s door and stood looking at the kid who had his arm about the man’s neck and the knife at his throat. “What do you want?” he asked the kid.

“To die.”

About that time several police cars drove up and officers came pouring in. They all blinked at me. One said, “Stand outside. Don’t leave. We need to talk to you. But don’t stand in front of the window.”

I went outside, my heart pumping mightily. In a couple of minutes, the officer came outside for me. there had been no noise, no shots. As I went back in, they were leading the kid away, his hands behind his back.  The dispatcher was collapsed in his chair, his face green and his hands shaking now that he was free.

I haven’t used this story yet. It requires the perfect story and I haven’t figured it out yet. But I remember that kid and his wish, and it breaks my heart. How sad that your life is so bad that you contemplate suicide by cop. Thankfully it never came to that.

But ideas come from life. All you have to do is run with them.

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