Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling author of nearly 30 books and is best known for her Seatbelt Suspense®. She also writes insightful contemporary novels, often laced with humor. And she’s a frequent teacher and keynote speaker at writers conferences.
Brandilyn is giving away a copy of her latest release, Sidetracked, in either paper or ebook form. Please answer her question below in a comment to enter the drawing.
How I Decide on a Seatbelt Suspense® Story Idea
People always ask me, “How do you get your ideas?” Answer: Life! Watching people, reading newspapers and magazines, eavesdropping on conversations, watching true crime TV shows, and on and on. I find “what-ifs” all around me. But few of them turn into a Seatbelt Suspense® novel.
My Seatbelt Suspense® carries a four-point brand promise: fast-paced, character-driven suspense with myriad twists, and an interwoven thread of faith. Typically it’s the first promise—fast-paced—that weeds out many “what-ifs” that cross my brain.
Fast-paced means from the get-go. From chapter one. I don’t have time to build slow suspense after you’ve gotten to know my character for three or so chapters. I have to show it happening immediately. By the end of chapter one, the inciting incident—the event that kicks off all the rest of the conflict—must happen.
A lot of “what-ifs” would simply build too slowly. I’ll play with the ideas, looking for ways to get that bang-up first chapter. But if I can’t figure out how to start the story fast enough—out the idea goes.
Result: I find it very hard to come up with ideas that can live up to my brand. And the more books I write, the harder it gets.
Sometimes I sort of back into my ideas. My latest Seatbelt Suspense®, Sidetracked, is about Delanie Miller, a young woman who’s built a new life for herself in a small town—and must guard the secrets of her old life, even from the man she wants to marry. When Delanie’s good friend is killed—and a rather slow-witted man whom she knows is innocent is arrested for the murder—she faces a terrible choice: save herself and the life she’s created, or save the innocent man from going to prison. It’s a fascinating dilemma. How far will a basically “good” person go to protect another? At what cost does protecting an innocent person become too high? But even with that premise I wanted to up the ante. So … what if the character who’s torn between protecting her own life or staving off a huge injustice for another once suffered a similar terrible injustice herself? Aha. Now what will she do?
Here are some other ideas that have made it into a Seatbelt Suspense® book. Do you know the titles to any of these novels? (Respond in a comment to enter the giveaway of Sidetracked.)
1. A man asks his wife to use her “woman’s intuition” to assess the candidate he really wants to hire as his company’s V.P., and she senses something REALLY wrong with him—i.e., he’s a murderer.
2. A young woman who finds a murder victim in her apartment realizes her boyfriend is the killer and runs to her estranged suspense-author grandfather to help her decide what to do—but his muddled mind just might get her into even more trouble.
3. A young woman on the run finds the body of a famous actress in her hot tub—and can’t go to the police for fear of the national publicity.
4. A divorced mother of two discovers the killer of the woman across the street got the wrong house—and meant to kill HER.
5. A group of friends celebrating in a coffee shop are all taken hostage by three men who demand their “innocent” son/brother be released from prison—or the group will all die.
5. An embittered man seeks to change the opinion of a doctor—an opinion that drives medical treatment and diagnosis nationwide—by infecting the doctor’s wife with the very disease he denies.
6. The one man who is the clear suspect of a string of murders in a small town—is dead.
7. A woman who writes a newspaper column about all her fears, especially her fear of being stalked—really IS, but the beleaguered police who’ve heard her cry wolf one too many times won’t listen.
8. Three women discover they realize who the serial killer is in their small town—someone dear to them—and vow to bring him down. But each suspects a different man.
9. A skip tracer must find a missing girl in order to prove that the husband of her murdered best friend was the killer.
10. A young woman suffering from intense depression enters a medical trial for a brain chip that can restore her life—and starts seeing terrifying visions.
Sidetracked is available in ebook and paper at Amazon, B&N, and other stores across the country. Read about all of Brandilyn’s books—including their first chapters—on her website. Brandilyn loves to interact with readers on Facebook. On Twitter she’s @Brandilyn.