As authors, one of the most often asked questions Janet and I hear is, “Where do you get your ideas?”
There are a myriad of answers. Inspiration is everywhere. We never know what may spark an idea for a scene, a section of dialog, a short story, or an entire novel. One of the many methods we employ, but don’t often tell when on stage or at a book signing is, “We eavesdrop.” Let me explain. The eavesdropping is not intentional. We may be out having dinner with friends and a conversation at a table next to us may be loud enough for us to hear.
Standing in the checkout line at a big box store or supermarket is another. Snippets of conversations may drift past us and cause us to think…”That would fit perfectly in my story.” In this age of cell phones and in our daily travels, it is sometimes impossible to avoid overhearing private conversations. Some may think this rude, but if people are going to speak so loudly, it’s fair game.
Janet was at a buffet and overheard the parent say, “Son. If you’re going to take all that food you have to eat everything on your plate. If you don’t eat it all, you’ll have to sit and look at it.”
Even while on vacation, our “writer brains” won’t turn off. Several years ago we were on a trip to China. We overheard one of our tour members ask another while at lunch, “Don’t you think these people would get tired of Chinese food all the time?” The comment was not meant to be insensitive, but it was funny. We love to hear stories from people we meet while traveling. and we’ve used many excerpts from things we’ve heard.
We have heard random bits of conversations people don’t think others can hear. Will was standing in the customer service line at a home improvement store when he overhead to guys complaining about the small size of his imported car’s trunk. The guy said something like, “You couldn’t even stuff a dead guy in there if you had to.” Will used part of that in his book THE FINAL CHECKPOINT. In this mystery a headless corpse was found in the trunk of an abandoned sports car. The head was dumped somewhere else because it wouldn’t fit.
Overhearing conversations is only one way of getting inspiration. People-watching at malls and airports are another way to get inspired. Everyone has something going on in their lives and as fiction writers, we can dream up plots from our imagination. In the course of hearing things the often warm our hearts, sometime they break our hearts and other times they are so funny that we have to bite our lip to keep from laughing out loud. Janet and I often look at each other, shake our heads and think, “You can’t make this stuff up.”
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