Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Story Ideas: Out of the Mouth of Babes

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
I think every author is asked this question. My answer: I get them from anywhere.
The premise for A Small Case of Murder sprang from my first and only purchase at an antique shop in Copper Harbor, Michigan. (Not because I have anything against antiques. It’s shopping I hate.) One day it was pouring rain and we had nothing better to do that cruise the shops on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan.
I found a beautiful silver tea set. The shop owner, a very nice gentleman, told me how he had acquired the set:
It was part of an estate purchased from a young woman whose elderly mother had died. He had purchased the contents of her home for one price. He was packing up the master bedroom while chatting away with the daughter when he tossed the box springs off the bed frame to reveal a cardboard box underneath. The daughter asked, “What is that?”
He told her, “Whatever it is, it’s mine.”
The box contained a silver tea set, still in its original packaging, along with letters and postcards dating back to 1968, thirty-five years earlier. The daughter never knew any of those things was there.
After hearing this story, I started to think. What if one of those letters that the daughter had never seen implicated someone in a murder? I had A Small Case of Murder written in my head by the time we returned home from our vacation.
These ideas can strike at anytime. Sometimes they hit suddenly, and sometimes they incubate in the mind. A Reunion to Die For was based on a tragic suicide of a classmate of mine in high school. It was a couple decades later that I started wondering, “What if it was really a murder?”
Mystery writers are always on the lookout for great story ideas. Every time I see an episode of Hoarders on A&E, I wonder, “What if the cleaning crews find a dead body under all that stuff? Say, a husband that the wife thought had run out on her years ago?”
I have discovered that such active imaginations can be hereditary.

Yesterday, I had my gallbladder taken out. That is one of the reasons I haven’t been quite so diligent in keeping up with my blog. I was getting my affairs in order, so to speak. Actually getting everything done before going under the knife because Jack, my husband, and Tristan, my eleven year old son are less than capable of taking care of themselves.
Last night I was lying in bed. Tristan was sitting up next to me while I recounted in detail about my experience at the hospital. After I had shown him the incisions on my stomach, he asked, “How do you know they took really it out?”
That question left me speechless. Finally, I told him it was because they said they did.
“Did they show it to you?” Before I could answer, Tristan said, “I guess that wouldn’t prove that they had taken it out. You don’t know what your gallbladder looked like. I guess they all look the same. They could have shown you any gallbladder. How would you know it was yours?”
“I have the holes in my body,” I argued. Even as I said the words, I was already thinking the same scenario that Tristan was already voicing.
“They could have just put you under and poked a bunch of holes in you.”
“Why would they do that?” I asked.
Tristan shrugged. “To make money. Or maybe your doctor is a psycho. You won’t recover because he didn’t take it out. After a bunch more tests, which you have to pay for, to find out what your problem is, the doctor says that he has to open you up again to take out something else. So the next time you go under the knife, he really does take out your gallbladder. In the end, you pay for two sets of tests and two surgeries—all for one gallbladder.” His story went on and on.
That’s my boy.