Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

When I was practicing medicine, I got used to being asked the occasional question outside the office. "What do you recommend for allergy?" "Take a look at this and tell me what you think." After I retired, I was prepared for those questions to tail off, but then God intervened in my life--there's no other way to put it--and I started writing. That didn't create much of a stir in my circle of friends and acquaintances, but once I had a couple of novels published, the questions started.

Now I'm asked "How did you get your agent?" and "How much money do you make from this?" The answers, by the way, are "Dumb luck" and "Not nearly enough." But the question I'm asked most often is "Where do you get your ideas?"

In one of my first classes at the writer's conference where God re-directed my life, author and teacher Alton Gansky told us he would never run out of ideas. As I recall, he had a file box almost full of 3x5 cards with ideas on them. His constant question as he goes through life is "What if...?" For instance, what if there were a secret underground military installation, and it suddenly disappeared? That turned into the hook for a story.

As for me, I'm not as curious as Al Gansky, but I do keep my eyes out for possible scenarios that could be turned into books. My Carol-Award nominee book, Medical Error, came about as I read about two situations: identity theft and a patient almost dying from receiving the wrong medication. I wondered what would happen if the two scenarios were combined. I fiddled around with it, and Medical Error was born.

Each of my novels is rooted in something I've either experienced, read about, or heard about. But I can't begin to explain the exact way I turn those into a novel. It's an interesting question, and maybe some of the authors who read this blog will chime in. In the meantime, I just had an idea for a book and need to jot down a note before I forget it.

1 comment:

Erica Vetsch said...

That's the question I get most often, too. (Though when I get the one about the money, my standard response is, 'Stephen King makes more money than I do.')

My ideas come from reading history books, learning about events or unusual people and asking myself "What if..." questions.