I have heard of writers who have difficulty trying to come up with a topic or story-line, or who slam hard into a plot-point problem. They stare at their computer waiting for inspiration in the form of an already developed plot or a solution to strike from somewhere high above, like a bolt from Zeus.
My problem is that I have far too many plots and surplus scenes rattling around in my otherwise semi-vacant cranium.
Every newspaper headline, every conference I attend, every writer’s circle I sit in on, could form the basis of my next novel or short story.
I go for early morning walks. With my mind securely in neutral, plot ideas keep percolating through, solving problems with a current project, or more likely, adding new ideas, most of which I will never have the time to use. I sometimes discover by knowing the character in the tale I’m wrestling with, and what they might do, they can solve the plot issue all on their own.
Story ideas can come from the most unexpected places. For example, the novel The Dark Lady was born out of a brief scene on TV when the head and shoulders of an actress triggered the thought: She could play an evil queen! The novella the Knight’s Bridge came about because I thought up a scene (probably on a morning walk) of a warrior fleeing a lost battle. That became a short story that turned into a novella when I decided it needed expanding so that I would find out what happened next. When I wanted to do a fantasy detective series I looked for inspiration in old mystery/thriller titles, and decided to mangle them. The Mousetrap is an Agatha Christie that became my Housetrap. No relation to the original plot. I dreamed up the storyline based on the title I created. That mad scheme resulted in three more fantasy detective novellas coming out over the next few months all based on: come up with a strange title, then figure out a plot that might fit the title. For the novel, The Queen’s Pawn, I returned to the day-dreaming of an opening scene, in this case a youth fleeing in a burning city, and ran (galloped off?) with the plot from there.
Take the example of a Writer’s Conference or Comic Con that most of us have attended at one time or another. Such a setting could form the basis for: a murder mystery with irate jealous authors or fans. How about a horror tale, with the monster just one of the many attendees in costume? Aliens could mingle quite unnoticed at some of these affairs. Even science fiction could be mined out of such a setting. What a place to try out the latest weird invention, or better yet, how about a futuristic Con? Don’t thank me, help yourself to the ideas!
The bottom line is, look around you. There are no shortage of plots or settings to be found just begging to be set down. I’m currently polishing up one that grabbed me by the throat out of an innocuous newspaper headline. Look forward to it being published some year soon, but in the meantime, I’m going to take a break and go back to finishing Murder in the Rouge Mort…