Posted by: Kathleen Mix | October 14, 2011

Writers’ Book Ideas

Three squirrels are busy gathering and burying acorns for the winter outside my office window. Watching them work, I’m reminded of how writers collect and store tidbits of life to dig out later and use in a book. I’m often asked where I get the ideas for my stories. The answer is simple. Like most writers, I’m a collector.
When writers see an expression of joy, a distinctive limp, a striking color, or an odd cloud formation, we store them in our memory. When we hear a snippet of dialogue or an emotional tune, or are overwhelmed by a distinctive smell, we file them away to retrieve later when we want to create a special character or mood. Whether a word, an image, or a tantalizing idea, we collect and store them all.
My brain is full of tidbits. My subconscious plays with them while I sleep. They bump against a vague story situation and sometimes one or more stick together. When enough tidbits and snippets have coalesced to form a story framework, my conscious mind digs them out, and I sit down and record them in a book.
A chance remark by an old friend was the seed for my latest romantic suspense, River of Fear. A woman running through an airport in a bright pink suit catalyzed my contemporary romance, Beyond Paradise. Neither idea emerged in exactly the same form as when I tucked it into my memory. My subconscious molded, and bent, and re-arranged experiences from my past, the traits of people I’ve met, and events I’ve imagined. The pieces became a plot and people to live the story. I wrote the story from inside the characters. The words found order and formed books.
Today, the squirrels foraging under my towering oak are providing entertainment and an excuse to procrastinate. Someday, they may inspire a metaphor or simile. As I look out my window, I’m tucking away images of falling leaves and absorbing the somber mood of autumn. I have no idea when I’ll use the tidbits stored away today to fill a need in a book. But I’m a writer, so I know, like the squirrels’ acorns, they’ll eventually reappear.


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