When non-writers ask me where I get my story ideas, I am tempted to tell the truth: for a writer, getting ideas is too easy. Figuring out which ideas are good ones is the problem.
But back to the opening question: how do writers get their story ideas? Here’s one example:
My sister went to look at a possible new home the other day and I, at her request, went with her as advisor and question-asker. The house was owned by ageing Russians who has returned to their native land. It was their second house, their primary American house was down in Naples. The Pinellas County house – a condo – was vacant for most of the year.
Why was it empty? Not a stick of furniture in it (although a jar of dead peanut butter was on one shelf in the pantry). Why hadn’t they sold it? The monthly maintenance fee was ridiculous, and at the end of a year many thousands of dollars had been spent on…nothing. Why? And why the peanut butter?
Because it was a letter drop for the KGB. The writer in me came up with that as I drove home.
Then I dreamed up an aunt of an existing character in my Carl Tanner thriller series: Aunt Flo, who bought the condo and has been burgled four times in the first month. So Flo’s niece, whose boyfriend is my hero Tanner, asks him to figure out what’s going on. And in no time he’s in a race for his life – and poor Aunt Flo is in mortal danger – because the ageing Russians – who were KGB* sleeper agents – had hidden something very valuable in the condo and the burglars (agents of the uber-sinister KGB) are looking for it.
So that’s how you get ideas. You go house-hunting with your sister.
* I know, I know, it isn’t the KGB. I read Daniel Silva, I know all about the alphabet soup of Russian espionage. I think KGB sounds sinister, is all.