As a mystery writer, I’m often asked where I get my ideas. The answer to that varies by the story, although I’ll admit that there’s always some impetus that drives me to want to develop the fictional characters and inhabit their world for a while.
Let’s take, for example, my short story “Live Free or Die,” which appears in World Enough and Crime (Carrick Publishing, Nov. 2014). A crime fiction anthology that includes 22 short stories and one poem, the collection includes award-winning authors like Melodie Campbell, M.H. Callway (her story, “The Ultimate Mystery” was shortlisted for a 2014 Derringer Award) and Kevin P. Thornton, along with lesser-known and emerging writers. But back to “Live Free or Die.”
Although the story takes place in Toronto, Canada, as the title suggests, New Hampshire is most definitely represented. Without giving too much away, the plot involves a naïve twenty-one-year-old, Emerald (Emmy) and her love affair with Jack, a thirty-year-old man from New Hampshire who’s not all that he seems. Am I Emmy? Of course not. But, like Emmy, I did once work in the credit department of a Toronto-based insurance company, and I did have the misfortune of falling head over heels for a cad I met while working there. I merely took those circumstances and said, “What if?”
Writing a novel takes even more of those “What if?” moments. In my debut mystery, The Hanged Man’s Noose (Barking Rain Press, July 2015), freelance writer Emily Garland is cash-strapped, newly single, and tired of reporting on the same old Toronto condo stats. When she’s offered a lucrative assignment in the village of Lount’s Landing, she decides to take a chance. All she has to do is relocate and uncover the real story behind a proposed redevelopment plan. And that’s where “What if?” comes in—along with a greedy developer and a feisty antiques shop owner who will do anything to preserve the integrity of the town’s Main Street.
Once again, I’m not Emily Garland. I have, however, been a fulltime freelance writer, specializing in art, antiques and the residential housing industry, since 2003. (I’m still waiting for a lucrative assignment to come my way.) I’ve also seen firsthand how irate people can get when unwanted development comes to their neighborhood. What if???
Getting ideas is as simple as paying attention to the world around me. The “what if’s” are what help me turn those ideas into fiction.