As a fiction author, I get asked all the time, where do you get your ideas? The answer? Everywhere. Some little detail or big picture idea will capture my attention and I have to sit down and figure it out.
Let’s start with big picture.
When I begin a series of books, I usually pick my location. I love setting my stories in small towns, so I decide in which state and area I will build my fictitious town. In the last several books I’ve written, I chose the north Georgia mountains. Why? Because we love to vacation there and I have lots of wonderful memories, so I wanted to spend time there in my imagination.
Before the Georgia books, I had a series set in a small beach town. This was an easy choice, since I live on the west coast of Florida. All I had to do was go for a drive and I had plenty of ideas for my special town.
I write for two different publishers. With one, I create my locations. For the other, they have guidelines for the line and pick the state where the stories are set. That’s been fun, because I get to do research on places I’ve never been.
I have my location, now what? Plot. What is my story about? Depending on a romance or mystery, I can come up with ideas from conversations I’ve had with family or friends. Sometimes I sit at a very busy coffee shop or at a park and people watch. Let me tell you, that’s a goldmine for ideas. Or I can get inspired from the news or an article I’ve read. It takes that one little kernel and I can come up with an entire story. What if… Once upon a time… On a dark and stormy night… You get the picture.
Characters will come next. I always have so much fun figuring out who I’m going to spend the next couple of months with. Who are they, what are their issues or situations in life? How about their family and friend dynamics. Many secondary characters spin off into other books. It can get big and messy and so much fun.
For a romance couple, how do I get them interested in each other, then cause problems between them until the happily ever after? Or in a mystery, how do I throw my protagonist into dangerous events that are not part of their daily life. Who did it and why?
As you can see, I spend a lot of time in my head answering all sorts of questions.
Now for the smaller details. Take names for example. Do I pick then because I like the sound or do they have meaning?
Many years ago I was visiting a friend and our children were outside playing. I went to check on them and there was a cat hanging around. One of the kids told me it was the neighbor’s pet, Ruby Sue. I loved the name and couldn’t get it out of my head. In the first series of books I wrote, I gave that name to the feisty grandmother, and boy, was it appropriate.
Once I create a town, there are all the shops and restaurants and city buildings or parks or marinas that pop up on each book. I keep a notebook near my computer containing all the names of my characters and places in the series I’m working on so I don’t forget, or to add new names and places. If I want my characters to visit, say, Smitty’s Pub, a local restaurant for the locals in my mountain town, I have it right there at my fingertips. These places become just as real as the hangouts we go to in our daily lives.
The next time you read a book, pay attention to the details. The author spent a lot of time being creative for your enjoyment; to round out the story and make it interesting. We have just as much fun coming up with all the details as you do reading them.
As for me, I’m off to the mountains in my current work in progress.
Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author. Family values, a bit of mystery and of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Look for her next Harlequin Heartwarming romance, HIS SMALL TOWN DREAM, available August 2022 . For more information about her books, visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TaraRandelBooks. Sign up for Tara’s Newsletter and receive a link to download a free digital book.