It is my pleasure to bring to you a very dear friend of mine who happens to now have a book entered in Kindle Scout. Ladies and gents, I give unto thee, Julianne Johnson.
I’ve hear the question a bazillion times. In online forums, at conventions, in reviews with authors I enjoy, and from my own friends and family.
Where do you get the ideas for your story?
The answer: Well, it depends.
Authors get their ideas from all sorts of places and sometimes an idea just pops in your head and you have no idea where it came from. Often, something in your life gets stuck in your mind and you can’t let it go. I know a playwright who wrote an entire play because of a tiny news story he happened across that was buried in the middle of a paper. Something about that few lines stuck with him and demanded he pay attention to it. I was a fan of some books where the main character could see ghosts but not hear them. It stuck with me, that limitation. I began to wonder what would it be like if you could hear ghosts but not see them. That ended up being my first book.
Writers also end up putting a great deal of themselves in books. I’m not saying that you will find a character who is a disguised version of me in any of my books. None of my children are based on me. However, we all put pieces of our lives in our books. My MC needs to buy a car, his experiences in doing that mirror the last time I myself bought a car.
Like many writers, I like to play the game “what if.” I’ll be standing in line at a grocery store, and I’ll think, what if the power goes out? What would I do? Will I wait here or abandon my cart of groceries? What if a gunman comes in and takes hostages?
Next thing I know, I’m telling myself a little story about what would happen if I’m taken hostage. What I would say, what I would do. That may never end up being a book, but it makes the time past faster when you are waiting in line.
Often, the ideas for our books grow out of our life. Small seeds of our experience that sprout and grow a life of their own, or small games of ‘what if?” that build together into the leviathan of plot bunnies.
Two of my recent story ideas happened in exactly that manner.
I worked for over thirty years in the theatre. Tons of experience just waiting to be drawn on. I worked on a stage production of Night of the Living Dead, and I wondered, what if the actor zombies became real? That became Teatime of the Living Dead, one of my favorite projects to date.
Then there’s Descending, a half romance, half action/adventure piece that I wrote last year. Descending is a mash up of several bits of my life coming together into a fictional whole. A theatre I once worked for flew a show to another city for an award. That happened before I joined the company, and I’d always wished I hadn’t missed it. I once flew in a very small plane that experienced horrible turbulence. I love hiking, and grew up with an older brother who encouraged me to be a tomboy, and a mother who loved going into the woods foraging for mushrooms. I have done some mountain hiking in the Smokeys, and visited the Rockies.
The “what ifs?” were strong with this one. “What if a theatre troop was flying over the mountains? What if they crashed? What if a member of the troupe who was lower on the totem pole knew some amateur trailblazing and survival skills? Who would listen to her? How well would creative theatre people survive in the mountains? Why would it more difficult, or easier for them than it would be for anyone else?
When someone asks where the idea came from, what do I tell them? I usually go with it growing from my theatre experience and my love of hiking. The truth is that it is a giant squid with many tentacles, each growing out of one of my life experiences. It came from a lifetime of asking “what if?” and telling myself stories to keep myself amused.
This time, I wrote the story down.
Descending is now in the midst of a campaign on Kindle Scout. If you want to check it out, you can find it here.
There’s a large excerpt where you can read all about “what if a group of theatre folks were in a plane crash in the Rocky Mountains?” If you vote for it, and Descending gets published by Kindle, you will get a free advance copy and you can read the entire thing.
Julianne Q Johnson is a writer in Indiana. She dreams of having a computer keyboard that ferrets don’t routinely dance upon, opening 347 Google windows in their quest for world domination. Any mistakes you find in this post were probably typed by ferrets.