If you’ve ever told anyone you’re a writer, you’ve likely heard this question. It’s a stumper for me because I have no idea where these things come from. I’ll hear a phrase, or meet a person, or read a news headline. My first book, Sex and Insensibility, was born because I saw a news story about a woman who ran over her husband in the parking lot of a motel after catching him cheating. In fact, I think she ran over him twice.
I went with a slightly less blood-thirsty version. It was a romance, after all.
But I can’t really tell you where the idea first develops. It’s a voice in my head. Many of my books start with a name and, strangely enough, the birthday. The thing about the birthday is it gives me a profile using Linda Goodman’s Love Signs, both about the character as an individual and the two main characters as a couple. Along with the name, I generally know their occupation or the conflict that drives them.
I knew Lara in Sex and Insensibility had a secret (she was the ultimate goody-two-shoes and people pleaser) that would tarnish her image in the eyes of her family and town. She struggled with this secret and her desire not to disappoint anyone. The secret developed into a twofer that surprised me but it made sense with her character once it was revealed to me.
That’s probably the hardest part to explain to a non-writer. I don’t always know what’s going to happen. My characters take over, write their own story, let me know when I’m on the wrong path. Stubborn as they are (I don’t know where they get that from) they will not let me write a situation that doesn’t make sense for their characters. Because it’s not my story; it’s theirs.
That little voice in my head has been speaking to me about a new story but it’s not a romance. It’s not a young adult either, which is the other genre I write. This is a straight-up psychological suspense and it blossomed in my head almost fully formed. In what felt like a single breath, this book came to me with characters, birthdays, conflicts, twists, and an odd voice that would set one character apart.
It’s this last character that is speaking the loudest. So I guess I better list and get her story down.