Lorena McCourtney is one of my favorite mystery writers because her characters are so real. She doesn't use superheroes. No, they are ordinary people who use their faults, weaknesses, and faith to get extraordinary results. Her uplifting stories always offer a bit of hope to flawed readers, like me. Today, I'm thrilled to share with you how Lorena gets the ideas for her uplifting books. ~ Angie
It's probably the question a writer is most frequently asked. Where do you get your ideas?
The basic answer, of course, is that ideas are everywhere. Just reach out and grab one. But it's easy to pass over a good idea unless you have an idea of how it may fit into a possible story. For this, I use what might be called a Circle Concept. It's simply a circle, with five essentials lined up around the edge. Plot. Characters. Setting. Theme. Title. An idea may enter at any point in this circle.
SETTING: We live in southern Oregon, and I love beachwalking on the coast. That's where the idea entered my Circle Concept. Write a book or series with a coast setting. Several times I've seen signs on the beach warning of dangerous "sneaker waves" that seem to come out of nowhere and just rise higher and higher on the beach. But greater than an actual ocean wave sweeping in seemed to me to be a life event that struck like a sneaker wave. This led into the plot. What kind of event could really devastate someone's life. Death? Infidelity? Divorce? Illness? I picked infidelity and divorce. So then my main character became a woman confronted with those problems – and, because I write mysteries, a murder. But note here that the original idea that became the series, The Julesburg Mysteries, wasn't a murder but simply a setting.
CHARACTERS: As a woman growing older, I've sometimes had the feeling of becoming more and more invisible. So, this idea entered at the "character" point on my Circle. Ivy Malone is an older woman, feeling invisible. She's become quite popular, using her "invisibility" as a sleuth in The Ivy Malone Mysteries.
PLOT: This is probably the most common entry point in my Circle, often coming from the news. For my most recent book, "Dying to Read," this came from hearing about all the well-educated, experienced people who've lost a job because of the economy, and then simply can't find another one. A plot then arises out of wondering what does this person do then?
TITLE: Yes, I've done books that started with a title simply popping into my head. I find this useful because it seems to give focus to a story. "Sometimes a Lady" was one, and it was easy to build a story around a woman who was sometimes a lady – and sometimes wasn't. But I've also become resigned to the fact that what strikes me as the perfect title may not hit an editor the same way,. But even if a title gets changed, it has served its purpose in sparking a story to go with it.
THEME: Many writers says they don't really see the theme until they're well into a story, maybe even at the end. I've usually had a theme in mind earlier on. Themes for me often come from some Biblical verse that, even though I may not have particularly noticed it before, suddenly reaches out and grabs me.
About Lorena (in her own words)
I grew up in various small towns in eastern Washington, and I started trying to write when I was in the fifth grade, usually horse stories. I sent them to magazines, but they were not impressed with my "talent," and sent them right back. My interest in horses continued on through a university degree in agriculture. (Which I can assure you is not a particularly useful education for a fiction writer – but, of course, I didn't know I wanted to be a writer then.)
Some of my most popular books have been the lighthearted Ivy Malone Mysteries, about an older woman who finds she seems to have aged into invisibility. And invisibility can be a rather handy asset for a sleuth. The first book "Invisible" is currently a free download on Kindle, Nook, etc.
"Dying to Read," my current release (and 42nd book altogether), is Book #1 in my new Cate Kinkaid Files series.
Connect with Lorena on her website: http://www.lorenamccourtney.com/
About DYING TO READ
Cate Kinkaid, desperate for a job, goes to work as an assistant private investigator. Her first assignment is supposed to be easy and uncomplicated, no danger or mayhem, definitely no murder. Instead she finds herself up to her elbows in Whodunit ladies, a paint-blobbed hunk, a deaf white cat – and killers.