Yesterday, I drove over Fort Gibson Dam to get to a client. The road over the dam is two lane and narrow. Winter was still dragging on and the trees were all nude. I could see in every direction. At the end of that narrow road, a squat, square tower poked up, and on the other side, the narrow road continued down a steep hill.
And I thought, “That’s a very defensible position. Limited routes of access, great visibility.”
Then I thought, “But what would you be defending against? It would have to be post apocalytic. Zombies? Well, they’re overdone these days, but still a good choice. Oh, you know, no one’s done a werewolf apocalypse – hmmm, I’ll think about that! Vamps? Aliens?.”
That was followed by, “But who’s in the tower. It’s not very big, it couldn’t really hold more than a few people. A family? One guy? Maybe a mother and her child?”
By this time, I was nearly to my client, but I was still going in my head. “Maybe it’s one guy and he sees a woman running across the road towards the tower, followed by the bad guys. Does he let her in? Of course he does…. but then what happens?”
“Where do you get your ideas?” is that classic question that everyone asks a writer.
For me, the answer comes in just asking questions. “Why? What if? Who?” Followed up by “and then?”
Just driving past the tower on Fort Gibson Dam. I sketched out the bones of a story.
On another recent occassion, I was at a stop sign and looked over to my left to see a small graveyard. The headstones were uniformly the same size and shape, but there was one mausoleum with a strange arch structure over it. It was the only mausoleum in the graveyard.
So, immediately, I start thinking. “Who or what is buried there? Why is it the only mausoleum? What if there’s no one actually buried there? What if it’s like a vault protecting some important artifact? What if its a prison for some powerful monster. Or… no! It’s a prison for a powerful hero of some kind! There’s a monster who imprisoned the only person who can defeat it! But then how do I get the hero rescued?”
My dog wakes me up in the middle of the night staring at a blank spot on the wall and whimpering. What does he see or hear?
A big cardinal sits on a branch outside my window and looks in. What if he’s a human cursed to live as a bird?
The power flickers off and back on three times in a row on a perfectly clear day. Is it a message from ghosts?
My stories almost always start from something unusual that caught my attention and then I started asking questions. For me, my stories are all out there just waiting for me to notice them.