A Picture Paints A Thousand Words (I Hope!)

People always ask where I get my story ideas. It’s a complicated question…and yet it isn’t. Because they never come from any one place. Sometimes an article I read on the internet will get the wheels turning. Sometimes an overheard conversation sparks something. And sometimes it’s a picture.Lane 10

A picture like this one. 

My son went snow tubing with friends this past winter. When he came back, he had several pictures. This was one of them. I chuckled and told him his facial expression seemed a little sinister. But as I looked closer, I caught a little flash of red just behind him. A small marker that said Lane 10. And there it was. The idea and title for a new book. A thriller. One where something terrible happens on Lane 10.

Right now that’s all it is. The smallest kernel of an idea. But once I get a chance, I plan to explore it just a little more. And hopefully, one day, that photo will give birth to a brand new book–painting not just a thousand words, but tens of thousands of words.

And there you have it. Short and sweet. I would love to hear your thoughts!

If you’re an author, do you have an interesting story about where you got one of your ideas? If you’re a reader, have you ever read a book and wondered how on earth the writer came up with the plot?

19 responses to “A Picture Paints A Thousand Words (I Hope!)”

  1. Tamara Hogan says:

    Tina, isn’t it amazing, the little things that can set our creativity ablaze?

    I’ve mentioned this here at the blog before, but I got the idea for my Underbelly Chronicles series at a Motley Crue show. These middle-aged women kept flashing their boobs at drummer Tommy Lee, and I found myself boggling at their behavior, thinking, “Is the man an incubus or something?” (An incubus is a mythical sex demon.)

    Something clicked. What if he WAS? And I started building the series’ world the very next morning. 😉

    • Add David Coverdale to that list. I’d definitely give him all my love tonight, if you know what I mean, and I’m sure you do, because his lyrics aren’t exactly subtle. Pretty sure he’s older than my mom. Don’t care, not sorry!

    • I’ve heard you tell this story before, and love it!!! I can definitely see him as an incubus.

      And what a great book came out of that!

  2. Kim Law says:

    I recently got an idea while talking to one of my editors. We were just having a nice afternoon, sitting at lunch, and she was telling me a story about her dad. And one tiny phrase she said made my mind instantly twist it around into an awesome story conflict! I laughed and shared the thought with her (surprising her with my twist), and it’s funny because though she works with authors all the time, I think she was a little surprised to see that idea form in the middle of our conversation. It just happens. All the time. Had another conversation over the weekend with a friend I hadn’t seen in person in years, and he was telling a story, and a quirk of one of his brothers was mentioned, and BAM…that’s going into a book! 🙂 People ask were we get our ideas, and I wish I could make them understand that we don’t have to go looking for them. They’re just there. Everywhere!

    Can’t wait to read about what happens in Lane 10, Tina!

    • Yep! I don’t understand why some things strike me and others don’t. I just wish those inspirations would kick in when I needed them the most!

      But it’s usually something odd. Something no one else might notice. Like you mentioned with that conversation with your editor. I guess it’s just the way a writer’s mind works.

      I’m so glad those ideas keep coming, though. We’d be in trouble without them. 🙂

  3. I don’t even know what your idea is, Tina, but I could totally see “Lane 10” being a thriller! Funny how imagination works.

    My Mindhunters series was generated from a show I happened to catch (on The Learning Channel, or something like that) about the very first private investigator back in the late 1800s. His last name was Vidocq, and today, there’s a Vidocq Society of 113 members (if I remember correctly) who meet regularly. These members have expertise in a variety of criminal study fields and get together to discuss cold cases over lunch. I was fascinated by the idea!

  4. Elisa Beatty says:

    I just love the way little random things–photographs, odd noises, anecdotes you hear, random people-watching, songs on the radio, whatever–can trigger full-blown stories in our minds.

    I’d love a thriller about Lane 10!!!

    • I know. With the photo, I think it started with my son’s expression. If you click on the picture it gets bigger and you can see his eyes. He has a kind of sideways look, like he has a secret. And then I could picture him dragging something on that inner-tube. That coupled with that marker sealed the deal.

      My poor guy was a little creeped out by my thought process I think. Then he started mentioning his cut of the royalties…

  5. Lane 10! An “I know what you did last summer” sort of vibe is that I’m getting. But you don’t write YA, do you?

    My current WIP is based on an NPR story I heard in which a woman was in an accident and lost her recent memories, including the fact that she’d divorced from her husband. My first thought: did he still love her? Did he take the opportunity for a second chance? Did he want to, or was he forced to? Why did they divorce? Why would it work the second time around? What will she do when she finds out that they’re really divorced?

    And most critically…was her accident *really* an accident? Because I’m a romantic suspense writer, yo!

  6. I was sitting at the Maggie Awards Ceremony while attending my first ever writer’s conference some fifteen years ago. The flame on the little candle in the center of the table kept dancing around with the air conditioning draft.

    I watched it intently while voices started in my head. “Candle Dance.” A girl raised by Romany travelers in 18th century England. She dances around a fire in the opening scene. It became the first book in my five-book series, The Dragonfly Chronicles.

    Yep, ideas are everywhere. It’s doing something with them that’s the hard part.

    • Wow, Heather, that is the coolest story. It’s amazing how something as simple as a candle dancing can take on a life of its own and become something completely different (and yet it still has that initial spark). I love this!

  7. Rita Henuber says:

    More than one photo has sparked a complete scene. Writing thrillers makes it easy to rip my stories from the headlines.Should also say the general in Point of No Return was modeled after real life info and plenty of headlines. Current WIP has contaminated water on military bases, a real life experience, as the bad thing that drives the story.

    • I am fascinated by all these stories. It’s so neat how each of us can take a headline, a picture, etc and come up with something unique to us.

      And the ideas keep coming. They don’t run out!

  8. Kate Parker says:

    I wish I had enough time to explore all the story ideas I have that come from anecdotes, news articles, overheard conversations. I still laugh about the time I followed a car down the road whose trunk was hanging low. What if there was a dead body in there? Then the driver pulled over and I’m thinking, does he know the dead body is in there? He had a flat tire.


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