Sunday, June 17, 2012

How'd You Come Up With That?

by Alexa Bourne

Authors are often asked where they get their ideas. It's a question I love. My eyes get bigger, my smile grows wider, and I have to rein in my thoughts so I don’t talk the person’s ear off. My short answer? Everywhere.

I love to observe life around me. I'm the type of person who would be perfectly happy sitting in a coffee shop for an entire afternoon just watching people- the way they interact, the way their words may say one thing but their body language says something entirely different. This is a great exercise for learning how to make your characters real.

Of course, plot ideas can come out of observing an action, too. Once I was driving to work and a police car turned into the parking lot of the hospital while I was at a stop light. Hm, what if a prisoner needed medical attention and then escaped the hospital and proceeded to spend the rest of the book torturing the hero?  

Story ideas can also come out of experiences. Two summers ago I went to Mexico to learn Spanish. For a while, I wandered around completely clueless since I only spoke English. Hm, what if an American woman becomes the only witness to a crime, but she doesn’t know what she overheard because she doesn’t understand the language?

My first Decadent book, Her Highland Champion, came about all because I stepped off a bus. I was on a 3-day tour of the Scottish Highlands back in 1997. It was my first extensive trip to Scotland, and I’d already fallen in love with Edinburgh. But nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming peace and joy I found when my tour stopped for a quick visit to Glenfinnan, a small Highland village located on the shore of Loch Shiel. Standing there next to the water and scanning the rolling hills with different shades of green grass and pale blue sky with wispy clouds, I knew I had to set a story in a place like this. Indeed, I think before I got back on the bus I had already planned some of the characters who would become the stars of my later stories. Over the next few years, I wrote or brainstormed several manuscripts set there. I talked with locals via email and also when I went back to visit so I could get it “just right.”

I know for me personally getting ideas everywhere can get overwhelming. At the moment, I have seven stories in various stages of completion banging around in my head (not including Champion or my next Decadent release!), and yet I still keep getting new ideas. That’s okay, though. I don’t ever want the ideas to run out, and if I keep observing the world around me, I’m pretty sure I’ll be well stocked for years to come. 

A Decadent Honor Guard story

Heather Winchester leads a charming life. With good friends, a beautiful flat in one of the most amazing cities in the world, and a promising future once she finishes her Ph.D, she is finally pursuing her own dreams instead of catering to everyone else’s…except she doesn’t remember any of it.
Malcolm Fraser has returned to his Highland village to forget his failings as a professional bodyguard. Believing he could just lose himself in the mundane activities of running his bed & breakfast, he finds a woman’s lifeless body by the loch instead….

Captivated by the Heather as she regains her memory, Malcolm is thrown into the line of duty. As danger comes knocking on their doors will he be strong enough to love her and keep her safe?


Miriam Newman said...

Sometimes setting is everything in terms of coming up with an idea. Good luck with your book!

Irene Preston said...

OMG - do you sometimes narrate what's happening around you in your head, too? Or does that push me right over into crazy-land?

Thanks for sharing your inspirations!

Kit Frazier said...

Great post, Lex!

Alexa said...

Yep, Miriam, I can't imagine Champion or my next 2 Honor Guard stories, taking place anywhere but the UK.

Irene, you're safe. I narrate quite a bit in my head. But I think we are crazy. At least we've got good company!

Thanks for stopping by, Kit! Miss you!