Monday, October 01, 2007

The Idea Well

One of the most often asked questions you get as a writer is "where do you get your ideas?" This is a hard question to answer because there's not really an Idea Well that writers go to and fish out their next plot line. The reality is, writers are full of ideas. Our wells are using overflowing and the only thing we lack is the time to write the all.

As to what creates those ideas in our heads - well, everything. Writers have unique ways of looking at the world. If we didn't, we wouldn't walk to write about it. And because we can take the smallest thing we see and blow it up into something big, that's how we come up with ideas.

So to give you a bit better idea of how my thinking works, I'm going to talk this week about how I came up with the idea for RUMBLE ON THE BAYOU.

First off, I'm from Louisiana. My parents had a camp on the bayou off the Gulf of Mexico and you could only get there by boat. This is the real deal. I didn't just visit one weekend and decide I could write bayou country and people. I spent a heck of a lot of my childhood at that camp - fishing, shrimping, crabbing and reading books. I also heard all the stories.

Like the one that says the guy who owned the shrimphouse got all his money by running drugs on his shrimp boats in from the Gulf of Mexico. Is it true? I don't know, maybe - heck, probably. It makes for great urban legend anyway. Then there's the small prop planes that used to fly over unihabited areas of the bayou - we saw them sometime. Large items would fall from the planes then they'd turn and leave. Everyone knew better than to go look because most knew it was a drug drop. (and that fact was verified later when I talked to the Game Warden for the area)

So essentially, our camp was on a bayou that was full of alligators and people were dropping drugs from planes. Now one day I watched an alligator eat a ton of floating styrofoam, so apparently they're not overly picky about what they ingest, so I got to thinking, what if an alligator bit into one of the bags of drugs and got high?

And that's the opening scene to RUMBLE - a stoned alligator crashed in the town drunk's swimming pool.

I started with that one little scene and continued until I'd built a full-blown plot and characters around it, and the town of Gator Bait, Louisiana was born.

Next week I'll talk about UNLUCKY (coming October 30th). It's a story about a woman who's luck is so bad she can't even touch other people for fear of ruining their lives. It's sort of autobiographical and I'll leave you hanging with that. :)

- Deadly DeLeon

22 comments:

Christie Craig said...

Jana,

I just tell people I get my ideas off the the clearance rack and WalMart. Your idea makes so much more sense.

Great post. And I love your stoned alligator scene.

Crime Scene Christie

Jenyfer Matthews said...

I grew up in Louisiana too and I'm happy to say I never ran into a stoned 'gator!

My ideas come from all over the place too - sometimes just a tiny little spark that grows and grows. Not always easy to explain the way my mind works. I like the Walmart explanation better!

Wendy Roberts said...

Great story, Jana!

Tori Lennox said...

I'm always tempted to tell people I get my ideas from a mail order place in Trenton, New Jersey. *g*

Truth is I used to get a ton of my ideas from weird dreams I had. And I used to have a LOT of weird dreams. I don't remember them so much now, alas.

Right now, I'm messing around with an idea where the heroine is stuck living in a small town in Arkansas because, well, I'm stuck living in a small town in Arkansas. LOL.

I love hearing how RUMBLE came to you!

Jana DeLeon said...

LOL Christie - heck, I guess you can get everything else at Walmart.....

Jana DeLeon said...

jenyfer - I'm glad you haven't come across a high alligator, too! Although, my cousin sent me photos a couple of months ago of one floating in her friend's pool. NOT intentional. I'll have to dig it out and post.

Jana DeLeon said...

Hi Wendy - thanks!

Jana DeLeon said...

Tori - yes, sometimes life brings us all sorts of ideas. I can't say I've ever had the dream thing work though. I usually don't remember them after I'm fully awake.

Anonymous said...

If you ever find yourself bored and in a library, see if you can find THE CASE OF ERLE STANLEY GARDNER. (I don't remember the author's name, but am certain of the title.)
The book contains a detailed "Plot Wheel" Mr. Gardner devised for all his Perry Mason (and the Bertha Kool/David Lam mysteries, written under his pen name of A.A. Fair). I found it highly entertaining. You may know that he wrote over eighty books. I think I may have read all of them. The Grand Prairie Public Library in GP, Texas has a copy. It should be available on inter-library loan.

Estella said...

What a great story!

Jana DeLeon said...

anon - That sounds interesting! I'll have to find a copy. Thanks!

estella - Glad you enjoyed it!

Lila N. said...

Hi all, very nice post... it is my First visit here... my friend Nathalie told me to come and check it out... because she knows I love Gemma's books!

Nathalie said...

An alligator... how scary and I can't believe Lila is here!!
Hi Lila :)

Lily said...

Christie... you get your ideas in the Wal-Mart... how depressing!

Jenyfer Matthews said...

I want a t-shirt that says "Watch what you say or you'll end up in my next book" That would give people something to think about!

Jana DeLeon said...

Hi lila - I'm glad you stopped by!!! Please visit again.

Jana DeLeon said...

LOL Nathalie - It is actually funny. Check out the excerpt on my website and you'll see. :)

Jana DeLeon said...

jenyfer - I have one of those t-shirts (or something very similar). It is a great conversation starter when I'm traveling.

Lila N. said...

Thanx for the warm welcome everyone :)

Kathy Bacus said...

My children were fortunate enough to visit New Orleans with their high school band several months before Katrina hit. They loved it there and want to go back. The closest I've been to Louisiana is Jana's 'Rumble on the Bayou' but it was a memorable trip, too!

As far as ideas go, they generally come to me at the least opportune times. Once I was cutting my grass on a John Deere tractor (it was a large yard so I usually kept a notepad and pen tucked under my tushie in case inspiration struck) and I got this great idea I had to write down right then. I reached down to get my note pad--and ran into the corner of my deck--crunching the front end of the tractor.

Sounds like a 'Calamity' moment, doesn't it?

~Kathy a/k/a Bullet Hole~

Jana DeLeon said...

LOL Kathy - you have to share the deck story on the blog sometime!

Anonymous said...

Re Anonymous's tip about Gardner's plot wheels -- I have The Case of Erle Stanley Gardner by Alva Johnston, pub. Morrow 1947. There is not a single mention of a plot wheel in its 87 brief pages.

I think Anon. must be thinking of another book.

There is another biography on Gardner called Erle Stanley Gardner: The Real Perry Mason, or something close to that. Maybe that's it.