This week’s guest poster is author Pearl R Meaker of the Emory Crawford Mysteries who discusses where writers get their ideas
Where do you get your ideas?
by Pearl R Meaker
I think every author gets asked at some point in his or her career. It’s a common enough occurrence that Stephen King even alludes to it in his book, “On Writing.” Of his group of close friends he says:
“We are writers, and we never ask one another where we get our ideas; we know we don’t know.”
And yet, with that said – and said by someone of the caliber of Stephen King – sometimes we do know at least where the seed came from even if we don’t know what it will grow into.
My books are a case in point. Let me tell you the stories of my stories.
The first two books were inspired by a song: “Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby” from the movie “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou.” This performance is by the ladies who did the singing for the movie – Emmy Lou Harris, Gillian Welsh and Alison Krauss.
I was particularly inspired by the lines, “You and me and the Devil makes three.” and “She’s long gone with her red shoes on.”
“The Devil’s Music” grew out of the devil line of the song, my hubby and I loving and playing bluegrass music, and two old superstitions –
- That fiddles were the Devil’s Box and played the Devil’s Music. This from a time when many people were against dancing and fiddles were
commonly played at dances.
- The idea of someone gaining a great talent or their biggest dream by making a deal with the Devil.
So a fiddle gets used to murder someone, murder ballads and bluegrass are discussed, devil symbolism abounds, and someone feels they sold their soul to get their dream.
“The Devil’s Hook” took a less obvious path, starting with the original title being “With Her Red Shoes On.”
The only things that survived from my first thoughts about the story were red items appearing in the dorm rooms of girls on the Twombly College campus – not being taken as would be more expected – and a female student being kidnapped.
Along the way I found myself wondering if a crochet hook had ever been used as a murder weapon in a mystery story.
I couldn’t think of any so I decided the murder would be done with a fancy, expensive, ergonomic crochet hook. The real Bloodwood hook is pictured on the cover. I had to buy it – you know (wink, wink) – for research. And the story just grew from there.
My third book, which comes out this month, left that song behind. In fact, I tried two other plot ideas before finding the one that stuck with me. We’d been having a flood year in Central Illinois, and my hubby said, “Why don’t you write a story about a flood?”
That got the wheels turning.
I was out walking by a pond where I go to photograph water birds, which had flooded it’s banks several times that year when a man in a truck stopped to say hello and ask if I’d seen any good birds. Of course, we talked about the flooding.
“I grew up in a house over by the big lake.” He said, pointing northeast. “You know where those two trees are by the lake along 5th street?”
“Yes. That’s where I park my car when I’m over there. There’s a small pull-off there.”
“Yes. The drive up to the house and farmyard went between those two trees.” He paused. “Of course it’s all gone now. It all got torn down before they started the gravel mining. That’s what made this pond and the big lake, you know. Gravel mining.”
That got me thinking.
A flood. A lake. A house that wasn’t there anymore.
While writing it I played mp3s of rain, thunderstorms, and sounds recorded underwater. I also played the song “Flood” by Jars of Clay when I wasn’t actually writing.
I ended up with a story about a house that vanishes without a trace in a flood year in that same area of Illinois back in 1844, when there really was a record flood, and how the past touches the present.
As always, other elements popped into my head. Some stayed, some got tossed, but the end result has an archaeological dig, a “super booze” at clandestine drinking parties, mummies and a young man getting shot and killed in a drunken duel.
You just never know where a good idea will take you.
Connect with Pearl
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Hope you enjoyed this blog post and a big thanks to Pearl for giving up her time to contribute to this blog. 🙂
I will be back on Friday with a new writing post so do check back.