Deb has a great way of finding the hidden stories in the places she visits and the people she sees, don’t you think? Writers get asked a lot where we get our ideas and we usually tell them, “Everywhere!” But how do we get to the point where we can see those hints of stories?
I can’t speak for Deb – she has her own way of finding threads of stories in the places she visits and people she meets, and her stories and novels are great evidence of this.
In my case, I give a lot of credit to my mother, who raised four kids (she had three kids three years old and younger at one point) and was forever inventing ways to keep us entertained, especially in the confines of our four-door car on very long road trips.
“Look at that house! Who do you think would live in a house like that?” she’d ask, and we’d quit squabbling long enough to swing our heads in the direction she was pointing to see what the house looked like. Sitting in a grocery store parking lot, waiting for Dad to run in for a few groceries on the way home, she’d say, “Which car do you think that woman will go to?” And we’d pick out the vehicle we thought matched her – and usually we were all wrong. People, of course, surprise us all the time.
Pretty soon, everything started to be a question: “Why in the world would anyone want to be out in weather like this?” Mom would say, hand on hip, looking out the big front window into blowing snow. We’d swarm to stare with her at the hunched man, head bowed against the brutal, sub-zero temperatures. Hmmm… What would drive someone out into the drifting piles of frigid white? Was he out of bread? Would the store even be open? What would he do if he got all the way there and it was closed? Our brains turned the possibilities over. We traded theories, my mother long vanished back to the peace and quiet that reigned once again in our small house.
My imagination is in overdrive these days. Living and traveling full-time in our RV, I’m bombarded every day by this sort of stimuli: how do people make a living in this tiny town where every business is boarded up? Why is there a two-track trail leading into that stretch of prairie? What does that sign “No NPS Allowed” mean?
That sign had a lot of meaning behind it, it turns out. That detail, plus a few others, swirled around in my head. I started writing. Then re-writing. Eventually I had a story, then a book I titled Pea Body, after the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, in the Outer Banks.
Pretty soon its main characters, Walt and Betty Rollin, full-time RVers, reappeared in Yuma Baby, the second in the Rollin RV Mystery Series, another story born from images and details gathered during my nomadic life.
Superstition Victim, set in a Lost Dutchman State Park in Arizona (though never named in the novel), is in progress, plunging Walt and Betty into yet another who-dunnit.
Ideas? They’re out there, floating around in numbers as uncountable as molecules of air. What have you seen today? What did it make you think of? Will you write about it?
Many thanks, Deb, for letting me share a bit of what goes on when some of those story molecules hit me!
Ellen Behrens is a novelist, short story author, and nonfiction writer. Her Rollin RV Mystery series has given her the reputation as “RVers’ favorite writer.” Her books are available in print and e-book format for all major e- reader devices. Behrens’ first novel, “None But the Dead and Dying,” came out in 1996 from Baskerville Publishers. Former Fiction Editor for Mid-American Review, she received an Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship in 1993. Find out more about her books at ellenbooks.com, or drop her a note at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d to be part of her inner circle and receive personal alerts about upcoming publications and events.