A friend who is interested in writing once asked me where I get my story ideas from. My first reaction was to laugh. It’s not like there is a specific place or source for ideas. Inspiration can strike at the strangest time or in the most unlikely place. I can be minding my own business, focused on something ordinary and a bit of dialogue or an exchange between other people can trigger a thought for a scene or even a whole story.
I gave him one situation as an example. While waiting in line for a table at a local restaurant, two old timers in front of me kept trading comments about the attractive young hostess who was bustling back and forth. One codger nudged the other as she was escorting the patrons in front of them to a table.
“That’s the way I want to die,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows to emphasize his point, “between the thighs of a nineteen-year-old girl.”
The image alone was enough to trigger an idea for a short story that was eventually published in a small magazine.
So for me, inspiration can take many forms. And it often appears without warning. I recall working on a scene for “Devious” the first book in the Jamie Richmond mystery series. Jamie and Malone are on a date, early in the relationship. Writing this story from Jamie’s perspective was a challenge. I tried to capture her feelings, her uncertainty of the moment. Her attractions to Malone were becoming difficult to ignore. Here’s the way the scene turned out.
We walked slowly up the stairs to my apartment. I bumped my nose on the door. It was locked. Malone had to remind me to secure the place when we left. He was laughing softly as he took the keys from my hand and unlocked the door.
“You still live close enough to the big city that you should always lock up.”
“Yes sir,” I said, rubbing my nose. I walked several steps inside before I realized he wasn’t behind me.
“Been a long day, Jamie.”
I came back to the door. “And a lovely, relaxing one at that, but it’s not that late. Come in.”
He hesitated. “I don’t want to rush things, Jamie.”
I don’t know if he could hear it, but my heart was thumping so loudly it could have stopped traffic on I-275. And that’s three miles away. “C’mon, Malone. Stay for a while.”
He hesitated again. My mind raced through all of the things I had done in the past to scare guys away. Being pushy or too easy was one of them. Attacking them in the hallway was probably another. But I really wanted him to stay. I couldn’t tell if he’d made up his mind or not, so I jumped right in.
“Look, Malone. I’m not a kid. Neither are you. I’m not some cop-groupie. We’re both adults. We’ve met half a dozen times or more. We’ve talked, gotten to know each other a little. We’ve just spent a lot of time together over the last two days. We’ve got a lot…”
Somewhere in the middle of this speech, he stepped into the room, pulled me close and kicked the door shut behind him. Then his fingers were caressing my face as he leaned in close for a kiss.
“Jamie,” his voice was a soft, sexy whisper.
“Jamie,” he repeated, gently kissing my mouth.
His lips traveled down my neck. “Sometimes…”
He was working his way back toward my ear. “You talk too much.”
Although it’s been a few years since I wrote that passage, the memory of the inspiration remains strong. As is often the case, I listen to music when writing, to help set the mood. Here’s the tune.