• Debi Chestnut


One of the questions I'm asked the most at speaking engagements is: Where do you get your ideas? The answer is everywhere!

Here's the thing: even when I'm not writing - I'm thinking about writing. I'm always on the look out for new ideas, locations for scenes, characters, and, because I'm a mystery writer, the perfect place to dump a dead body.

Let's break it down.

IDEAS: Ideas are everywhere. The news, an obscure story online, overhearing a snippet of a conversation amongst strangers. What I do is either write it down, or, if it's an online news story, print it out, free write any ideas, images, or scenes the story invokes and file it away.

So when you're out and about or watching a documentary on TV, watch out for your next idea. Part of being a writer is to look at anything and everything in a new way. The ideas are right in front of you - all you have to do is be on the look out for them.

SCENE LOCATIONS: Whether riding in a car, out for a walk, running errands, or on a weekend getaway to my happy place in Northern Michigan, I'm always on the lookout for locations to place a scene. It could be an interesting store, a small town, a cemetery, an old abandoned building, etc.

When I find one, I grab my cellphone and take pictures. Not just one picture, but lots of pictures from different angles. Then, I walk around the location and picture my characters, or completely new characters in that location. What are they doing? Why are they there? Etc.

CHARACTERS: Years ago I was at a restaurant having lunch. Sitting in another booth was an elderly woman. She sat hunched over, arms tucked in front of her, head down. It appeared that she was trying to make herself invisible. As people walked by her, she almost cowered in the booth. I've never forgotten her, even though a word was never spoken between us.

People watch no matter where you are or what you're doing. Your next character could be right in front of you. Don't forget to pay attention to who catches your eye for some reason. It could be someone like the woman I saw. It could be a harried mother trying to round up her kids, someone driving their car, anyone.

So, that's where I come up with ideas for books, characters, and scenes. I can't wait to see what you come up with and what inspires you! Let me know by leaving a comment.

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