Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Where do you get your ideas?

I think that's the question I hear the most when someone finds out that I write - short stories, long stories, novels, poems, and . . . well, blogs.

The answer: I don't "get" my ideas - they appear to me - like Lennon's man on a flaming pie - they just materialize, without warning, without premeditation and sometimes at the most unlikely, and unwanted, times.

Let's take a for instance. Last night I had to have dinner with my supervisor, some regional administrators, my regional nurses and owners of the pharmacy company - the one that I think needs more work to make it nurse-friendly. I was NOT looking forward to it - I was tired, not hungry for rich food and just wanted to veg in my jammies and watch mindless TV. But I was a good corporate girl and made my regional nurses be good corporate girls and we went.

It was not too bad - thanks to the company at my end of the table. Dina, one of my regional nurses, lives in a funeral home - her husband's business. Of course there are lots of stories around a funeral home (hence A&E's "Family Plots"). But Dina also has lots of stories about her family, husband Brian, son Sam, dog Quincy (for Quincy, M.E.) and cat Nedley (I wanted them to name him Jordan, but I had no say in it).

Now Nedley is a black cat - but not just any ordinary black cat. Ned looks like a Siamese that was dipped in a pot of black paint, sleek with large ears. Ned also has the Siamese's intelligence. Not that other breeds aren't also bright; but, the Siamese are legendary in their intelligence (google Lillian Jackson Braun or KoKo and YumYm and see what you find).

But I digress. I've heard many Ned-stories.: paw prints on top of the ceiling fan, ambushing Quincy and jumping on his back. Cat stories - cute but uninspiring - until last night.

Dina told a simple Nedley story. There is a door between the family quarters and the funeral home and one day, Ned tried to scoot through that door and into the casket viewing room.

Bells went off in my brain. A bright neon "Tilt, tilt, tilt" appeared over my head. I heard Bob Barker yelling, "Come one Dowwwwwwwn." We have a WINNER.

And here is how a writer's brain works. My latest heroine (Elizabeth Peacock, ertswhile reporter of paranormal goings-on) has a best friend who is a funeral director. I can work in a scene with a black cat hiding in a casket and then someone opening the lid and . . . cat jumps out.

I had the germ of a scene, a scene that could be humorous, a scene that could be pivotal - I needed to get a character in the funeral home for a legitimate, plot-driven reason - I already had Elizabeth driving the old hearse because her own car had been impounded.

Throughout the rest of the dinner, as the nurse-part of my brain played corporate person, the writer-part of my brain was busy with the new scene.

Where do I get my ideas?
From a cat on a flaming pie.


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