Finding Story Ideas

I have been asked where I get my ideas for my murder mysteries. The answer is never easy, since there are multiple sources for ideas. Most of the ideas come from my own imagination, where I contemplate how I would get rid of this person or that person, and what conditions would make this action seem like a plausible course for me to follow. Not that I ever would, of course. I may be murderous on paper (or screen), but I am unlikely to ever carry out my fantasies.

Most crimes come out of situations where some of the main motivators of human behavior come into play. Everyone knows these motivators: protecting yourself, protecting your family, anger, hatred, greed, jealousy, fear. There are some motivators that I am less familiar with: political rage, religious zealotry, social outrage. And there are some motivators that I won’t admit to being familiar with: paranoia, psychopathy, delusional rage.

Yet all of these are possible reasons for murder in my stories.

And that’s what make writing mysteries interesting. I get to go into the minds of characters who have these motivations and try to make them real and believable.

As for the murders in my stories, they all come from the challenge I’ve given myself: to write a murder for each letter of the alphabet. I come up with the title of the story, then try to find the motivator that would fit that scenario. Here is an example.

When I first planned the series, one of the last books in the series was ZZ. At first I was going to call the story The Zealous Zookeeper. My challenge was to find a situation in which a zookeeper would be involved in a murder. My earliest ideas focused on someone who so loved their collection of big cats that they killed and ground up occasional visitors to the zoo to provide food for his beloved cats.

Needless to say, I discarded this idea. But that was when the price of beef was a lot lower…


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