Wednesday, February 16, 2011

From Fact to Fiction

One of the most frequently asked questions authors get is, "So where do you get all your ideas?" My answer is usually intentionally non-specific and vague: "A million different places."

It's true, though. Ideas grow from conversations overheard, news stories, folk tales, true-to-life accounts, dreams, and 999,995 other sources. Ideas start as a seed, get mulled over, planted, fertilized, then tested to see if they'll grow and can support a full-length novel. Some are winners, some are losers.

A winner was when my uncle gave me a journal he wrote from the perspective of a Union captain in the Civil War. There were more than twenty entries, diagrams, and maps. Gripping stuff, too. Well-written, introspective, educational, and insightful. If I didn't know any better I would have thought it was an authentic Civil War-era journal.

Apparently, I didn't know any better.

What my uncle later revealed to me was the stuff of fiction, not fact. Several years ago, over the course of a few weeks, he had a series of dreams during which he penned the journal entries. He had no memory of writing them and the entries included things that even he, a Civil War buff, didn't know.

Weird stuff, huh? Even creepy. Like I said, the stuff of good fiction. And from those journal entries a story idea was birthed. I toyed with it for a while, tested it out, pondered it, and eventually set to work on my next novel, Darkness Follows, which releases May 3.

So how about you? Any real-life stories that may inspire a novel idea? Hey, I'm open for suggestions.


Lena Nelson Dooley said...

Very interesting idea, Mike.

I'm reading Darlington Woods right now and loving it. I will tell you what my husband tells me, "Writers think weird." I'm anxious to finish. Too bad I have to stop and work along the way. I have a deadline this Friday.

Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar said...

Hey, Mike, most of what I write begins in the realm of fact and moves to fiction. Sometimes it begins with a story someone tells me about their family background or it begins with personal experience or, in the case of my latest series, the fiction began after I did some research (fact) on my own family history.

Mike Dellosso said...

The more I listen to other people's stories the more I'm convinced that fact truly is stranger than fiction.

Jillian Kent said...

Hey Mike,
I have a very weird over active imagination. I think I could easliy slide into speculative fiction. In fact, I almost made my romance more of a thriller with a demon and angel battle in a certain place within my novel. I wonder if some day I will cross that line? But for now I love romance with a mystery/suspense edge. I agree with Lena's hubby,"Writers think weird."

Cherie Clayton said...

I am just starting this endeavor of writing. I have been journaling since I was little, even before I could write. I would tell my mom what to write in my journals. I had kids very young, in my senior year of high school actually. To my surprise, I had twins! Yep...a baby having two babies! My tiwns have just graduated HS last year and are now attending college. I will be too this summer! I have always wanted to write a book and see it published. It is a dream of mine! I have written short stories and teaching material, but to write a novel would be incredible. Any advice for a novice would be great Mike! To check out some of my writings you can go to my blog
Cherie Clayton