“Where do you get your ideas?”

This is a guest post by Lynne Murphy

An irritating question authors are often asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?” I once heard a fed-up romance writer reply, “I buy them at Costco,” but I don’t recommend that. Still, where do we get our ideas? I decided to look at some of my short stories recently after I was asked a version of the question. It was like being my own psychoanalyst.

I lived in a condo for more than 20 years. My story, The Troublemaker, features a condo dweller, who irritates members of the Garden Committee by planting flowers in the community gardens which clash with the agreed-upon colour scheme. He also goes through the garbage and picks out cardboard boxes, which should have been recycled, and turns off lights in the building to save on electricity bills. This is a composite of two of my condo neighbours.  He is killed off for his pains. By accident, I should add.

Being Leda Fox was written after a friend lent me her name tag so I could go to dinner at a mystery conference. My daughter and granddaughter were at my home when I was getting ready and they created a scenario where her boyfriend from university days sees the nametag and thinks he recognizes a lost love. Of course, nothing that interesting happened to me. I went to the dinner and came home alone.

My daughter was involved again in the inspiration for Woman Aglow.  When she and I were in Panama, she went back to our hotel room from the pool before I did one day. She was sitting on the balcony and suddenly thought, “What if the maid comes in, doesn’t know I’m out here and locks the door. And then Mum doesn’t come back for ages and the sun comes round and I’m burnt to a crisp.”  That didn’t happen but when she told me about her panic, I started thinking of a situation where this could be used to murder someone.

 Sometimes inspiration strikes and you have no idea where it came from. With The Lion King, I needed a story about an animal for the anthology, 13 Claws.  One day, the line “The Woman should not have called me Mopsy” popped into my head. Before long the story followed.

My most recently published story is In The Spirit of 13 by the Mesdames of Mayhem The protagonist, Paula, in Gracie, The Invisible Dog has a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa, which also afflicts my daughter. She gave me permission to use her invisible dog, created to make her situation more bearable, in a story. She wants everyone to know that Gracie is not imaginary—she is just invisible. 

(Except for the last, all these stories may be found in my anthology, Potluck and Other Storiesfrom Carrick Publishing, available on Amazon and at Sleuth of Baker Street.)

Lynne Murphy was born and raised in Saskatchewan. Educated at the University of Saskatchewan and Carleton University, Murphy later worked as a journalist in print and radio before moving on to short fiction.

Murphy is a founding member of the Sisters in Crime Toronto Chapter, the Mesdames of Mayhem and Crime Writers of Canada.

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