By Martha Reed
Writing is a funny business. I can get an idea and let it stew for years before somehow it magically connects to another interesting bit and suddenly the two ideas link together and I have the suggestion for a story. People ask me where I get my ideas, and since I’ve been working on a short story lately I thought I would dissect the process a bit, to share the writing life.
For this story, the title came first. I was walking the beach in Florida when I saw a funny tree. It looked sort of like a mangrove tree with a palm tree sticking up out of the top. Like this one:
I asked a friend what kind of tree it was and she said: That’s a Strangler Fig. Well, you can’t give me a name like that and not expect me to use it.
Next, since I write crime fiction, I had to imagine the crime. I wanted to set the story in Florida, which is full of retired folks living in gated communities feeling all protected, so I imagined the one thing furthest from their minds, a home invasion.
I decided to contrast the generations by putting an elderly couple in their home with the invasion coming via a teenager for contrast. I had to make the teenager the bad guy, so I had him abandon his friends, leaving them to take the heat while he split with the loot. The story was shaping up.
I started casting around for character color. This is where I wanted to play with the readers mind a bit. I decided the elderly couple would be retired ex-Navy, but decided that the medals on display, which included a Purple Heart would belong to HER. Ah, twist #1.
I’m not going to give you any more, because then you won’t need to read THE STRANGLER FIG, which I’m hoping to have it polished up and ready to go by the end of the year.
Here’s today’s questions: What’s your process? How do you start a new story? As I'm sure you've heard before, where do you get your ideas?