04 August 2010

What a Great Idea!

by Linda Yezak

I get my book ideas from some of the craziest places. One rainy day in February, I opened the door for Belle, my oldest cat. She rubbed against my legs, purring her thank you to me and getting me wet. Stooping down to rub her ears, I told her, "I have better things to do than to pet wet cats."

That would make a great title, I thought, and Petting Wet Cats was born. And died soon after. The mystery novel is sitting idle on a disc waiting for me to pick it up again and bring it to life. I will, someday.

But just the thought gave me an idea. As I wrote in the "Birth of Ride" tab, the idea for Give the Lady a Ride came from television shows. The Cat Lady of Forest Lawn was the result of a prayer after Ride was complete and I was at a loss as to what to do with my free time.

"What do I do now, Lord?"


I swear, I heard Him plain as day.

Ideas can come from anywhere, at any time. That's why it's wise to keep pen and paper handy wherever you are. Many writing how-to books I've read suggest sitting in a restaurant and eavesdropping on the surrounding tables. Not a bad suggestion. My husband and I make up stories about people in restaurants, or driving down the road, or grocery shopping. We even came up with stories from a recent fishing trip. Worthless, both of them. But you never know!

One of the benefits of having pen and paper handy wherever you go is the practice you can get. Just write. What does the place smell like? look like? feel like? You can write flowing prose on those questions alone, but to really challenge yourself, condense the experience into a few powerful words. Describe the people you see, then challenge yourself again. Is that sweet lady with the blue hair, road-map face and fading green eyes really a kindly grandmother? Or is she the reigning monarch from distant country with an iron fist and steel will? Is the tattooed biker with the gold tooth really a hoodlum? Or does he ride for the Bikers for Jesus and deliver groceries to the underprivledged? It's fun to assign different scenerios to different people.

So, let's play:

The clatter of forks on plates, spoons in coffee mugs, came to an abrupt halt when the biker darkened the diner's plate glass door. He stood for a moment, mirrored shades sheltering his eyes from scrutiny, and crossed his arms over his massive chest. His black t-shirt stretched over broad shoulders, clung tight to his bulky midsection. Every inch of exposed skin bore a dark tattoo. A gold loop earring glinted at his left lobe. Within a moment, he turned his bandana'd head and nodded at the old woman in the corner.

The woman's pale green eyes darted around the room from behind her tortoiseshell spectacles. Her entrance, too, had captured attention, bringing murmers of speculation from those enjoying their breakfast. She was a stranger to the regulars of the place. Her gray linen suit, the emerald at her throat -- what was a woman like her doing in a place like this? But a bellowed call of "Order up!" from the kitchen had broken the spell and she had melted into the corner, no longer the main attraction.

Tension snapped and sizzled like the bacon frying in the kitchen as the biker strode to her table. She held her coffee cup suspended inches from her mouth as she watched his approach. The cup didn't tremble in her wrinkled hand, her aged eyes showed no fear; instead, she lifted her head slightly, a smile teasing at her thin lips.

A soft buzz filled the diner as the patrons whispered to each other. "Who is he?" "What will he do?" "Should we call the police?" But a hush fell from wall to wall as the biker took off his sunglasses and knelt like a knight before the woman.

"My Queen," he said, his deep voice full of admiration and humility.

The woman extended a withered hand for him to kiss. "Hello, Joe. Still preaching at the corner church?"

So, what should we name our piece? Harley Queen? Or Hog Preacher? And where do the two go from here?


  1. I loved your little piece! I want to read more! Are you going to turn it into a short story? I totally agree about carrying pen and paper. That's how I got my first book written, while the kids were at the park, at the pool, at the jungle gym...

  2. Linda,

    Thanks for posting this. I've never been as sick as I am this week--it stinks and seeing Peevish Penman still going means a lot right now.

  3. Laura--no, it's not a story, but I guess it could be. Want to take a shot at it? PS--sounds like you know how to make use of your time. Bravo!

    Carrie--I wish I'd seen this earlier. So sorry you were sick! Are you better yet?

  4. Really fun article! I act the same way. I can get ideas from just about anything. I developed a whole story just off of a thunder storm once. It was a trilogy, too! Too bad I lost it all in a computer crash...

    Anyway, great article!