As an author I'm often asked, "Where do you get your ideas?"
It's one of my favorite subjects, so if you decide to ask me on our next exchange, pull out a chair and settle in. It's hard for me to stop talking about it once I start.
In previous articles, I've mentioned how life in general (news, friends, movies, etc.) can inspire story lines. Today I'd like to discuss how my fears drive my plots.
Allow me to open up right from the beginning and tell you what scares the hell out of me.
1) Losing my wife, daughters, grandkids, or other family members (including pets)
2) Being caught in a fire (hey, I didn't say my fears were original, did I?)
5) Bad guys
6) Plane crashes (if I'm inside)
8) Floods (and a subsequent drowning)
9) Snakes. (shudder)
10) Being in a bad accident in a massive snow storm
11) Falling under the ice and not being able to get out
12) Geez! Isn't 11 enough?
As I analyze this long list of fears, I realize I've used those themes over and over again in my twenty-one books. Those twists on all the themes have given my characters fits on a number of occasions. In Double Forte', Gus nearly drowns, his daughter is threatened, his grandson disappears, and he goes off the road with said grandson in the vehicle in a bad snowstorm. Uh huh. Looks at all those fears!
In Upstaged, Gus has to deal with a big snake, he's terrorized by a psychotic maniac, and his fiancee's beloved dog is kidnapped.
Mazurka opens with a near plane crash, Gus and Camille are hunted by Nazis, abandoned unground in the Parisian Catacombs, almost drowned when their car plunges into an alpine lake, and are imprisoned during a fierce fire. Oh yeah, Mazurka hit a lot of them.
In Tremolo: cry of the loon, we do the handcuffed-to-a-bed-in-a-roaring-fire bit, the being-attacked-underwater-and-almost-drowning-bit, and also have Gus misunderstand and think his mother died. Phew. That was a bad one, too.
So I won't go through Firesong, which includes many of the above as well, but believe me, fears are intertwined in all the books. And facing those fears by writing about them is good therapy. It's also a good way to get your readers' hearts pumping, for you can be assured that many of your fears are shared by them.
And now that I’ve written my first love story, The Seacrest, I realize that I’ve utilized many examples from the first two on the list above – Finn loses his mother, father, grandfather, sister ten years before the story opens, and then he has another huge loss in chapter 1, which starts in 2013. Not to mention the fire! Wow, it’s pretty amazing when you analyze your own work from this angle.
So, writers. What scares you?
Aaron Paul Lazar