Take a recent or past news event, add characters whose lives will be directly affected by the happening, and voilà, conflict. In my first novel, Saving Toby, the bad boy with a heart of gold, Toby Faye, witnesses a hate crime performed by his friends. I based this on a crime committed on Long Island where teens attacked and killed an Ecuadorian immigrant. Deriving story plots from documentaries and nonfiction has an unbeatable plausibility factor. I enjoy writing from a real-world perspective– dropping my characters into situations people have heard of and may understand.
Songs with compelling lyrics have many times sparked scenes in my stories. “Let’s Hurt Tonight” by the band OneRepublic absolutely fueled my writing during the final scene in my second novel, “Keeping Claudia.” In this distressing but poignant scene, the two main characters are locked in an emotional battle. They’re exhausted, but if they don’t bare their souls, and get it all out there, they will not be able to move forward with their relationship. I still get choked up when I hear the lyrics, I’ll hit the lights and you lock the doors. Tell me all of the things that you couldn’t before.
Inspiration also come from personal memories or situations. In my third novel, “Finding Edward,” Eddie Rudack takes a voyage to Italy, a trip of lifetime that changes his worldview. My own travels to Italy inspired this book. Personal experience helps me to understand my character’s emotional journey and makes writing from a first-person point of view more intimate. This is not to say I’ve experienced all of my characters’ situations. I use my imagination to turn up the drama and usually twist the outcomes to ramp up conflict. That’s the fun part.
I am also passionate about social justice. News stories of lives ruined by violence and injustices speak to me. In the novel I’m currently writing, my main character, Jayden has had her life turned upside down by gun violence. Through my research of mass shootings and interviews with survivors, I’m tapping into some of the thoughts, sadness, and the deep anger that families go through when a loved one is lost to gun violence. It’s my greatest hope that when people read this book, they will understand some of the pain behind this violence. And maybe, just maybe, be moved to action.
Tuning-in and listening prove to be important in my story-making process. When something hits me in that sweet spot, I settle in to do some good ol’ fashioned daydreaming. After all, daydreaming is part of an author’s job. Spinning story ideas in my mind allows me think about how I can expand on a premise and create a story you will not only be excited to pick up, but also a story that will stay with you after you finish the book.