Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

That’s a common question authors are asked. Of course I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ll tell you where my ideas come from, starting with my latest book, Bears With Us, in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. I’m always on the lookout for crimes and events that happen in mountain areas that I might incorporate into a plot.

Two years ago, my grandson, a police officer in Aspen CO, posted pictures of bears that he’d encountered or chased out of people’s houses while duty. I began emailing him and asking questions about how they got into the homes, what they did when they were there, etc. and I knew I wanted to use bears in my next Tempe book. Of course I did more research about bear problems in California too. Several years earlier I’d also learned about an interesting type of dementia and with some research wove in a plot about that too.

I’m a member of the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime and go to meetings as often as possible. If the speaker is going to be a law enforcement officer or any other form of public safety personnel who comes in contact with criminals or crimes, I’m going to make an effort to be there.

At one meeting, the county coroner was the speaker. He brought grisly slides of murder victims to show. His portion of the meeting was right before we ate lunch and he took special delight in describing in great detail what he showed on the screen. Since most of the women present were middle-aged or older, I think he thought he’d make us sick. We disappointed him.

I always take a notebook when I attend any of these meetings. He showed a slide of a corpse with a missing head. He talked about what kind of crime he’d thought it was when he first arrived on the scene, the jokes the cops made, and where the head turned up. Though his meeting was several years ago, I kept my notes and use the information in the opening pages of  An Axe to Grind, one of the earlier books in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series.

My latest in that particular series, Angel Lost, was inspired by something that happened in a nearby town. People thought they saw Jesus’ face in a store window and night after night crowds gathered to see it. I drove by one night and saw the police in the median and all the folks gathered around taking pictures. In my book, Jesus’ face became an angel.

Taking notes about everything and anything that piques my interest may at one time or another be fodder for one of my books. For the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, I’m particularly interested in crimes that happen in small towns, and even better, those that happen in or near beach communities.

Whenever I’m on a trip, especially to the coast, I pay close attention to what the houses and small shops and stores look like. Since Rocky Bluff is a fictional community, I can insert some of the things that I see into the setting, especially if it’s going to help move the plot along.

I’ve always collected newspaper articles about intriguing crimes. Of course I’m not going to write about them exactly as they happened, but asking the great question, “What if?” I can go from there and come up with something interesting that will work for my mystery.

Sometimes people tell me about crimes that happen in their own families. Again, I’d never write it as it happened, but from what they’ve told me, I can jump ahead with a whole idea of my own.

To tell the truth, ideas come flooding in all the time from everywhere. It’s mainly a matter of keeping my eyes open and my ears tuned in. And I’m not above eavesdropping on conversations in restaurants either. And isn’t it amazing what people will say when talking on cell phones? You’d think they’d lower their voices when discussing intimate details about a romance or perhaps vital business transactions. It’s all fodder for the next mystery.

The examples I’ve given are many of the ways you can gather ideas that you may eventually weave into a plot for a crime novel.

Marilyn Meredith

Bio: Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Bears With Us from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is Angel Lost, the third from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Central Coast chapter , Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America (PSWA).

Bears With Us Blurb:

Deputy Tempe Crabtree has her hands full when bears turn up in and around Bear Creek becoming a threat to kids and adults, a teen’s suicide, an elderly woman with dementia who disappears from home, and a resident who makes several complaints about her.


Nice post! Can’t wait for the next one. Keep stuff like this coming.

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