Once upon a time I was at a hardware store and saw a Scorpion UV Flashlight on a display by the counter. Curious, I picked it up to see what it was. Turns out it’s a black light, such as you’d see someone using on a crime show. Turn out the lights, turn on the black light, and you can see stains, among other things. To be honest, I didn’t want to see any stains – human, animal or otherwise. However, since it wasn’t expensive, I brought it home with me. My curiosity got the best of me. I wanted to take it into a dark room and see what would show up. Interestingly, the only thing I found was that the carpet in the walk-in closet needed to be vacuumed. Little pieces of white fuzz showed up under the light. Who knew? I thought I was a good housekeeper.
As a writer, I’m always looking at things that might be used as props. I also look at things I can use for research. There’s more to research than the Internet and the library. If I were to include an antique ceramic elephant in a story, I’d want to hold one in my hands and study it. Does it have cracks? Is the finish crackling? What color is it? Is it chipped? I’d want to look at the bottom of it and see if there’s a manufacturer’s mark.
When I started writing about a young, female private investigator, I drove right over to the hat store at the mall and bought a fedora. You don’t know what a fedora is? Let me tell you. It’s the kind of hat that Humphrey Bogart wore in movies where he played the role of a P.I. I love my hat. I also love the yellow trench coat I found when I visited Colorado. Do I wear these things? Nope, but I should. I guess I just never go anywhere that would require a fedora and a trench coat.
An Old House in Nevada
I have pictures of things surrounding me when I write – photos of things that would pertain to the story I’m working on. When I wrote Old Murders Never Die (A Sandi Webster Mystery) I had a picture of an abandoned house from the Old West that still hangs on my wall. Because of my Bogey Man series, I have a picture of Humphrey Bogart hanging on another wall.
Purple Cows - Top Step
I have a purple cow and calf sitting on my shelf which are old, and they amuse me. I ended up including them in How Now Purple Cow. You never know where inspiration will come from.
My current work in progress involves a Red Admiral; a black butterfly with color on the tips of its wings. There was one in my backyard this summer and he seemed to like it there. He hung around all afternoon.
Why am I telling you about these things? Because inspiration has to come from somewhere, and these things cause my brain to wake up and say, “Hey! There’s a story idea in that object or photo.” And sometimes the inspiration comes from someone I see on the street or in the store.
When you read a book, and something or someone catches your attention, remember that it just could be from the author’s surroundings. Things in stories aren’t always directly from the writer’s imagination. Sometimes taking a look around you can set the wheels in motion. Once those wheels get moving, it can be difficult to stop them until a book is done.
Until next time, take a look around you. See what peaks your interest. And if you don’t see anything that wakes you up, have some chocolate. Chocolate is my answer to every problem.
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Having a Great Crime –Wish You Were Here (A Sandi Webster Mystery) was inspired by a green field. Yes, just a field. However, in the book there’s a vintage house in that field.