Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My Idea Bank

by Maria Geraci

The other day I went out to lunch with a good friend of mine (names changed to protect the innocent).

Friend: We're joining my friend, Annie, who loves your books!
Me: Awesome!
Friend: Yeah, she has some really great ideas for your next book!
Me: Awesome! (not)

So we went to lunch and had a perfectly lovely time. And yes, Annie did pitch her ideas to me, which I politely listened to.

Me: Those all sound great. You know, you should write your own book.
Annie: Me?
Me: Sure! Why not?

I really hope Annie doesn't take offense when none of her ideas show up in any of my books. Not that her ideas weren't funny or cute or whatever. They just weren't my ideas. And for me to spend a year of my life (between writing, rewriting, editing, revising, etc....) on a book, the idea has to be personal.

People always ask writers where they get their ideas from (probably the most cliched interview question ever) but it's still a great question because most likely, no two writers will answer it the same.

On average, all my books have stemmed from ideas that I've been spinning away in my head for at least a year. I believe the original thought comes from some place in my subconscious (yes, I'm going to get all woo-woo here). It's brought out to my conscious self by a seemingly innocent conversation, a newspaper story, an image, or something that all of a sudden makes me sit up and take notice. I then store it away and try not to think about it anymore. But... then I can't stop thinking about it. It marinates in my brain and keeps popping back to me until I feel really passionate about that idea and feel that I have to write about it.

The idea from my third published novel, The Boyfriend of the Month Club, actually came from the visual of a really tacky Florida gift shop. I envisioned that gift shop over and over in my head until it seemed that it was actually real. Then I thought about the manager of that gift shop and how she hated working there, but it was a family business and she was caught up in it, and well... you get the drift. That gift shop became the backdrop to the boyfriend club meetings and although it was a location, it seemed more like a real character.

The idea for my upcoming novel, A Girl Like You, came from a thirty second conversation on Real Housewives of Orange County (at least that's what I think the show is called because I'd never seen it before or since). I was flipping the channels and came across two women talking and one mentioned to the other that she'd just dropped her daughter off at college and how all the women in the dorm (or sorority house) were gorgeous and how was her daughter ever going to shine without an ugly friend next to her?

I immediately thought, "oh, no. What if you found out you were the ugly friend?"

I laughed, then put the idea out of my head. Only it wouldn't go away. It kept resurfacing until I saw my main character, saw her friends, saw the bar scene in which she overhears herself referred to as the "ugly friend." Those scenes wouldn't go away as well and I began to feel passionate about them. Until I felt enough passion to sit down at my computer and start to write.

So that's where my ideas come from. From my own personal idea bank where thoughts get deposited and sit and sit until I have to take them out because I can't allow them to just sit there any longer. My ideas become part of who I am as a writer, blending with my voice and my own personal themes. Because in the end, that's what its all about. You must feel passionate about your stories. You must love your story and love your characters. Because if you don't then no one else will.

How do you get your ideas? How do you flesh them out and create them into stories?


Maria Geraci was born in Havana, Cuba, and raised on Florida’s Space Coast. Her love of books started with the classic, Little Women (a book she read so often growing up, she could probably quote). She writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction with a happy ending. The Portland Book Review called her novel, The Boyfriend of the Month Club, “immensely sexy, immensely satisfying and humorous.” Her fourth novel, A Girl Like You, will be released August, 2012 by Berkley, Penguin USA. For more information, please visit her website at www.mariageraci.com

18 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this, and I loved what you said to Annie...I'm learning, the hard way, to write down those "what if" flashes that happen at unexpected moments. I say the hard way because for every one I remember, I'm certain there are twenty I've forgotten.

    Great titles, by the way!

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    1. Christa, And I love my titles too! Thanks for commenting :)

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  2. I just love your post, Maria!! How many times can I type, "I so agree..." into this box? And then some. It's a blurb, a flash, a snippet, a never-to-be-repeated blip on a random TV show,and the next thing you know, (less the marinating) it's the premise for your next book! I also think you're right about it being the most asked question--at least that's been my experience. I always hesitate with the answer because, really, for the sweat equity involved, it seems like it should be so much more than, "It began with a ten-second encounter with a passerby... and, well, 386 pages later, here we are." Bravo, Maria!! Excellent post!

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  3. I loved BOYFRIEND and can't wait to read A GIRL LIKE YOU, Maria! As for ideas...like you said, they can come from anywhere (although rarely the friend of a friend or a realtor or long lost cousin with "a great idea for a book!"). It's amazing to take that seed of a "what if" and coax it into characters and a plot worthy of sitting down to write 300 pages!

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    1. Thanks, Susan :) Yes, it really is amazing when after you've finished the book, you look way back to the very beginning and pinpoint the moment when the book began to take life. The whole process really is pretty awesome ;)

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  4. I love those tacky tourist gift shops and I used one in my third novel Dollar Daze. Love this post. Makes me want to read both these novels now. They sound so much fun.

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    1. Thanks, Karin! Of course, living in Florida I know all about tacky gift shops. I admit it. I live them!

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  5. Maria, HA! When I read: Yeah, she has some really great ideas for your next book!

    I nearly spit out my coffee. How many times have I heard this?! And yes, you have at be polite.

    As for me, I get ideas from everywhere! From things that happen to me, to stories I hear randomly, to thoughts that just won't go away.

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    1. I bet we would be rich if we had a dollar for every time we heard that one, huh? And thanks for tweeting about my post, Brenda!

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  6. Brenda, I had to re-comment on your comment. It reminded me of business acquaintance (who thought herself somewhat superior) grabbing my arm and digging in upon telling her that I'd sold a novel. She had SO many great ideas for a book, but she just needed someone to put them on paper for her.

    Yeah, my thoughts exactly.

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  7. Google alerts! For my blog posts (not books), I have alerts configured to my niche. It's the best source of inspiration so far, and keeps me up to date on new developments in my area of interest.

    But as for the "I have an idea you should write about," OMG I hate that so much I almost love when it happens, it's so appalling, and the speaker doesn't know, so you can play innocent with one part of your brain, and with the other, you're mentally turning the situation over and examining it from all angles. Fascinating.

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    1. Google alert! That's a good one, Lynne :)

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  8. Reality TV has some of the most interesting characters, doesn't it? Almost too crazy to be real....

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    1. Oh, yeah, I love my reality TV. It's amazing that I haven't gotten hooked on those Real Housewives series. As it is, I watch The Bachelor, Survivor, The Voice, Dancing With the Stars... yikes!

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  9. Great post Maria. I loved the premises and the way they haunted you. I'm so proud (envious) of how productive you've been..while still working in a 'real' job on labor/delivery! Amazing....you go! and let's have another dinner one of these days?

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    1. Thanks Sheila! I don't know about amazing. You should see my very messy house at this moment.
      We definitely need to do dinner or coffee again!

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  10. I get my ideas from The Idea Fairy - she has been berry-berry good to me!

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