"All you need is a good idea!"

“All you need is a good idea! Something no one has ever thought of before.”

If I had a dollar for every time my mother has offered up this advice about novel writing, I’d probably have the average advance for a debut author already in my bank account. 

“All you need is a good idea!”

About a thousand ideas flow through my head throughout the day. Every encounter, conversation and daydream can bleed into a story idea. Last night, I forgot to close our patio door, leaving just the screen guarding our home throughout the night. As soon as I saw this, I was flooded with what-could-have-happeneds.

A bear (we have a few in our neighborhood) could’ve ripped through the screen. We could’ve been attacked as we went to investigate the ruckus downstairs. Actually, just my husband would’ve investigated. I could’ve been trapped upstairs, in our bedroom. And I left the cordless phone and my cell phone downstairs. We wouldn’t have been able to call for help. How long would I be there, trapped upstairs, wondering my husband’s fate? I could put on my old sparring gear from when I was in karate and tried to take on the bear. But that would be a short story (as in, “and then she died.”) I could open a window, leap to the ground, but then my broken leg would make me easy target for said bear.  And then I’d hobble to the car, and be trapped there instead, going into septic shock from my crushed femur. And then…

Oh, wait. Maybe a human could’ve come through the door at night. Maybe a child. Maybe I’d wake up and a child would be curled up, asleep on the floor. The child is dirty and doesn’t speak. Can’t speak. She’s hungry, but doesn’t seem to understand how to use utensils and only seems to like berries and nuts. She appears to have just come from the woods. I call the police, but they can’t identify to whom the child belongs. I offer to be her foster mother. I realize after some time she is actually A FAIRY CHILD. Dun-dun-DUN!

Wait a minute. Something else could’ve come through that screen door. Something else that was hungry. FOR BRAINS.  The Zombie Apocalypse could’ve begun at my house.

See what I mean? I have absolutely no shortage of ideas. Ideas are everywhere. It’s the good idea that’s tough to find. The idea that snags my mind beyond those hazy what-could-have-happeneds to preoccupy my thoughts over days and weeks. An idea that gives birth to characters, to plots, to climatic action. An idea I can’t wait to write down, even if it takes months and or years.

Those are a bit harder to find.