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:~: Monday, July 30, 2007 :~:

Ideas in The Most Unlikely Places

First off, big apologies for not blogging last Monday. I was on a family vacation, and when I realized I'd forgotten to arrange a stand-in for my blog day, it was too late.

Speaking of vacations though, that's a good segue into my topic today. Which is having book ideas strike in unlikely places. Last week the family and I were here (see side photo): Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Now, I tend to think the phrase family vacation is about the biggest oxymoron on the planet, because a vacation with small kids is no vacation at all for the parents. It's work most of the time. But we did manage to have a really great time, and because we had extended family around us, it made for an even greater time.

Normally on vacation, I get my best book ideas. Sitting on a lounge chair on the beach, drink in hand, soaking up the sun while I listen to the ebb and flow of the surf always switches the creative side of my brain into gear. I LOVE vacation just to sit and think. This vacation though? Not so much brain activity going on. We were chasing kids out of the surf so they wouldn't get sucked out to sea, herding the 2 yr old so he didn't disappear down the beach following sea gulls, slathering on sunscreen so my oh-so-white-rarely-see-the-sun children didn't fry to a crisp, visiting with the relatives, playing baseball on the sand and building sand alligators (and castles and moats and digging gigantic holes). So, in a nutshell, very little time to sit and ponder my current book or any new book ideas. However, just being out of my normal routine seems to have worked, and the experiences we had - good and bad - have been percolating in my brain as possible upcoming book ideas.

For example. One night my hubby and I joined my two cousins and their husbands on a casino cruise that left out of North Myrtle Beach. The brochure read: Gambling, buffet dinner and a sunset cruise. Sounded like fun to us. Until we saw the boat. (See picture.) Um, definitely not a Norwegian Cruise Liner. I think this boat had to be at least 50 yrs old inside and out. It smelled of stale cigarettes, and rocked side to side worse than any dingy I've ever been on. And the buffet dinner? Chef Boyardee spaghetti, wilted lettuce and fried pork chops. Being from the west coast, I can honestly say I've never had a fried pork chop, and probably wouldn't have if I hadn't been starving. But the combo - spaghetti and fried pork chops - just added to the whole atmosphere and I found myself wondering what we'd signed up for. But then my cousin's husband commented that the boat would be so easy to rob, and suddenly book ideas were going off in my head.

Another book idea struck while we were here: Broadway at the Beach. Think of Downtown Disney in Orlando and you have a good idea of Broadway at the Beach. Restaurants, shopping, rides, entertainment and about twenty million people. While waiting for my cousin, we somehow managed to lose our youngest in the crowd (he's two, super fast and very independent). I have to say, that was the scariest moment of my life. The kid just disappeared. Luckily, we found him about five minutes later, hanging out in a t-shirt shop we'd popped into momentarily a few moments before. He was kicked back on a sofa, shoes off, talking to the sales girls. This experience stuck with me though because I have a book about halfway finished which deals with a missing child. And though I NEVER want anyone to experience the fear when you lose a child, even for a moment, it gave me incredible insight into what that particular book is missing. I had new scenes and character emotions firing off in my head.

Other ideas struck simply from people watching. One lady was dressed to the nines, waiting for her plane to Atlanta. I hate sitting on a plane, so why would someone get so dressed up to simply sit there for almost two hours? And what was waiting for her in Atlanta? Another woman kept giving me dirty looks on the plane when my 2 yr old was simply talking (okay, he talks loud, but come on, he's a kid). Why does she hate children so much? And still another idea popped into my head when we had a very scary landing back in Portland and I saw how stressed out (and relieved) other passengers were.

So where do you get your best ideas? At home? On vacation? Going about your daily duties or in unique places? And if you ever had an experience that birthed a book idea, I'd love to hear it.



Blogger wavybrains said...

I get my ideas in both places, but I have to say that trying new things often leads to book ideas :) I usually don't flesh it out till I'm at home though :) But, I've had some of my best ideas while traveling or while in airports/hotel rooms. Guess I need to travel more!

12:38 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

LOL, Wavy. I guess you do need to travel more!

3:23 PM  
Blogger B.E. Sanderson said...

I get my best ideas when I'm trying to fall asleep. I learned the hard way that I have to get up and write them down or I'll lose them. (And I know it was a bestseller idea I forgot, too.) Lucky for me, my husband is used to it now. He no longer asks me why, he just chuckles softly to himself as I head for my desk.

7:12 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

ROFL, B.E. Hopefully that bestseller idea will come back to you one day.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Elisa said...

Great topic, Eli. I generally get ideas whenever it isn't convenient to write them down. ;) I do get a lot when I'm on vacation--I think because I'm not writing and not focusing on any particular story, that's the time I seem to get a flood of ideas.

5:37 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

I haven't had a vacation in about 5 years, and I don't count dh being "home" for the summer holidays as a vacation! I find my best ideas in the newspaper and magazines - I play the "what if" game alot - and love the human interest stories for fodder. But if and when I *do* get another vacation - away from kids, etc. - I know I'll be wishing I hadn't forgotten my laptop, as I'll be scribbling notes on decor, food, and characters. Glad to hear you had a great time in Myrtle Beach!

6:00 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Wow, E. Your brain was just spinning at the speed of sound, wasn't it?

I haven't had a new idea in so long, I don't remember where they come from.

That's what revisions will do to a girl -- fry her brain cells.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Good point, Elisa. That's probably why I get great ideas on vacation, too.

7:32 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Newspapers are great sources of ideas, Laurie. My homepage is set to a news feed. I skim the articles every morning before checking email to see what pops up.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Ah, J. It's called procrastination. I'm in revision hell myself.

7:33 PM  

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