Ideas for novels come from a variety of sources: overheard conversations, stories relayed by others, personal experience, locations and the news. On my blog I recently mentioned the Windsurfing Festival on Hayling Island as a potential idea for an Inspector Andy Horton Marine Mystery crime novel, well here's another idea that popped into my Google Reader - Murder on the Hayling Seaside Express. For the first time since 1963 a steam passenger train is to return to Hayling Island.
Then another recent event locally was the unexploded bomb trawled up by a fisherman in the Solent.
So far so good but how do you turn these into a novel of approximately 80,000 words? Ah, now that's the difficult part.
I usually start with an idea and then ask myself a series of questions around that idea, for example - what could happen when the steam train comes to Hayling? Could a body be found on it? If so who? How did it get there? Or was someone pushed under the steam train and no one saw it happen? How did the bomb get into the Solent? How old was it? What type is it? Is there a story behind it? Or perhaps there's a story around the fisherman finding it?
The idea for In Cold Daylight
came from an overheard conversation in the fire station where my husband was a fire-fighter.
In For The Kill
was sparked by a visit to the Isle of Wight and seeing the signs for the prisons there.
Tide of Death
, The Suffocating Sea, Deadly Waters and Dead Man’s Wharf are all originally inspired by locations around the coast of Portsmouth, Hayling Island and the Solent.
Ideas for characters and sub plots can also come from news or magazine articles. It's only by continually asking open questions such as who, what, where, when, how and why can I begin to flesh out the characters, the theme and the plot. Sometimes I run down blind alleys, sometimes one idea or question sparks another. It's all ifs and maybes until some months later and much hard graft I have something that resembles a marine mystery crime novel.