Blogger: Michelle Ule
Location: Sunny Sonoma County
I’m recently returned from visiting both the Pacific Northwest and Washington, D.C. On both trips, I stopped along the way for a little business–and spoke with booksellers.
One chatty woman at the Oakland Airport booksellers kiosk bloomed with enthusiasm when I asked about her job. “I love selling books and talking to the people who stop by.”
“What sells in particular?” I asked, eyeing the latest by Books & Such client Debbie Macomber.
“Best-sellers, Debbie Macomber’s books, and even the classics,” she said. “And I was so excited when these writers came through and autographed their books.” She held up several volumes.
I wanted to know what genre of book she lacked–did her inventory have any holes? Was there a type of book clients frequently requested?
She said that her manager ordered anything she asked for. She particularly liked to encourage passengers to buy local writers, especially if she had autographed copies. And while we both thought Adam Bede an odd choice for an airport bookstore, she shrugged, “You never know what someone will like.”
A bookseller in Maryland wanted more interesting books for Christian teenage boys. The guy behind the desk at Borders in Seattle loved Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Word of mouth–their word–sold many books, and none of the three was shy about suggesting titles and ideas that intrigued them, as well as denouncing titles and genres they hated.
Their insight into what buyers were looking for gave me pause. I’m not a big name, I haven’t had a great adventure. What could I write that would capture the booksellers’ imagination?
New writers always hear, “Write what you know.” So what do I know that the bookseller doesn’t know, but would like to know? I had to ask to find out.
I tossed story ideas at the booksellers, watched their faces and reached some conclusions. They know their customers, they know what they like themselves. People who love books and sell them can be an excellent resource.
Where else could ideas come from?
Ideas come from lots of places, including life experiences. But one time I woke up and this scene was in my head and I couldn’t shake it and it became my newest manuscript. From this one scene grew a middle grade. What fun!
What is it they say, Buffy? Dreams are our mind subconciously working out problems we didn’t realize we had, during a time when our brain doesn’t have anything else to do? 🙂
A woman in my critique group had a nightmare one night, wrote it down and then spent a year writing the story to go with what she had seen. It’s funny how something small like that can change your life.
I’m always surprised how just a kernel of an idea can blossom into a full blown story–and usually not about something I was even thinking about before. I suppose that’s the beauty of creativity. 🙂
Teri D. Smith
I have to admit some of my dreams do follow the “make it worse” senario.
But ideas come from every place: scenes that pop into my head while listening to a song, my daughter’s plea “you’ve got to write a book about…”, bits of dialogue going back and forth in my head, newsclips, a modern twist on an old story, etc. There’s some you just have to stuff in a file marked: “someday”.
I love it that we are made in the image of the Creator and our capcity to create comes from Him.
I am seriously starting to fall in love with this blog. What an excellent idea – and one I would have never considered!
I have nothing beyond that to add to the conversation, LOL, because it’s never occurred to me to seek out ideas for a story.
Yep, I echo Buffy.
Ideas can come from anywhere. For me, they are usually quite unexpected places….
I was sitting in Barnes and Noble one night with my sweet hubby, and BAM, in walked a story.
A tall girl in a tu-tu with Cyndi Lauper-type make up and hair. It was hysterical but not in the I-was-judging-her hysterical, but in the holy-cow-I-just-got-an-idea-for-a-book hysterical.
Now sure, this girl was probably as normal as they come, right? But in MY head, she just became a flamboyant character in a short story, which may even become a full novel someday….
Since I write historicals, my ideas usually grow out of the human interest aspect of historical events. When I read about a man stopping a riot, I wonder about the repercussions to his family. When I visit a frontier fort, I wonder what life was like for the soldiers’ wives, isolated and afraid while trying to make a home in hostile territory. Even simple family stories I hear at reunions make me wonder, “Now why did he do that?”
I’d double check the woman in the tutu, to make sure she wasn’t one of my relatives . . . I do the same thing at historical sites–and it certainly enlives the visits. Thanks for sharing!
I think people want characters and situations they can relate to but, at the same time, make them look at their world in a different light.
Personally, I write from the heart and try to keep a level head.
Great post today!