The most common question I’m asked when people find out I’m a writer is: where do I get my ideas?

The answer: from everywhere.
They may come from a news report, or from an incident I see while out and about. The other day my friend called to ask me if I knew what MPAC was because some stranger claiming to be from the organization had left a note in her door saying he’d missed her and would drop by again.
Instantly, a suspense plot began to form in my mind. In Ontario, MPAC is the organization that does the market value assessments on which our property taxes are based. But what if the guy wasn’t really from MPAC?
What if he was going around neighborhoods posing as an MPAC assessor, but really casing homes for robberies?
Or what if he was posing as an MPAC assessor to target the heroine specifically?
That last question opened up a whole new range of questions. Why’s the guy targeting her? What does he plan to do? Maybe he’s not so much interested in her as in baiting the hero to do something… 
Ooh, why might he want to bait the hero?
You get the idea. That sort of brainstorming is my favorite part of creating a story. My eighteen-year-old daughter is also a writer and we have a lot of fun playing with story ideas–especially villains.
For example, the last time we went kayaking, I remarked on how easy it would be to…well, actually I’m not going to tell you what, because I don’t want to give criminals any ideas! But the simple observation prompted a slew of ideas on how we could use that crime in a story.
Your turn: Let’s go back to our nefarious MPAC assessor impersonator. Why might he want to bait the hero? Let your imagination run wild. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the creative juices start flowing. Share your ideas and watch where they lead. It’s a lot of fun.
Warning: You may start looking at the people who knock on your door a little more warily. (Cue spine-tingling music)


  • One really needs to be careful about what they share with you, Sandra!!! (hee hee) 😉

    My hero is so innocent I’m having trouble brainstorming this one. Now with strangers, my imagination has NO end!

  • Ooh, it was too good to pass up. Since we don’t want the hero and heroine already in a relationship at the beginning of the book, I’m thinking the villain saw them together somewhere and assumed they were a couple, and thought to himself, ah finally a way to exact my revenge on this guy who ruined my life.

  • Or, what if the villain had the wrong house? The same house number but one street over, where the hero actually lives. The villain, still not realizing his mistake, leaves a message with the heroine to have hero meet him at such-and-such a place “or else . . .” despite her protests that she doesn’t know so-and-so.

  • Peggy, I like that idea. It has lots of possibilities. The hero won’t show, of course, and the “or else” will be an attack on her house. Then she’ll be motivated to hunt down the person the message was intended for. And like it or not, she’s in the middle of his problems.

    So why might this guy be after the hero? because he’s a cop who sent him to jail; or a lawyer who defended the guy that killed the villain’s wife in a car accident and got him off man slaughter charges; or he’s a paramedic who treated the bad guy’s battered wife and convinced her to press charges and leave him; or…
    More ideas, anyone?

  • Here’s a thought: Hero is a fireman. Bad guy is after him because hero failed to rescue bad guy’s wife from a burning building (office, house . . .) a fire in which hero himself was burned trying to save her.

  • What if the guy’s just out of prison? He used to live at her house and he stashed — jewels, money???? – in a secret hidey hole in the house so he needs a viable excuse to retrieve the stolen goods. She doesn’t buy into him being a MPAC rep though so she brushes him off and that could escalate the drama and action.

    What if he’s her father? She doesn’t know it though because that ne’er do well ran off on her mom before she was born. It’s taken him a quarter of a century but he’s finally got his act together and he just wants an excuse to see his daughter…oooohhhhh….maybe he thinks all he wants is a brief contact, a little light conversation…but he discovers that’s not enough and he starts stalking her and eventually kidnaps her in order to force the relationship they never got to have?

    I love playing ‘what if’!!!! LOL

  • Oh wow, Peg and Kav, more great ideas. I like the fireman idea, because it gives him lots of inner stuff deal with–remorse, outer and inner scars. Fun!

    Running with Kav’s suggestion that the bad guy is her dad for a bit. How do we get the hero into this? Guy next door? The bad guy’s parole officer? Oh, oh, how about he’s the handyman doing a kitchen reno and stumbles across the stash. “Excuse me, ma’am. I’m afraid we’re into a lot of money here.” Hee, hee.

  • Heroine is an ER nurse. She doesn’t know that hero is the same man she treated in ER after the fire two years ago. But bad guy knows this and thinks she can lead him to the hero. Hence the fake ID. Bad guy was in prison (why?) when his wife died and he’s been burning with revenge. It is while he was in prison he meets this old guy who’s gone straight. Old guy, actually heroine’s father,wants to reunite with her, has told bad guy all about her, etc. Both are released at the same time. Bad guy forces old guy to help him find hero by threatening to kill his daughter.

    Reader doesn’t know old guy is father and will think he’s a second bad guy.

    Too convoluted?

  • Peggy, I think you’re making my head spin! Wow!
    My first thought was something was hidden in the house by previous owner. Bad guy & prev owner stole something and it’s hidden in fireplace. You know the brick structure where you pile your dry firewood before putting it on the fire. A secret compartment. BUT, that can’t tie into hero.
    So what if bad guy’s wife was killed as she walked across the street on night. She and bad guy (BG) had fight at bar. They’d been drinking. She slaps him and storms out of the bar and right in front of hero as he’s driving down the street, at appropriate speed. Dark night, dark street, and she’s drunk. She stumbles off the sidewalk right into his path. BG sees it from the bar. Hero calls 911 and tries to save her. But, alas she dies.
    Police rule hero is innocent.
    BG’s mad and feels guilty b/c he had fight and let her walk out drunk. So now he’s determined to ruin hero’s life and go after the girl. Whew, I’m done.

  • Just to switch it up a bit…What if the guy is actually a troll who has taken on human form by drinking some yucky puke juice. He’s after a family go house gnomes who live in the heroine’s house only she doesn’t know it. The hero…um…he’s this other worldly troll hunting knight and he has to try to adapt to her world in order to catch the troll and send him back from hence he came.

    Bwahahahahahahaha. Yes, I like reading fantasy too.

  • Kav, I’m reading along the last few comments, really getting into these twists, and then…laughed out loud at yours. I’m not into fantasy at all, but my kids watched Spiderwicke (something like that) last night with all these little creatures and I could just picture them swarming over the hero, heroine and bad guy and messing up our whole plot. LOL

  • Peggy, I lo-o-ove how you managed to tie in Kav’s first of-this-world suggestion 🙂 with the fireman idea. You’re really good at this!

    Jackie, great locale for the stolen stash, maybe the previous owner of the house died suddenly, which is why the money is still there. I was going to add that I think if the hero is connected to the wife’s death, I’d rather it be in failing to save her (like from a burning building) than being the one who injured her. And then realized that…running down a woman (not killing her) is my hero’s backstory in my book coming out in March! LOL

  • New idea, how about the bad guy is in the military and out of the country when the fire takes his wife. At first he feels terrible that he should’ve been home and blames himself, but after he returns to his tour of duty following the funeral, maybe he sees a news article online about the hero who was burned trying to save her. He blames himself, saying he’s not a hero, and so the grieving husband begins to blame him too. By the time he returns a year later, he’s thirsting for revenge.

  • Well, his tour of duty could be over, and he has leave coming. Only, he has no home to come home to. Maybe we could somehow connect him with the heroine’s dad. Maybe he’s army, too. And they get talking on the flight home from their deployment, the dad could offer him a place to stay …

  • Okay, good, good! Assuming heroine is in her 20’s, that would make dad say, late 30’s/early 40’s, still young enough to be in active duty–career soldier. But now he’s mustering out. What if bad guy is in dad’s regiment? Say Dad ranks bad guy, but they’ve developed a bond, so, as you said, dad offers bad guy a place to stay until he can get back on his feet.

    Dad knows all about the fire and the lost wife, but nothing about the thirst for revenge against the fireman who couldn’t save his wife. Bad guy has carefully hidden that part.

    What’s next? I love this!!!!!

  • Yes, that sounds good. Perhaps the Dad mentions in passing that his estranged daughter probably cared for the fireman because she works on the burn unit. Maybe he goes to the burn unit claiming he wants to thank the people who tried to save his wife, and follows the heroine home. Maybe the hero is still going in for skin grafts and he spots her helping him.

  • Yay, Kav, my goal for this blog post is accomplished.

    I’ve had lots of fun with this. What do you think Peggy? Should we write it? 🙂 Maybe I’ll use this story idea as the framework for showing how I build characters in future blog posts. We’ll get these guys figured out, yet!

  • Your first time, really, Peg? You’re a great brainstormer. If you want to brainstorm your next writing project together, send me an email and we can set up an instant chat group. Maybe we can wrangle in these other gals, too. 🙂

  • Sandra, brainstorming with you might be fun! My next book is the 2nd in a proposed series. I have it partly written but, as a seat-of-the-pants writer, it is by no means laid out 🙂

    I usually “brainstorm” with an open document and ramble on with a bunch of ‘what if’s’, then write some, then, when I get stuck, open that doc again and do some more rambling.

  • Oh, yes, what if questions are a great way to deepen a story and come up with interesting twists and turns. Another great question to ask yourself when you get stuck is “What is the worst thing that could happen to my hero or heroine right now?” Then make it happen. Hee, hee.

Great to "see" you here today! I look forward to reading your comment.