by Callie Hutton
I started making up stories in my head when I was a young girl. Long road trips (no iPads, iPhones, or portable DVD players in those days) were the perfect place to imagine myself in all sorts of interesting situations. I also used that same method when I was falling asleep at night. I would climb into bed and refresh my memory on where the story stopped the previous night, then pick it up from there. Much to my parents’ amazement, some nights I was anxious to go to bed, just so I could continue my story.
Years later, when I worked in Manhattan, I took a train from my home in New Jersey, and most times the same people would be on the train each day. To amuse myself, I made up stories about them. I had a lengthy story going one time that covered weeks, concerning the woman next to me, who had a husband—I picked the man sitting on my other side—who was cheating on her, with the woman in the seat across from us, and the man’s mother, sitting two rows over, knew about it and didn’t know what to do.
I wove that story in my mind until I almost believed it. I saw the poor woman on the street one day on my lunch hour, and almost asked her how she was getting on with a cheating husband. Boy, would that have caused problems!
As you can see, I get my ideas from everywhere. In line at the bank, when I hear words from a song, scenes from a TV show, or movie. In fact, one of my books, The Elusive Wife, came about from a church service. The pew in front of me held a family of five. The youngest child, a little girl in a ruffled dress, white stockings, patent leather shoes, and a pretty ribbon in her curly hair, crawled away from her mother in the pew. The mother whispered, “Olivia, come back here.”
Once that name popped into my head, I envisioned a Regency woman named Olivia, and her story came to me. Scribbling on the back of a blank check, I outlined the entire book. I also asked God’s forgiveness for not listening to the sermon—which I’m sure was wonderful, uplifting, and soul-saving.
I’m a people watcher. Everywhere I go I observe how they interact with each other, and how they conduct themselves. Restaurants are my favorite place, but now with everyone’s eyes glued to their cell phones, I don’t get as much material as I used to. Malls are great, too.
Another way I get ideas is by asking questions. While that drives my daughter crazy—“mom is the inquisition over yet?”—I learn a lot about people, how they live, where they go, what type of work they do, and what their dreams are. All fodder for my next book. And it helps pass the time on airplane flights, too.
As you can see, it turns out the answer to that question is simple—living is what gives me my ideas.
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