Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Guest Blog: Pamela Samuels Young

Story Ideas are Everywhere

You hear it all the time: Write what you know. But where do you find a story idea that might become the next best seller? Everywhere.

Great plots are all around us. The plots for my legal thrillers are usually spurred by something I’ve heard or read.

The Oprah show gets credit for Murder on the Down Low. I can still remember the day I watched in stunned silence as Oprah interviewed JL King, the author of On the Down Low. He boldly professed to sleeping with men, but at the same time, claimed that he was heterosexual. His shocking revelations about the secret world of men on the “down low” really shook me up. The very next day while I was driving to work, the plot for Murder on the Down Low came to me: What if a number of attractive, successful family men who all shared a shocking secret were being gunned down on the streets of L.A. and no one knew why?

The plot for Buying Time came to me while chatting with a guy at a party. I knew he was in the insurance business, but when he explained that he was a viatical broker, I started asking lots of questions because I’d never heard of the viatical industry. When he finished explaining that a viatical broker helps terminally ill people sell beneficiary rights to their insurance policies in exchange for quick cash, I knew immediately that the industry was the perfect backdrop for a thriller.

On the drive home from the party, the following idea came me: What if a disbarred lawyer becomes a viatical broker? And what if his terminally ill clients start dying sooner than they should and he is suspected of killing them? I was so excited about the idea, I started outlining it the very next day.
The more difficult task for me is coming up with plot twists that will surprise my readers. It’s so disappointing to read a book that ends exactly the way I expected it to. So I work really hard to come up with twists and turns that keep my readers guessing.
My best plot twists usually hit me while I’m stuck in traffic. I’ll rack my brain for days trying to come up with a red herring for a particular scene. Nine times out of ten, my light bulb moment will happen while I’m in my car stuck in rush-hour traffic.

So as a writer, I’m constantly looking and listening for interesting story ideas. Once I have an intriguing “what if,” the fun part is developing characters and creating conflicts to bring that question to life.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I've read Buying Time, which was superb, and I am scheduled to read Murder on the Down Low next month. It's nice to read the stories behind them.

    All my best,



The old grey donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, "Why?" and sometimes he thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes he thought, "Inasmuch as which?" and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about.

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