Ideas for Speculative Books

Every writer knows that ideas are everywhere. Even for speculative fiction, which may be only loosely based in reality, story or book ideas can come from real-life facts or mysteries.

Here are just a few examples, from interviews I conducted:

Laura Ruby said, “I wrote my ghost story, Lily’s Ghosts, based on some stories my friend Andrea told me about her family’s “haunted” house. I got the idea for my fantasy-adventures, The Wall and the Wing and it’s sequel, The Chaos King, after I asked my then 12-year-old stepdaughter and her friends which superpower they’d like to have if they could have any. Three of them said they’d like the ability to fly; the fourth said she’d like the power of invisibility. I thought it would be great fun to write about a world in which everyone could fly, and it was.

Q. L. Pearce, author of three scary story collections, said, “I look at ‘average’ people in supermarkets, shopping malls, etc. and ask myself, ‘What are they hiding?’ Then I let my imagination run wild. I also love antique stores and swap meets. There are objects in such places that just ‘scream’ a story.”

Lois Szymanski and Shelley Sykes write the Gettysburg Ghost Gang series, which uses a contemporary setting with civil war era ghosts. “Our ideas come from our history research and our experiences on actual ghost investigations,” Szymanski said. “For instance, in our history research we found that hundreds of women fought in the Civil War dressed as men.” This inspired A Whisper of War.

Tom Sniegoski said, “Just flip on the evening news, or open a newspaper. There’s plenty of stuff to be afraid of. In Sleeper Code I have these untrustworthy government agencies set up for the good of the people, but their true purpose is anything but. That, I feel, is a real statement about the current mistrust in our administration.”

Cynthia Leitich Smith said, “The classics offer me inspiration and ensure my work is original. So does keeping up with new books in the genre. In crafting Tantalize (Candlewick Press, 2007), I drew my initial inspiration from Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). Stoker’s classic includes as a secondary character a Texan, Quincy P. Morris, among its original vampire hunters. Intrigued by the Irish author’s choice, I brought the mythology “home” to Texas, offering my new protagonist, Quincie P. Morris—an updated and gender-flipped nod to Stoker’s old school.”

I honestly can’t remember where I got the idea for Haunted — it’s just been too long. It was before all the ghost hunter TV shows, though I might’ve heard of an early one. A WIP started as a realistic mystery, but I was struggling. At the Tucson Festival of Books this spring, I sat next to a fantasy author/illustrator during a signing. Someone asked him about writer’s block, and he explained that you just have to work through it. Then he said, “And if that doesn’t work, add more giants.” So when my mystery seemed slow to start, I thought, hmm, no giants for me, but maybe I need to add a ghost!

Chris Eboch with Haunted books

Chris Eboch think she’ll pull out every story and novel she ever wrote, and add ghosts. Lots of ghosts!

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3 responses to “Ideas for Speculative Books

  1. Parker Peevyhouse

    Very cool collection of quotes!

    When I write, I think I pull up ideas that intrigued me as a kid. I was fascinated with stories about spaceships as a youngster, so I finally wrote my own novel set on one.

  2. When I started writing Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel (Random House, 2009), it was when the Mars rovers were big in the news. The Spirit and the Opportunity were sent to Mars to scoot around and see what they could find.

    I was fascinated by the mission – how groundbreaking it was, and how history would look back on it. Would these be the first missions that would ultimately lead to colonization? What if they discovered something like terraforming would be easier to do than initially thought? And what if you were a kid, sent with your family to colonize and/or terraform Mars?

    These were the first questions that sparked the idea for Mike Stellar. I named the ships in the books after rovers, too. The Spirit, and the Sojourner (after a rover that was big news in the late 90s.)

    I think current events are a great way to spur your imagination. There’s a lot of “sci-fi” stuff out there that’s not really all that “fi” at all! :)

  3. I tend to find stories in places: my grandmother’s haunted house, Irish abbeys, the lake near where I grew up, a trip to Namibia. I guess travels elsewhere turn off a lot of my analytical mind and turn up my intuition and imagination.

    I like the idea of antique shops, though; I find “stuff” can be very evocative, too, though I’ve yet to write a story about an objects like that.

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