That's the question people always ask writers.
“If you ask a writer who has heard that same question dozens of times,” novelist Elizabeth Peters said, “she may come back with some snappy answer like, 'There's a drugstore in North Dakota where I order mine.'”
“The only possible answer,” Peters said, “is 'Everywhere.' You don't get ideas; you see them, recognize them, greet them familiarly when they amble up to you.”
Thanks to websites eager to offer quirky news, you can even receive daily updates that might contain the kernel for a work of fiction.
Since this idea involves an older Corvette, I saw it a week ago on the Hemmings Motor News daily blog. But later it popped up on other websites.
The tale involves crime, the legal system, the insurance industry, perceived injustice, and expensive cars: all ingredients that may click with people.
Back in 1972, Terry Dietrich of DeKalb County, Georgia, bought herself a new Corvette: blue with a T-top. Just six months later, it was stolen. While Allstate paid Dietrich's claim, the loss remained a sore spot.
Early this year, a car dealer in North Carolina bought a blue 1972 Corvette from a woman whose husband had recently died. But the dealer saw something fishy in the car's registration number and did some digging. Turns out the car had once been Dietrich's. North Carolina police impounded it.
But Dietrich can't get it back. Back in 1972 she was making monthly car payments and never had the Corvette's title. After all those years, Allstate can't find the title. Neither can the State of Georgia.
But without a legal title or a court order, North Carolina police can't release the Corvette. So it sits in a warehouse sealed with yellow tape awaiting an eventual auction – or the intrepid action of a fictional detective.
One great thing about fiction. You as a writer can do whatever you want with any or all of those elements. Transpose the stolen Corvette to a stolen invention, a stolen necklace, a stolen birthright – and move the characters to another culture, another century, even another world.
“Ideas are the cheapest part of writing,” Jane Yolen said. “They are free. The hard part is what you do with the ideas you've gathered.”
What have you gathered recently?