If you are an author, you've been asked before if you are a plotter or one who writes by-the-seat-of-your-pants. I'm the latter. Although at first I do have vague ideas about the beginning, the ending, the three try-fail scenes. But I'm more fluid about sticking with them as-is. After all, imagination is King and allowed to reign free for the most part with me. Thereafter, as things jell, my plot becomes more rigid, more set.
I'm definitely a character-driven author (again as versus a plot-driven work). So I get my stories from people, real-life ones I see in 3-D or ones depicted in magazines or stills--or blogs. One such photo, that launched itself into my mind and right into a fast blip of a short movie clip, came out of a magazine ad (for what, I do not remember). But there was a woman in a flannel lumberjack shirt, standing relaxed in front of her open door, coffee cup in hand, gazing at the snowcapped mountains. That tale still resides in me, awaiting release.
One was a beautiful tan self-assured girl in safari garb driving an open Jeep which passed my DART bus on my way to my less-exciting day job. I've posted about her before. I'm still gonna write her story at some time--"her" story in the way my creativity sees it, that is.
I get ideas from TV shows and books and movies, too. I love Murder, She Wrote (TV series) and J.D. Robb's In Death (book) series. I love how each protagonist is a good person, trying to do right, amid all the wrongdoing they see. Plus my first-ever written story, a short-short creation in response to a required homework assignment for my seventh grade English teacher, was a mystery. So, I definitely have at least one mystery to be written from within my DNA.
While I love my characters I embellish, there are some other loves of mine that I pair with them. Being an entrepreneurial-author type, I like to choose different careers for my guys in my novels. So you probably won't find a doctor, a lawyer or an Indian Chief among them.
As for settings, I love my Deep South roots. So you will see that reflected in my tales. But I yearn to see Paris, France and other European sites (also found in my genetic makeup), so that is inevitable as well.
Then there are those topics where my own interests lie, so my personal research/learning would end up being info/knowledge used for later books. Again, I'm tied to mysteries, thus drawn to Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids. Overlay that with just a general awe over creation itself and you would understand why landscapes pull me so, like sunsets and sunrises, and nature walks and hiking through parks, etc.
If you are a fledgling author, do not despair. Ideas will come to you as you read a newspaper and ask "What if . . .?" What if I took my next-door neighbor merged with my boss and my mother and put this newly created conglomerated individual in this scenario from today's news, what would happen next? What would the life of my rich (or poor) friend look like from an insider's viewpoint? What if I took a traditionally male job and put a woman in it? What if I took a marriage and made the woman the breadwinner and the man the at-home caretaker?
Examine the works of others you love which work on many levels.
I love Firefly (the Joss Whedon TV series--too short-lived!) and the follow-up Serenity movie, not to be confused with the supposed first episode named "Serenity." I still watch it over and over on DVD. If you study Joss's character cast, you see a bunch of neat twists and turns just with the makeup of his cast. You have Serenity herself, the ship, which acts as much as a main character as it does for the setting, the cowboy past comingled with the spaceship future. Genius. Double genius.
You have Mal, the ship's captain (a necessary character), but this one is flawed and we love him all the same. He has his yes-man subordinate, Zoe, who acts as his conscience and will speak up when she feels it necessary. She's the fighter/warrior married to the wimp-like ship's pilot, Wash, and their relationship is hot and inspiring. We have the onboard renter, a professional companion, Inara, who secretly loves Mal who secretly loves her, amid all the whore-bashing rhetoric he flails her way, which definitely appeals to the more tormented love seekers who watch the series and may yearn for the Zoe-Wash marriage, but are currently not there yet, still in flux.
To round out the ten-character cast (I'm counting the spaceship Serenity), there is the shepherd, aptly named thus, and this crew is in need of his and His help. You need a mechanic on any ship, and who doesn't love Kaylee? She's our naive, sweet, optimistic young girl with the heart of gold. Her down-to-earth girl-next-door good looks are just as beautiful in their way as Inara in her decked-out, bejeweled, Glamour Shot, model-perfect version.
Jayne is the guy you love to hate. He's our in-house nemesis that you end up policing even while you are fighting a greater terror, like the Reavers. Simon and River Tam were a brilliant addition to the cast. First, it makes for an uneven pairing of the crew/cast, and it certainly added an interesting element to the "Out of Gas" episode. Second, River is an entertaining conundrum, going from insane-acting person to superior IQ intellect to cockney-accented foible. She's great. Third, the brother is a doctor taking care of his patient, but his patient is smarter than he is. I find him an odd mixture of hero and wimp. Probably as Joss planned. Fourth, it adds another element to an enemy to be fought, both within their ranks and from without.
Joss, you are another of my mentors.
Still, for those newbie authors, don't be intimidated by the genius that is Joss. Follow it like you can do the Eight Archetypes or other external guideposts. Not to be discounted is the factor of you. You have no farther to look than inside yourself. Write about characters that personify your greatest values. Write about situations where the good guys or underdogs win. Write about causes you wish to elevate to make the world a better place. Write about what you love. Move your readers to care, to shed a tear, to write a donation check, to improve themselves somehow.
You CAN make the world a better place for you having been here. Do it. Write from the heart. Start now.