I was writing a scene that first introduced Sgt. Reid's wife and I needed a name. Though the character looks nothing like the actress Hillary Swank, we were watching a movie she stared in. Boom! Reid's wife became Hillary. Ideas come out of the air. You see a leaf blowing across the sidewalk in front of you and get an idea about a story of a woman on an automn day. I think I read that J.K. Rowling got the idea for Harry Potter by being on a train and in her mind she saw him walk by. Sometimes you have to struggle for a while searching for ideas and other times they come to you. A TV show, a news report, a word someone says. For Red Island I needed something to connect all of the victims together...I saw a beautiful girl with a black and white tattoo of a rose on the back of her shoulder...Boom! All the victims would have a tattoo on the back of their shoulder, when the killer was younger a girl with a tattoo in the same place completely destroyed him. Tada!
For weeks I walked through a parking lot and saw this car with a dozen or so air freshners hanging from its rearview mirror. I was writing a short fantasy story about a cult leader so I thought a little about Stephen King's The Stand and came up with something I think is really good.
A lone man walked. His boots hit the black highway dispersing the heat haze that hung above its surface. Faded and torn jeans clung to his sweaty legs. A belt buckle made of white bone seemed to glow in the sun and heat. He walked like a man with a path to follow. Each step had a purpose. A white shirt, strategically stained with sweat, was open showing the muscles of his stomach and chest. A brown suede jacket hung from his hand like a dead animal. The hot afternoon sun touched his tanned skin in waves of immense heat that never seemed to stop. Sweat ran down his face, grew pregnant on a hard jaw line and dropped only to be evaporated into the hot breathless air before reaching the black asphalt. His sandy brown hair fell almost to his shoulders and was drenched in perspiration. Tiny droplets fell and joined the others in the fabric of his shirt. Blue eyes squinted and looked forward.
Stretched out on either side of the long highway was a Southwestern American desert. Cacti took whatever liquid they could get from the scorched sandy earth. Rocks were scattered about as if play pieces from a child’s game abandoned and forgotten. There was nothing close by with the promise of shade. The trees were sparse and leafless. The only wind was hotter than the air. Perched on a sign, too faded to read, a black raven called out his name. Somewhere amongst the rocks there was a rattling. His tongue teased his cracked lips. He was a lone man. He walked alone through the valley of death and indeed, he feared no evil.
“Pony, eh, you alright man?” The words came through the juicy smacking of gum.
Pony Rayne blinked. The back of his hand wiped drool from his cheek. The passenger heat vent was pointed directly at his face blowing hot air against him. He looked outside the pick-up truck at the once grassy ditch going by now covered in a dusting of snow. A key chain made of beads rattled off the steering column. A woman’s voice sang a country song about independence and being a strong woman. A collection of air fresheners hung from the rear-view mirror. A dozen or so pine trees of dark and light green, yellow, blue, and white, a red maple leaf, a brown pine cone with a big green leaf, and one of the Tasmanian Devil from old Looney Tunes cartoons had all done their job at some time. A new orange pine tree with the word coconut written on it was trying. The first smell Pony got was stale sweat and cheese crackers.
“You were making noises in your sleep,”
Ideas. You never really know where they come from. You just get a slap in the face and give praise. "Mornin' Mr. Writer. Write me now!"