I am always asked where I get my ideas for a novel. For me it is simple: characters. For instance, in my short story Playing Beethoven, the character Mac is confronted at an early age with discrimination. Something I saw on television triggered a memory I had of my grandmother and her prejudices. Although her name wasn’t Sarah, a young Jewish girl lived down the street from my grandmother and one weekend I did visit her home. It hurt when I remember how my grandmother reacted to me playing with this young Jewish girl.
I had an idea, but I had no story. What I did have is two characters.
I kept mulling this idea over in my mind, but I still didn’t know where I was going with it until a friend called me. The minute I heard her squawky voice over the phone I cringed. She is a nice person, but her voice can be irritating. By the time I’d hung up the phone, the opening scene where Sarah approaches Mac as he puts on his roller skates was rolling around in my head. I immediately started writing. Did I have a story? No, but I knew that the characters would help me develop the story. They would tell me what was going to happen—and they did.
Every time I get an idea for a story it falters and eventually dies. I can’t write and let the plot carry the story. I have to rely on my characters.