Most writers I know have been asked at least once, if not many times, where they get their ideas. The answer is that writers get their ideas from virtually everywhere—personal experiences, history, literature, mythology, an overheard conversation at a coffee shop, and even from news headlines.
Current headlines include a missing jetliner, the loss of lives and homes after century old gas mains caused an explosion in New York City, and the trial of Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius, who is accused of murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The intensity and tragedy of the events that make up news headlines often set writers’ minds spinning, and those events inspire stories or serve as elements of setting in their novels.
In a recent interview in the Bend Bulletin, bestselling American crime fiction writer Patricia Cornwell acknowledged that the 2012 school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as recent Wall Street scandals, served as key elements in her recent novel, Dust.
As a historical romance author, modern headlines might not be applicable to my stories, but I can still be inspired by historical headlines. My favorite place and era to use as a setting is 1880s London, and there are few news headlines from the period more famous than those related to the still unidentified killer who came to be known as Jack the Ripper.
Fascinated with unsolved mysteries and London from the time I was a teenager, I’ve read several book about the Ripper mystery and always thought the period, the events, and the conundrum of the cases would make for a fascinating story backdrop. At the time of the crimes, several authors were inspired by the tragic events. The Lodger, a novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes, is based on the Ripper mystery and tells the story of a London family who suspects their lodger is guilty of heinous crimes. The novel inspired four film adaptations, including one by Alfred Hitchcock.
Do headlines ever inspire story ideas for you? Have you read a story that was inspired by headline news?