Where do I get ideas for plots

Where do I get ideas for plots?  That was a question that was posed to me at dinner one night by a good friend and former co-worker.  The gentleman, who is also a ringknocker and fellow Vietnam War veteran is also a gifted artist and several of his pen and ink drawings of animals hang in my guest bedroom.  So I knew where he was coming from.

It’s a great question and the answer I gave him, after a few seconds of thought was “I don’t know” because it is not a conscious process.  Then I began to talk through the answer.  What I told him and I believe it to be true is that I start with a kernel of an idea which is generally a confluence of events.

So let me go back to the beginning.  The first novel/manuscript I wrote and tried to sell is titled FLIGHT OF THE PAWNEE.  As I’ve mentioned before, it is now one of the later books in the series.  I started with one key element, i.e. Al Qaeda wanted to kill more Americans than died during the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

From there, I noodled on what weapon they had to use.  Once that was sorted out, then came the process of how do you build, deploy and employ the device and the other characters who help the bad guy.  From there, I created an interesting character who became the antagonist.  Without getting into the plot or the weapon, I added a local Mexican drug gangs supported by Columbian narco-terrorists.

Now that I had the bad guys, so to speak, I had to figure out where Josh Haman was in his life – I’ll give you a hint – he’s retired from the Navy and build the characters around him.  There had to be good guys helping him, traitors, etc. and voilà, one characters that come together in a plot.  Next step was to write an outline which, to be honest, I didn’t follow closely because as I was writing the manuscript, the characters told the story and for some weird reason, they didn’t follow the script!!!

FLIGHT OF THE PAWNEE is done and stored on a hard drive, but I plan to go through it later and edit/rewrite it based on the lessons learned from getting BIG MOTHER 40 published.

BIG MOTHER came about because there were many scenes in FLIGHT OF THE PAWNEE that I thought might be exciting reading, so I started on BIG MOTHER 40 to create a starting point for all the other books in the series.  Here’s the really interesting part.  Now that BIG MOTHER 40 is out, I realized there is stuff in Josh Haman’s life and a plot to be developed around his first tour in Vietnam.

From there, the plot line began to form in my head for what is now called CHERUBS 2.  I’m about forty percent through the first draft.  The outline keeps changing as I get to points in the plot that stump me, but I like the book (I know, I’m prejudiced and biased) because it has lots of exciting flying scenes and deals with a challenge that everyone who has ever been in a situation where fear can overcome your ability to react and deal with the challenge.  Combat or police shootouts are only one such event.  Flying an airplane in crappy weather in which the systems, engines are failing is another.

Oh, and by the way, the germ for what is the plot of CHERUBS 2 came from a conversation with another good friend with whom I flew in Vietnam.  So, like I said before, the plots start with a seed that germinates in my mind….

Marc Liebman

March 17th, 2013