The Write Idea by Christine Gunderson

Where do writers get book ideas? 

Let me tell you a story. 

One day I was driving down a suburban street in my super cool mini-van heading to Target. I glanced out the window and saw a woman walking into the trees. These are the words that popped into my head:

“She went into the woods to bury the body.”

By the time I finished buying dog food and detergent, I knew who she buried, why she committed this terrible crime and how she planned to cover it up. I had an entire book mapped out inside my head. 

And then I started to wonder, do other people do this when they drive to Target?

I decided to conduct further research using my husband as a control group. I asked what he would think if he drove down our street and saw a woman heading into the trees. He said, “That she’s picking up litter? Or walking her dog?”

As I final test I asked a group of writer friends what they would think if they witnessed the same thing enroute to Target.

They said the woman was obviously going into the woods to bury the body of her husband’s mistress because she just found out about the secret baby. Or that aliens were about to abduct her and hold her hostage until the people of planet Earth could solve an impenetrable riddle which could lead to the destruction of our planet. Or that she was a normal woman who suddenly discovered she could turn people into cats by pointing at them with her pinky finger. Or that she was organizing a rebellion to take down the evil regime that forced her people to toil for generations in Martian plutonium mines. Or that she was actually a lizard disguised as a human and she came here from Dimension 11 to kidnap the Chosen One.

And on and on. They actually wouldn’t stop. 

There was only one conclusion I could draw from this experiment.

Normal people think normal thoughts because they are normal. Writers do not think normal thoughts. Ergo, writers aren’t normal.

Is it genetic? Or environmental? Maybe this is what happens to your brain if you read too many books as a kid? I have no idea what causes this abnormality but every writer I know is like this. Sometimes the ideas stop. But they always come back again eventually, after a rest or a break to reset the brain.

So where do these ideas come from? The ether. The grocery store. The Fifth Grade Band concert. Netflix. The Smithsonian. My old college roommate. My brother-in-law. I’ve gotten ideas from all these places and people.

But sometimes an idea is really different. It’s special. And we are driven render this idea on paper for others to see. These are the ideas that come from the heart as well as the head. These are the ideas we turn into books.  


Christine Gunderson is a former television anchor and reporter and former House and Senate aide who lives outside of Washington, D.C. with her husband, children and Star, the Wonder Dog. When not writing, she’s sailing, playing Star Wars trivia, re-reading Persuasion,or unloading the dishwasher. 


  1. This is so true! That shopping cart on the side of the road? Raccoons were using it for joyrides in the middle of the night. The shoe abandoned in the middle of the street? A guy fleeing through our dimension into another. This is where a writer's brain goes! I wouldn't say we aren't normal... maybe we're extra-ordinary (hyphen deliberately added). :D


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