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August 23, 2011

Liz Lipperman: Looking for Plot in all the Wrong Places

Looking for Plot in all the Wrong Places
Okay, so I spent three hours in the dentist's chair recently getting three lower back teeth ready for crowns. It was only supposed to be two but my dentist found a huge crack in the third one.

Cha ching!

Anyway, I'm on FaceBook with my dentist and some of her very capable office staff, and I posted an update about how I was thinking about creating a character that looked like a few of them and torturing them with a dental drill. That led to a lively discussion involving a possible title.Death by Dentistry, Drill M for Murder, Nightmare on Route Canal, and Nitrous and Old Lace were a few that made the cut. It was fun for all of us until I realized on the weekend that the gum around the last tooth was probably infected. My first clue was that I cried every time I bit down on something.

So I called my dentist who was at a restaurant with her staff, and she phoned in an antibiotic RX for me. I'm sure my writing became a dinner table topic after that. Long story short, I had to go see her the following day and lo and behold, my sweet, girl-next-door dentist who looks more like she should be modeling swimsuits for Sports Illustrated than shoving both hands into my mouth, said she had a great idea for a book.

Okay, I have to admit a lot of people tell me stuff like that all the time when they find out I'm a writer. They think that Aunt Martha's first ride on the roller coaster is worthy of a four-hundred page book or that little Joey’s first bike ride without training wheels deserves national attention. So when she said she had a story for me, I thought yeah, yeah, and pretended to be interested.

It didn't take but a minute before I shot up out of that dental chair and said, "I know just where I'm gonna use this." I already had a vision of what my third book in the Clueless Cook Mystery Series would be about and her plot tied in beautifully. The more she talked, the more I expected her head to twist around or something. What happened to my sweet dentist?? Should I call her Sybil?

Her story involved some of the most gruesome sicko things I'd ever heard.

And I loved it! I couldn't wait to run it by my editor. Wrong idea! She loved the title but hated the plot. Said it was too gory for a cozy. Okay, maybe killing homeless people and burning their bodies is a mite gory, but Chicken Fried Corpse was a great title, I argued.

Move on, Lipperman!” her unspoken words said.

The moral of this story is that even though I wasn’t able to use the idea…yet…we all need to keep an open mind when some enthusiastic friend, family member or even a perfect stranger approaches you with an idea. You never know when the next NY Times bestselling story will unfold before your very eyes! My first cozy plot, the one that  got me a three book deal, came from a mystery jigsaw puzzle my friends and I put together on vacation.

So, look around you. Do some serious people watching and check out shows like Dateline and 20/20. I got the idea for Mortal Deception, which is coming out soon from Amazon, BTW. Of course, I added the sex and the killers to make it interesting.

Okay, it's time to hear your stories. What's the weirdest way a plot has ever come to you? As a reward for playing with me today, I’ll give one lucky commenter a free download of MD when it is available.

Ms. Lipperman, a PP gal, is happy to say her new book, Liver Let Die, comes out in October and Mortal Deception is coming soon!!


Anonymous said...

How appropriate, I'm leaving for the dentist's office within the hour!! Great post, Liz!

Roseanne Dowell said...

I knew there was a reason I didn't go to the dentist. LOL I don't know if this is the weirdest way, but it’s certainly interesting. Hubby came home from the bank one day and told me about a story he heard on the news about a woman killing her ex husband because he refused to pay child support. An idea formed in my head and I was off and running. It’s still a WIP, and I’m hoping to finish it soon.

Pamela Stone said...

Hi Liz, Great post and very true. I was having lunch with a co-worker right after I sold my first book. When I told her my news and she said, "Oh, you should write my and David's story." She proceeded to tell me the entire story about how she met her second husband. I kept thinking, "Honey, the only people who would find your life story interestin are you two." Yawn. On the other extreme I have relatives who are a little leary of me, fearing that their stories WILL end up in a book.

But I do pick up bits of conversations that can inspire me enough to weave them into a story.

Lisa D said...

I'm working my second crown this year. Ouch! Great post, Liz.

Kathy Ivan said...

Uh oh, Liz, my current WIP has homeless people being burned---what's that they say about great minds thinking alike?

Like you, I get my ideas from the strangest places, news, TV programs, people on the street. Snippets of somebody's conversation can get the ball rolling.

I have a story that I've outlined but not written yet that came from an episode of Snapped. You just never know where that kernel of plot will show up.

And I go to the dentist next week. Why oh why do you put these thoughts in my head? LOL

Charlie said...

Too funny today! But like they say, fact is stranger than fiction in many cases. I love it when a story is based on a true story..even if it is loosely based. Love the dentist idea. lol
C.K. Volnek

Vicki Batman, sassy writer said...

I can't imagine having thoughts about my writing when at the dentist. All I want is for them to get through. LOLOL

But people do say and do crazy things that make one go yeah. That's good. And I write them down.

Thanks, Ms. Lipperman

Liz Lipperman said...

Hey, Tessie, I hope you're not getting route canals or something equally painful.

I love my dentist, but I swear, she must weigh all of 100 pounds. When she came up with the gory plot, I nearly fainted--or maybe it was the noise of the drill that, to this day, scares the beejesus out of me.

Good luck in the chair.

Liz Lipperman said...

Ooh, Roseanne, that's a wonderful plot. Since I am all murders, I love it. As a mystery writer, I'd make it look like she did it when it really was his new wife who knew where he hid the stash--the money he didn't send to her ex!!

Good luck with it, and let us know when it is finished.

Liz Lipperman said...

Hey, Pam, I know the feeling. I once met a man who had shifty eyes at some writer's deal. When I asked what he wrote, he said an autobiography. Since I don't have a filter, I then asked, "Why would anyone want to read about your life?" He looked all around and then told me he used to be a mafia hit man.

I swear--that's a true story.

Liz Lipperman said...

Cool, Kathy. Hope you bring the homeless story the next time we get together. I might be able to add some gory details, compliments of a certain dentist.

And good luck with your dentist.

Liz Lipperman said...

Lisa, you're just a baby in the crown department! LOL. I think all my back teeth are crowns. I have really soft teeth--and old teeth!!

Oops-I went back and saw that your post said second crown THIS year. In the words of Roseann Roseannadanna--Nevemind! (I have a character in my series who looks like her!)

Liz Lipperman said...

Hey, Charlie, I love the fact-based fiction, too. I touched on Mortal Deception in the post. In that story, a couple's 8 year old son is dying of a terminal illness and the only way to save him was through a cord blood transfusion. On the 20/20, they ended up with two perfect healthy sons. I decided what if the biological father didn't know he had a son.

Since they needed his sperm to genetically engineer an embryo to implant in the biological mother, how could they get it?

So, I dressed up her sister in slutty clothes and sent her into the bar. (You either have to win a copy of this one or buy it when it goes up on Amazon to find out what happens.)

Liz Lipperman said...

Vicki, you are the queen of getting ideas form the strangest places. You once told me most of them come from Handsome. Hubbies do have a way of creating drama.

Laura Drake said...

Don't you love the Kismet of when the stars allign and you get an 'ah-ha!' idea? Doesn't happen often enough.

Save that idea - I have a recipe box of index cards for that purpose - nothing is wasted - you just got the memo from the Gods of brilliance a little early!

Chris K said...

for a woman who had every single cavity in her mouth drilled without novicaine- Dentist is a dirty word!!

Plotting is the next dirty word on my list!! - lol.

My very first full length readable novel came about because I read a very old story from a very prolific author - yes THAT one - and I was furious with how she ended the book - practically yelled at my mother -I can do better than that. Pulled out my laptop and six months later typed 'the end' on Prodigal Daughter.

for another book, I got the idea from the chorus of a Leann Rhymes song where she talked to her dead husband.

but the other two - I have no idea - LOL - I just remember sitting down and starting to type!! lol.

Edie Ramer said...

I have a toothache, so it's appropriate for me, too.

I had a vague premise that I thought my grandson would enjoy. When I told him, he went off on a plot I would never have thought of. I immediately thought it would be a hit with middle-graders. We'd planned to co-write it this summer, but he got sidetracked by friends and fun summer activity.

Sheila Seabrook said...

I've never paid attention to where I get my inspiration for my plots from but I love your dentist chair story, Liz. And I love the title and story idea, too. I hope you get to use them someday.

Liz Lipperman said...

Laura, what a great idea--a recipe box for plot ideas. I have mine scattered all over creation.

Thanks for sharing that.

Liz Lipperman said...

Chris, having read both of the books you mentioned, I can tell you the plot worked well. As for the dentist--you echoed my exact feelings. I, too, never saw a dentist until my teenage years when nearly every tooth in my mouth needed a filling--all without Novocaine. So, I equate the sound of the drill to when the dentist would hit a nerve and nearly send me out of the chair.

Dentist and Gynecologists -- Hate going to both.

Liz Lipperman said...

Edie, make sure you get that book written with your grandson. If nothing else, think about how much fun it will be to spend so much time with him without all the distractions of today's world--Internet, Playstation, etc.

And hugs for that painful tooth. Don't let it get too bad. My dentist told me never to put heat on a bad tooth in case it's an abscess. Use ice.

Liz Lipperman said...

Hey, Sheila, thanks for stopping by and for the nice words about the "almost" book. I may make it into a straight mystery one day where anything goes.

Jeanmarie Hamilton said...

I have a dental appt soon. :-) But I've found a dentist that I'm comfortable with for the first time in my life. Sometimes she doesn't shoot me with novacaine and she's the first dentist I've ever had who hasn't started out with it first thing. But I can tell you what's louder than the dental drill, and that's having your kitchen cabinets sanded down in your kitchen after a water leak that caused water damage. I had to put up with that for two days, and then I escaped the third day to a root canal at my dentist's, and it was much quieter. ;-)
This home repair has not inspired any stories, but a water damage repair to the kitchen 6 years back inspired one, when water started streaming from the ceiling, and I'm keeping that handy.
Enjoyed your post, Liz!

Liz Lipperman said...

Jeanmarie, I can only imagine how loud the sanding was if you "escaped" to your route canal. Holy cannoli!

We do get our ideas form the weirdest places. Good luck at the dentist office.

Phyllis said...

Hey Liz!!! I swear girl, I need to shadow you for a day or two just so you can raise my spirits. You are such fun.

At 28 YOA, I had major, major dental work done. The only teeth that are real in my head are anchor teeth to four bridges in the back and the front teeth. My brother and I inherited bad teeth genes from our father. My brother had full dentures at 36. The sound of the dentist drill to me reminds me of the drill/saw the pathologists use to saw open the skull during autopsy. Even the smell is the same.

I get story ideas from music, conversations I hear in my head and repeat aloud to hear how it will "sound" in a MS. Most of my ideas come from seeing something that interests me and I ask "what if.”


Liz Lipperman said...

Wow, Phyllis, you had a lot of dental work done. Thanks heavens, you didn't have my dentist with all her gory ideas!!~

I like that you get ideas from music. I might try that.

Sylvia McDaniel said...

Okay, I know I'm weird, but usually it's in the shower. That's where all great plotting is done! And yes, I use to work with a guy who laughed and told me I could use him in my next novel. I really should do that, but he wouldn't be the hero, he would be the jerk she dumps on the first page. Love the blog Liz and I'm getting excited to read your "Cozy" mystery. Sorry, I'm a girl who likes my fiction to be light-hearted as I can't take the burned homeless people. I'd feel sorry for them and want to contact their families and offer comfort. Yeah, I know I'm a softie at heart.

Karilyn Bentley said...

Hi Liz,
Great post! Good luck with all the dental work. I've hardly had any, so I love going to the dentist. Not sure what that says about me. :) The first book I wrote (which is hiding in a closet somewhere) was based on the life of this kid I knew in HS. I thought he had a pretty interesting one. He might have had an interesting one, but the book was snooze inducing! :)

Phyllis said...

I also get my ideas while driving. Yep, sometimes don't have the slightest idea how I got home, but I could tell you about a scene. Again, I have mood music on. Certain music triggers certain types of action for me.

Liz Lipperman said...

Sylvia, I usually get my dialogue from the shower. I think of all these really cool things to say and can't wait to write them down. I'll have to try plotting there, too.

As for your lighthearted taste, I can't wait for you to read Liver Let Die, either. I even got away with a little cussing and racy stuff.

Liz Lipperman said...

Karilyn, thanks for stopping by. You are so lucky to have good teeth.

As for the snoozer, isn't it funny how something sounds so great in our heads and goes flat on the page? I'm curious what the boy did that made you think he was worthy of a plotline?

Liz Lipperman said...

Pjyllis, that's funny about pulling into your driveway with a great scene plotted out and having no idea how in the hell you got there!! Love it.

I'm one who needs absolute quiet when I write. When I hear music, I want to sing.

chris k said...

how could I forget about the shower!!

book number two came to me in the shower - that's the one that finaled in the golden heart -

hmm - maybe I need to spend more time in the shower!! the water bill might be worth it!!

I can attest to Liz' books being lots of fun - I mean really with titles like Liver Let Die and Beef Stolanoff?? LOL you have to know it's gonna be a great read!!

Liz Lipperman said...

Thanks, Chris. As for the shower, that seems to be where several of us brainstorm.

And in a mutual admiration nod, your GH winner was terrific. I can't figure out why it's still unsold.

Liz Lipperman said...

And the winner is.........Roseanne Dowell. Vicki put all the names in a hat ,excluding the PP girls, and Roseanne was the lucky one.

I'll be emailing you today to set up the download.

Nancy said...

Liz, I'm a day late, but I LOVE your post! I'm also amazed that you could come up with a plot in the dentist's chair. My thought process in the chair run along the lines of, "Are we done yet, are we done yet?"

I also adore the titles you came up with! Hilarious!!!

Nancy Haddock

Caroline Clemmons said...

Liz, as usual you made me laugh. What I hate is when someone says she/he has a great idea for a novel and if I write it we can split the royalties. Oh yeah? You're a brave woman to keep your sense of humor through dentist visits. See me shudder? My turn is next month.

Liz Lipperman said...

Nancy, I'm always the late one to the parties!! As I mentioned, dentists and gynecologists are right up there with torture and humiliation with me. My dentist is a sweetie, though.

And BTW, I love your titles, too.

Liz Lipperman said...

Hey, Caroline, I thoroughly agree. People act like coming up with an idea is worthy of 50%. What about the 6-9 months it takes to write that sucker and the reams of paper you use? I could go on and on.

My agent always says ideas can't be copyrighted.

So, here's to good story ideas no matter where they originate.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by.

Unknown said...

This is Hilarious!!! Thank you for the entertainment in positing. LOVE the responses too. Great topic for a blog.

Ed Hochhalter said...

Haha! I was immensely entertained reading your post. I love the titles that you came up with about a novel involving dentistry. Nightmare on Route Canal piqued my interest and it sounds real intriguing. LOL! I would love to read that novel if ever you get to publish it.

Trinidad Philipps said...

This is the magic of social media, you get to keep in touch with anyone you want to, even your dentist. Hehe. Also, it’s a way of maintaining a harmonious relationship with your dentist. And that means calling him/ her whenever you had tooth problems. There’s no need for you to visit their clinic if it’s not necessarily needed.