The Author’s Imagination

You’re in the grocery store and the person in front of you is reading the labels on cans and boxes. They’re moving slowly. You can hear them muttering about murder, kidnapping, and high speed chases. Have you caught a criminal in the act?

More than likely, you’re behind an author and they’re plotting their next novel, or overcoming a severe case of writer’s block. That means you’re in for a treat if you stick around instead of notifying the authorities. Listen to the process, how our minds work in twisted, convoluted circles.

Did you just hear that mousy Jane Simpson is about to “off” her neighbor? Hmmm? Just how will Jane accomplish the deed? Will she use the rake or the hoe? What did her neighbor do to warrant such a violent reaction from her usually placid friend? Instead of shoving your cart past them and searching for a manager to inform they have a crazy loose in the store, hang around. Smile when the author glances in your direction. Ask how their day is going. Get a conversation started. Authors love talking to people. We pick up important clues to use in our work that way.

Another scenario, you’re in traffic. The man beside you is talking but there is no one in the vehicle with him. He’s speaking about spiders, dank cellars, and a set of creaky stairs. A kidnapper devising ways to terrorize his victim? Maybe. Or maybe an author working through a difficult plot moment. What you probably don’t see is his smart phone or voice recorder clipped to the visor on nearby, picking up every word, all the traffic sounds around him, and the scream of a siren of an emergency responder in the background.


An author has a very vivid imagination. It’s part of our stock in trade, and when an idea hits, we’re scribbling notes, recording scenes, and otherwise making those around us nervous. Your reward for these moments is to see a picture of that person gracing your social media sites months later, announcing the release of their book. Once you read the blurb, you’ll flash back to the moment when you didn’t report someone who broke out of the mental hospital and realize you had an inside moment with a piece of art under construction.

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