In Tierra del Fuego, Matt, the main character, leaves his home in Chicago following his wife’s death, and starts driving south through Central and South America. He ends up in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in Argentina, which is where the road literally ends.
People often ask, “Where did that story come from?” That’s a question that writers are often asked, and I’m not sure that any writer has come up with a really good answer.
I was thinking about this question in a general sense recently while I was on a hike. As I made my why down the trail, I kept asking myself “what if” questions. For example, when I got to the trail, there was another vehicle parked in the parking lot. “What if the person who owns the vehicle is dumping a body on the trail?” I thought. “And what if I’m somehow implicated in the murder of that person?”
The trail I was hiking was in Tennessee, not too far from a Civil War battlefield. “What if a Confederate soldier was somehow transported to 2015, and appeared in the woods where I was hiking? How would he react? How would I react?”
As I was finishing my hike, I noticed a wooden shed off to the side of the trail that I had never noticed before. The boards were weathered and gray. “What if somehow I was transported back in time? What if when I got back to my truck, it, along with the roads and the parking lot, were gone? What would I do?”
As for Tierra del Fuego, I’m not sure what the first “what if” moment was that eventually led to the story. I do know that I had the first inkling of the story several years ago (probably around 2010), and it took me until 2014 to write the first draft of the book. The story changed over time as I continued to ask “what if,” questions, and continued until I was satisfied with the finished product.
Story ideas are everywhere. There’s never a shortage. Coming up with the idea isn’t the tricky part. The hardest part of being a writer is sitting down to turn the initial idea into a story, and then returning to the chair day after day until the story is finished. Coming up with the initial idea is a piece of cake.
A time travel murder mystery that takes place on a hiking trail in the woods of Tennessee? Hmm…