T is for Train (Skim to the underlined genre or style that best suits you.)
Ideas can’t be copyrighted, so these ideas are free for you to use.
What could be more Romantic than a train ride? Well, maybe Mr. Tall, Handsome, and Funny, unless, of course, he’s on the train, which could ultimately set up the ride of any heroine’s life. So, Miss Lonely is on her way back to grandmother’s house, the only place rent-free where she can piece her life back together after the loss of her job, boss/lover, and the down payment she’d invested in a house she could no longer afford.
What makes this ride worse than the desperation this once-spoiled heroine’s current life holds is that for the first time that she can remember, she’s not just wearing last year’s sandals, but tattered ones from the year before last, and the guy sitting closest to her on this anti-joyride snacks constantly, chews with his mouth full, and probably hasn’t seen a stick of deodorant in months. When she can no longer take the sight or the smell, she squeezes past him into the aisle and moves toward an empty seat. Tripping on the strap of a purse extending into the aisle, she takes a nose dive.
At her service, Mr. Tall, Handsome, and Definitely Not Funny at the Moment, despite his sexy green eyes, rises from his seat to help her, then smirks as he asks, “One cocktail too many?”
Mystery writers can borrow the situation above, but let the smirking gent be someone she knows and possibly fears or despises. She gets into a verbal battering match with him in front of all those traveling witnesses, so naturally she’s the number one suspect when he turns up dead shortly after the next stop, where they both hopped off the train. What was the history between the two? That will help you figure out some of your story, as well as which other characters might have been involved. Who else could be a suspect? Ask what he was doing on the train, opposed to another mode of transportation, or where was he going. These answers might guide you toward the motive for the murder. If you prefer to start with the motive before adding more suspects, figure out a little more about this guy’s life and you’ll soon see why someone other than the protagonist would want him dead.
Literary writers–literary work has more of a character arc rather than a plot arc, though it can have both. Ultimately, however, the growth of the character is far more important than the resolution of any conflicts arising through cause and effect of plot points. Literary work can be self reflective. Maybe the female character in this mystery starts to see a pattern in her life, a sort of loop where she doesn’t fall into bad luck by coincidence the way she had assumed. Instead, she acts subconsciously, stepping into it without looking both ways, and then wonders, how did I get here… Why am I always in these situations? Why does bad luck follow me and not my successful sister?
It’s when she takes a journey that ultimately leads her to the answers of these questions that she finds herself growing into the person she should be, the person she was meant to be, and the person she actually wants to be, whether she knows it yet or not. She’ll now discover, at least in some small way, where she fits in relation to humanity.
What could happen in the world of young adults when a teen is so busy texting that she doesn’t realize she missed her stop and has now taken a train ride 300 miles from where she’s supposed to be? What’s worse, she got off the train, used the public restroom, and left not realizing she’d forgotten the clutch with her money in it. Had her pockets been picked? Time to make a phone call, but after all that cell phone use, the tiny machine in its gleaming pink case is as dead as she’s going to be when she doesn’t show up at Aunt Meg’s ranch, where she was sentenced to work for a month because her grades, apparently, did not reflect her potential. Her mother said, “You’re so busy trying to build a social life that you’re forgetting about the other important parts to life.” Maybe it’s just as well her phone died. Calling Mom didn’t sound so good right now anyway.
What ideas can you pull off the top of your head? If you can offer some in genres I didn’t cover, such as horror, sci-fi, or fantasy, please share! Readers will appreciate it.