I Subscribe to Idea Monthly

collagemarvel.jpgWell, not really — in fact there is no such thing, but I have told people that.  It’s easier than trying  to explain where ideas actually come from. 

A recurring question writers are asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?”  We get our ideas the same place everyone else gets their ideas.  They arrive at odd moments, usually when we’re not trying too hard.  When the left-brain backs off and allows the right brain freedom, ideas flow.  This happens in the early morning, in the last hour before falling asleep, in the shower, driving, and while baking. 

Relaxing my left-brain is my reason for shopping and making brownies. I had the idea for my novella in A Western Winter Wonderland for a long time.  The first thing I knew was the first thing I usually know: The Feel of the Story.  The atmosphere.  The way I will feel while I write and the way I wanted readers to feel when they read the story.  Unexplainable, actually, but for me atmosphere is the story skeleton, as much as plot outline or characters. 

A character always comes next.  For this story it was Marvel.  I knew she was lonely and had spent her life caring for an elderly father.  Life had passed her by, and she wanted more. She got the wrong man the first time.  Sorry, Marvel.  My bad.  I came up with Brody, an Irishman with a sexy brogue and a son and a backstory about his wife and her unscrupulous father, plus a whole complex scenario where the father-in-law cheated him out of his shipyards yada yada.  He was a nice guy.  Probably would have made a good lover and husband.  But he had too much baggage and something was missing.  Chemistry perhaps. 

9780373294671.jpgSo Marvel waited for her perfect man.   A couple years passed. When I needed a Christmas novella, I thought of Marvel, still lonely, still wanting more.  Story making can be better than real life, so I could fix that!  If my character gets the wrong guy the first time, I just delete him.  Poof!  And find her a better guy.  Along came the New Guy With No Name.  Now what? 

Give him character traits that will play off hers.  Give him a backstory, give him something she wants.  Give him a name….hmmm…. I put out a query to my blog readers: Please help me name my hero.  They had great ideas!  One of them had the perfect name.  As soon as I heard Seth Paxton, I knew Seth was right.  So I jotted down all the things I knew and plotted and made lists and a created a calendar.  I’m working on strengthening timelines and transitions, so I use a calendar to keep myself accountable. 

From my character and plot notes I wrote a synopsis.  From the synopsis I wrote the story. brownies.jpg

So you see, a story comes from jotting down resonating ideas and eventually assembling them into a plot structure.  It comes from sleeping and reading, from watching television and shopping, from showering and eating brownies.  That’s my latest story, and I’m sticking to it.

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22 thoughts on “I Subscribe to Idea Monthly”

  1. Aww…I’ve got tears…especially from where you said there was Marvel, still lonely, still wanting more.

    And you’re right, I’ve gotten ideas at the oddest times of the day, sometimes right as I’m dozing off. Sometimes I get a rush of them all at once, fighting over who I will jot down first. Right now I have so many new ideas, my brain has taken a break, locked away the rest of the ideas I’m sure are there, just creeping around in the cobwebby corners of my mind. I’m sure they’ll emerge later, but for now, I’ve got my hands full of “babies” who need my attention.

    Wonderful blog topic!

  2. I find ideas when I stop and just think. That sounds simplistic but with all the rushing and running we do, how much time to we really spend just thinking, mulling over posibilities?
    I’ve got a story flitting around butterfly-like in my head for a long time, and it’s for a story I’m going to have to write. But I just can’t quite make it quit flitting and light.
    But it’ll happen if I ever get the current WIP off my desk…and the already outlined, proposed and accepted book after that.
    I know she’s a healer, whether an unlikely doctor in historical times…a nurse…even maybe she’ll care for animals. And her hero is someone who needs her healing touch.

  3. Great post! Ideas do come from everywhere. I get my best ideas while doing mindless work- painting, scrubbing the floor, raking hay. I alway have a note book with me. And when I’m laying in bed wishing I could fall asleep!

    I also get great ideas while researching for a project and read something that triggers and idea for another story.

  4. I only write as a hobby but I get a lot of ideas while working. Driving around for 6-8 hours in a squad car gives you lots of time to think (as long as I’m watching where I’m going). I also get ideas while traveling to see my mom, it’s a 2 1/2 hour trip one way that I make once or twice a month. Unfortunately you can’t write things down at that time! (Gotta get a recorder). Of course, my job can be a source of ideas too, especially if I wanted to write a crime novel!

  5. Taryn, I try not to miss an idea as it comes along. I write down as much as I know about the idea and then file it in a fat binder labeled “New Ideas.” My binder is bulging with pictures and magazine articles and newspaper clips. When I need a new storyline, I go to the binder first.

    Mary, I can’t let myself think of a new story while I’m working on one, so if an idea comes to me, I jot it down and stash it in the correct binder. Your story idea sounds good!

    Exactly, Paty! Which is why it’s so difficult to explain where you got an idea!

    Lynn, you definitely need a tape recorder. I hate listening to my own voice, so that would be an issue for me. I even dislike my voice mail messages. LOL

    Hi Stacey!

  6. My ideas come at the worst times–seriously–it’s my rebellious brain. When I’m on a deadline and HAVE TO FINISH the current WIP–the vision will hit–the scene that starts it all, usually some type of calamity…and then the new voices start calling to me, whispering to me, tempting me, distracting me.

    My critique partners laugh–I have a contemp proposal I need to finish up next which kept calling to me while I finished up my last western–the proposal’s due, it HAS to be next…and my CP says to me, “Guess that means the third Wild book will done in tno time.” Wouldn’t you know…when I need to channel Jack…I get Garret. This is also why I usually work on more than one ms–unless I’m behind deadline, which just happened in the last couple months. Had to build this imaginary sound-proof room and shove all of my other characters into it.

    My brain works against me 😉

  7. Hi Cheryl!

    Great blog today. Love seeing how you make your characters come alive and all the plotting work, etc. I also love to cook and love to shop — I, too, think it does well cause one can just put the story behind you and have a momnet when one isn’t thinking, thinking, thinking…

  8. Cheryl, loved your topic! It really is something I can relate to. For me, I think most of my stories begin with a character, either the Hero or Heroine. They have a special story to tell and need a transcriber–or at least that’s the way it feels sometime. It amazes me where my ideas will come from. I’ve gotten them from snippets of a song, or a tv commercial, or a photograph. They come from the most unlikely source at times and leaves me awestruck. It’s like magic. And I like Mary’s method of snatching them out of the air. So neat.

    I read your story in Western Winter Wonderland and it really touched me! Marvel had such a yearning for more but had accepted that she probably wouldn’t find it. Her deep longing created an emotional, well-written story. Seth was a guy I feel in love with immediately. He was kind, considerate, and loved his children so much. He was the perfect match for Marvel. And you breathed life into the most incredible secondary characters. They were funny and sad, sometimes at the same time. Oh, and the dog! I can’t forget that sweet dog who needed to be near the children. Great, great story that left me yearning for more. I hated to see the story end. Great book and excellent post! 🙂

  9. Thank you, Karen! It’s always fun to get an inside peek at the process, isn’t it?

    Linda, thank you SO much for your glowing appreciation of the story. That means a lot. Sometimes a novella is just perfect at the length it is, but occasionally, when characters develop in a way you never expected, it would be nice to have more room. You just never know which will be which.

    I have wished for a longer book with the ’08 novella I’m working on now, too. I keep coming up with things I want to explore and having to deny that urge because there’s no room.


  10. I like newspaper articles. I snipped one out of the paper yesterday about a drug ring. I thought, “Hm, lady-in-distress, federal marshal tracking down drug smugglers..That could work.” Now I just need another 55,000 words!

    Sometimes I see a story I think would be perfect for someone else and I clip that too (sorry Cheryl – I can’t help myself).

    It’s true, truth IS stranger than fiction!

  11. Great topic, Cheryl! Like Paty, most of my ideas pop in without warning while I’m doing chores that require no great amount of thought–dishes, ironing, etc. I’ve found my best ideas come during those times. When I try to force ideas by brainstorming or sitting around racking my brain, it seems that all I can come up with are cliche situations that have been done to death. So, I’ve learned to just let the ideas come as they will and run with them. I’ve gone through long periods when nothing new popped into my head. The first couple of times, it scared me. I wondered if the old imagination had dried up. Those were times when I was going through something stressful in my everyday life. When the stress eased, the ideas started to flow and churn again. I’ve always wondered what so-called normal people think about all day. I’ve asked many times and really gotten no answer. But, really, I can’t imagine spending every day of my life without scenes playing out and characters carrying on conversations inside my head. :o)

  12. << Now I just need another 55,000 words! >>

    Sherri, it’s always those little details that hold you up, isn’t it?

    Devon, I love your train of thought. People always ask us where we get our ideas, but what if we were asking, “What do you think about all day?” Seriously! What goes on in a head with no characters? LOL

    And really seriously: Stress is our enemy. Stress is not good for writers. It keeps our heads in a bad place, not loosened up for creative flow. We need to use any means to unstress: The activities that inspire us, exercise, or a fave of mine — a trip to the chiropractor.

  13. Great topic! My best ideas always come when I’m either just waking up or just falling asleep. I want to invent a pen with glow in the dark ink so I can get all those great ideas down in the middle of the night without having to turn on the light or run to another room! If anyone’s seen one, let me know!

  14. Sherri,I have an acquaintance who said her life is a soap opera. I feel mine is sometimes too.

    Taryn, I keep small pad or sticky notes next to bed, in purse & car to capture fleeting ideas, memories as well as the infamous To-Do-List.

    CSJ, thanks for a great behind-the-scenes blog and WONDERFUL story- finished it last week; this makes me want to reread it!!

  15. Julie, there is a pen that sheds light on the paper when you press the point to paper. I’ll see if I can find out where the person got it or what brand. Saw this novelty just this week; now if my memory will just serve me to remember who had it!

    Cheryl, my favorite trip is to the massage therapist for a hot stone massage-deep heat and the volcanic rocks are very smooth-much more relaxing than it sounds! LOL

  16. Cheryl – Thanks for the great pic of Tim Daly!
    Love that guy. Loved that story.

    You have such a gift of storytelling and really touch deep emotions. I enjoyed reading how you developed your characters.

    Sorry for the late
    chiming in – I was out all day.:)

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