Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Getting Ideas

Okay, today I will be dipping my character's toes into the beginning of the dreaded middle. Ack! I actually had some cool world-building ideas this morning. About time. Wouldn't it be nice if our brains teemed with brilliant story nuggets on demand? Maybe yours does, idk. For me, it's a process. Writing a novel is like putting together a giant puzzle, and I'm always looking for the missing pieces. I love it when they finally start clicking into place. I also think of it in terms of the old elephant analogy: one bite at a time.

Snippets of insight and advice from other authors always float through my mind on some level, occasionally rising to the surface at random. For example, Dan Wells told our critique group at Storymakers, "I think most writers are introverts who force themselves to become extroverts." At Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers last summer, Brandon Mull said that when evaluating a story idea, he asks himself, "How high is the ceiling?" My hope is that I'm absorbing everything and when I sit down to write, the myriad of stuff I've learned over the years will naturally flow through my fingertips into the soul of my story. Heh. Because I can't be expected to store it all in the conscious gray cells...because they're only just barely conscious.

Anyway, I've been reading Bram Stoker's Dracula on my Nook Color, which my husband bought me for our anniversary. He wanted me to be able to show people my Whose Ears Are Whose? picture book. So sweet! But I've been slow to start reading novels on it...resisting change. Barnes & Noble gave me a free download of the Dracula book, and my daughter immediately glommed onto it (oh, I love that word...I'm going to use it in my book). When she finished, I got a turn. And yesterday I thought I saw J.K. Rowling's handprints on a couple of pages. Stoker referred to a trio of vampire women as "those weird sisters" (p. 83 and in Shakespeare's Macbeth as well), and described the Count's eyes turning on Jonathan "with all their blaze of basilisk horror." (p. 86)

Oooooh. More than one kind of goosebumps there, reinforcing the fact that story ideas and tidbits are all around us, waiting to be plucked and molded to our distinct variations. Rowling obviously relied on myth for some elements (a three-headed dog; a hippogriff rescuing a prisoner from a tower window; and so on). Who's to say she didn't lift her witch rock band and monster of Slytherin from Dracula? I try to stay alert for tantalizing little kernels like that, too...pieces of the puzzle that present themselves here and there from day to day in conversations, books, movies, incidents, whatever...and then put my own spin on them.

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