Updated June 1, 2016
My husband thinks I’m a master of random comments. Then I share the train of thought that lead to the comment and explain how it’s not random at all. That’s kinda how my mind works, especially when I have a story I’m trying to tease into the open.
I love when story ideas pop out of nowhere. It’s like a half-popped kernel of popcorn. Some of the good stuff is sticking out, while the real meat of the kernel remains buried under the husk.
Let me back up a bit. Last night I hopped up my brain on television. I needed my sci-fi fix and quenched it with an old episode of Star Trek NG and the season finale of Fringe (thank you DVR). Maybe it was the tacos or perhaps trying to explain the space-time continuum to my 5-yr old, but around 11pm something began to form.
This is part of my creation process. The idea is half-formed, I can’t even relay it in a complete sentence, it’s more of a feeling that something is there if I just look deep enough. It nagged at me all night, even as I dreamed my house was full of monkeys in tuxedos. (Must be the tacos.)
Then as I drove to work this morning, I began to pull it together.
It was really simple. Some believe, while others do not.
Anything—in folding space, the earth is flat, religion, time travel. With the right characters, there might be a story here. In this case, I’m beginning with characters. They have to be genuine with strong beliefs and have a foundation for those beliefs that shape the plot. Once I land on a plot, then the writing will be easy. These people will push and pull their own way through based on how, what and why they believe what they do.
To test how an idea might become something more, I throw it on paper….and I do mean throw. There are arrows, boxes and lists, questions and anything else that comes to mind. One bit builds—or pops—off the next until I begin to see structure. Somewhere, in there is a story and a group of characters.
Here’s what I got:
It’s rough and poses a lot questions, but does give an idea for four characters who will play out their belief systems, maybe change their views or push themselves further because of what they believe. Yes, it’s a basically a brainstorming piece that can translate to an outline, but it’s not what’s on the paper that makes this a good tool. It’s how the ideas are on the paper. Seeing the unrelated ideas juxtaposed and then rearranged like a jigsaw puzzle helps you see new possibilities for the story and the strongest elements will begin to crackle.
I use this technique for more than writing. It is a problem solving tool as well. It helps clarify thoughts.Ideas pop out in a jumble of scenes, character traits and settings pieced together from fragments drifting in your mind. Your subconscious will lay out the information you need to pay attention to.
Thanks for hanging out with me.
Wired by Judith Gaines
Jade Weekes emerged from the oily wash of the Seine five years ago with no memory of her life, but an uncanny knowledge of fine art, museum security, and a knack for walking away with priceless treasures. Now she’s tracking an elusive Van Gogh with ties to an underworld struggle that will reveal her forgotten past.