The last few weeks have found me mostly editing Virtually Yours Forever, so new story ideas aren’t exactly on the front burner – yet. However, one of the recent exercises in the Savvy Author Donald Maass workshop I’m taking has to do with brainstorming for new ideas.
It may sound easy, but not for me. I’m a pantser. My creative methods include sitting down and writing the first thing off the top of my head. After a few hundred (or thousand) words, I might have story that could take off. Or I might not. This is how I wrote Finding Cadence: I started with a stream of consciousness meme that exploded into something huge.
The Maass exercise comes at a most opportune time. This is the time of year when I gear up for NaNoWriMo. I won’t have a story this year (VY2 was an anomaly, since I had the characters AND the story). I might have a few characters, or I might have a theme. I’d like to say that I jot everything down in a notebook (neatly) but that would be a lie. A lot of times, stories reside in my head only, although now that I’m sliding into old age, taking notes is a good way to stave off the effects of pre-Alzheimer’s.
Unlike some major talents, I write what I know. I’m totally blown away by people who pen fantasy or sci-fi. I just finished The Hunger Games, and it was great! The whole time, though, I kept wondering how the author did it. I mean to come up with the futuristic world, the Games in question, the brutality? In the same way, I’m in awe of those who write historical novels. Not only do these take a lot of painstaking research, the story has to be told in such a way to make it interesting to the modern reader.
I couldn’t write fantasy or historicals. Which is why I concentrate on modern women and relationships. I guess it’s what I know best.
I know what most authors say. “Sure I write what I know, but this is fiction and not based on my life.” The disclaimer is a necessity to prevent getting sued. And yes, my work is fiction, although many times I use real settings. There is no REAL Janna Abraham or Cadence Reed or Amberly Cooper. But I’m not going to lie or sugar coat the truth; I’ve used my own life experiences and my own acquaintances to populate my books.
Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any. ~Orson Scott Card
Orson Scott Card is right. Real life is heady; the story lines are endless. Good themes weather the test of time. Potential characters number in the millions, the plot situations may be out of the ordinary. Even the most mundane person or story line can be peeled back to reveal a treasure of the human condition.
Since I’m now actively mining my life for characters and story lines, this is a warning to those who I know both intimately or mildly. Don’t be surprised if you become a star in my fiction.
Anonymously, of course.