Even when you think you know what your book is about, it’s important to keep an open mind so when those stray ideas fly in from never-never land you’re smart enough to write them down.
Example. In an effort to
procrastinate research I decided to try to do something I had never done before – make a collage of about my main character. Okay, back up a step. The idea for the collage came because someone asked if I had a picture of my MC and I said no. And the reason they asked me if I had a picture was because I wasn’t even sure, back then, if I had the right name for him. I don’t normally know what my characters look like. (I’m one of those writers who hear voices.) But I decided to give it a try. I sorted through all the pictures I had saved from magazines, checked the online photo banks, and nothing. None of the faces jumped out at me and said, “Hey, here I am!”
So I stopped looking. And started watching television. And I caught sight of this kid and he sort of whispered to me so I slowed down and watched a little bit more and thought, hey, that might be my kid. But of course once the show was over I couldn’t remember his face. I went looking online (thank you, Google) and I found him in not just the show I saw him in but in a couple more. I ended up saving a ton of pictures to a folder to check out later. One thing leads to another. When I was looking at all those pictures I saw a house. It wasn’t “his” house but it got me to thinking about what kind of house he might live in so, you guessed it, I started looking for houses. I never found one, but I did find a yard and the yard reminded me of the rock that I thought this kid had in his pocket when the book first started. (I realized it would be weird to have a real rock matter in this book after writing about the other rock in Hugging the Rock, and no, for the record, I don’t believe I have any deep-seated issues with rocks.)
Along about then it was time to go work in my own yard and pull some weeds. Which I did. But then I got distracted by collecting seeds off my flowers and I thought about my MC while I was plucking seed pods and carrying them around in bottom of my shirt held up like a pocket and I wondered what my main character thought, if anything, about plants and flowers and things that grew in the ground. It was hot. My MC didn’t say much and it was too hot to work any more in the yard so I went back inside with a glass of ice chips, the fan on high, and I started to look a bit closer at all those pictures I had saved of this kid who might look like the one who is really telling this story. In one of those pictures his face was filthy and his eyes were filled with tears. And then ZAP, it hit me, the missing piece in my story braid. An entire subplot just burst onto the scene and I’m pretty sure it’s a keeper. The piece of the story the picture gave me had nothing to do with the movie the picture was from. It was the visual of that face that clicked the switch in my brain.
I still don’t have the collage (which I may or may not do) and I don’t even know if this particular kid really is my MC (and it doesn’t matter) but in the past few days I have captured, print out and cut up dozens of pictures, some of which might even belong in the book. I’m doing no-pressure plotting and a lot of playing.
What’s the moral of the story? There are a few of them actually.
1. Enjoy the process. Writing is supposed to be fun and when it IS fun the positive energy that the pleasure brings will feed your creativity and bring new ideas to your work.
2. Remember that each book will write itself differently and that each revision will unfold differently. It goes back to #1
3. Try something different. Sometimes I try something different because I am blocked and sometimes I try something different just because it sounds like fun. Yep, all goes back to #1.