Random Ideas Make Great Fodder
Stephen King says it’s a writer’s job to find the connections between random ideas. I love that description.
This past weekend, my son played in the dirt. More specifically, he did his usual atypical imaginary play and created “compost” out of dried leaves, bits of twigs, and husks from the long seed pods of a neighbouring tree. He mixes all these together into the jumble that is the fodder for his wondrous imagination.
Similarly, the multiple ideas I have percolate in my head, a mishmash of disconnected items until some of them gel into a story, a plot, or a characteristic.
Monday, for example, on a walk through the park, I overhead older teens cuddled up a park bench. Now, you might be thinking “romantic couple.” Knowing my preferences, I’d write them as a couple who battles monsters, or jumps into dimensional portals, or some such.
I overhead the girl say, “An enema! That’s what it’s called – an enema!”
Yup. I stored that little detail in my head for an unusual story twist. Forget typical boy meets girl dialogue!
But not every idea I have becomes a fully fleshed out story. I mean, do I really want to write a story about an enema? Uh.. no. I get enough of that in my day job. (And what the heck were these two talking about, anyway?)
Some time ago, I was on the subway and another passenger had a cane with a carved handle shaped like a rabbit’s head with the ears laid flat, forming a handle. The man using the cane didn’t have any unique features, nor was his wardrobe of not. His cane, however, came home with me – in my mind of course. I wouldn’t steal from someone!
The rabbit-handled cane became a prop for Mouse in The Queen’s Viper.
I record details without an immediate intention to use them, whether it is a topical controversy, or an inconsequential detail of my day. Of course, if there is something that applies to a work in progress, then I plug it in right away.
Well-meaning graffiti inspired my poem, A Year of Loving at Midnight (see below). I was at university and one of the student groups was hosting a New Year’s Eve bash. They had scribbled the advertisement in chalk on the sidewalk, including the phrase, “A year of loving at midnight.”
Hoarding tangential gems for later recall is an essential component of the layers within stories.
If I have a character thrown into a jail, I might call upon the smell of the stone cells of Kilmainham Gaol Museum, a jail built in 1796 in Dublin. The conditions for prisoners were squalid, but for many of the Irish poor, the jail offered more shelter than the streets.
The site is rich in history and emotions, all of which I can learn through the internet. However, the smell of that damp, cold stone isn’t something I can download. It stuck with me, waiting to deepen the richness of a scene.
As much as I love travelling, a writer doesn’t have to travel to find worthwhile inspiration. I put together a short document to help other authors: 10 Ways to Find Inspiration for Fiction From Home. The file is free – just click on the title. I hope you find the advice and experience I compiled from professional authors helpful.
A Year of Loving at Midnight
It’s a long way down, the fall from this height.
The safety net is gone and your pretense abandoned.
Now the real fears emerge.
Inchoate hopes challenged by the apostasy of the same
Fate that brought you together.
Self-doubt pecking at the joy in the refulgent smiles
Captured in every picture of your embrace.
Hold on to the tender moments.
Wave a red flag at destiny’s charge.
Dare to possess that bliss of which you dreamed.
Parade in the unknown.
©2002 Lesley Donaldson
My apologies for being a day late! I had another post scheduled but I bumped it at the last minute. I’m renovating my blog, and between that and an unexpected event at home yesterday, I didn’t polish this post on time.
I have cool news to make up for it. I’m partnering with Romarin Demetri, author of The Supernatural Underground Series, for her “Pub and Restaurant Blog Tour.” On April 25th, my blog becomes a pub on Roman Road in London. Currently, I’ve named my pub The Bath and Barrel, but that may change. Bit of a stodgy name.
Romarin is offering a giveaway, including a $20 Barnes and Noble gift card, with the launch of her latest paranormal romance, Wanions of the Wicked. For details, check out her Facebook Event page or her website. The party starts on Friday, April 21st.