Monday, April 19, 2010

A Lesson Was Learned By All

Song Playing: Take a Bow by Madonna

It appears that editing sends my creativity into overdrive, because I just had three new ideas for stories. Two of these ideas would need a lot of work to become a story, but they are there. The third idea is something closer to what the heart of a book would be in my mind.

It would also appear that most of my ideas come in two distinct forms. On one side of the camp there are the dream ideas. These ideas come from some portion of a dream I had, and are normally just a scene or two. Sometimes I am lucky enough to get some core conflict or characters out of the dream, but the image remains.

The pros of these types of ideas are these images are very intense and can also brew some awesome conflict. For example, my current WIP, my mermaid book, started from a dream. I dreamt about a girl standing on the shoreline of the ocean, silently crying as she watched a burning ship sail out to sea at sunset. I knew that this girl’s father had just drowned in a boating accident—a boat accident she survived—and her father wanted to have a Viking funeral, hence the burning ship.

That’s all there was to the idea. Girl at father’s funeral. But that image is still as fresh to me as the night I had the dream, and the death of her father has formed part of the core conflict in the book.

The con to these types of ideas is I have to work very hard to feel the characters. Since I first saw it as though I was watching a movie, the main characters remain as familiar and yet distant as movie characters do. I have to spend extra time developing the character until I feel like they are a living, breathing person.

The second camp of ideas I receive are usually speculations about “What if…”, and normally crop up while watching a movie or reading a book. Typically, I am frustrated with said movie or book. I feel like they are ignoring obvious internal conflicts, and I wish the story would address it more. Or the movie/book ends with events left unresolved, and I think about the aftermath of the movie/story events. My mind goes wandering, usually while the movie is still playing, “What would make someone get to that point? What if there was this other person, and they did such and such?”

The pros of these types of ideas are that I have the heart of the book, and can feel the character almost immediately. The internal conflict, and sometimes external conflict is right there in my question. For example, last night I was watching a mediocre movie (name withheld to protect the guilty) involving a love triangle. This Nice Guy was totally head over heels for this Girl, but she was already in love with her boyfriend, even though he’s a total Jerk, and broke her heart. The Nice Guy was there for the Girl, helped her mend her heart, but the minute the Jerk comes back into the picture she jumps back into his arms, and leaves Nice Guy in the dust.

Very frustrating to watch, because Nice Guy was obviously a better person for Girl (I know, my estrogen is showing :) ). They actually had a friendship, something she didn’t have with Jerk. So I sat there seething, wondering what would happen if Nice Guy had a Female Friend, and how she would feel about Nice Guy pining for a woman who barely gives him a second glance.

And then I thought, what if the Girl was very popular, the center of her clique’s universe, and everyone wanted to be her or date her? But (now named)Popular Girl was secretly miserable? (at this point, the idea congealed with a conversation I had with one of my massage clients. She’s a school teacher, and we had a discussion about how sometimes the kids turn out differently than people would think. So the cheerleader valedictorian with a scholarship to Yale goes down the path of drugs and petty criminal-druggie picks himself up and becomes successful) So from that line of thinking, I was thinking about the relationship dynamic between Popular Girl and Female Friend, with Nice Guy in between them.

I can’t stand love triangles as plot by themselves, and I would have to spice this thought up to make it not so very high school, but there’s something there, between Female Friend and Popular Girl.

The con to these types of ideas is it can be very hard to capture that essence of conflict within a plot. Especially with this idea I just had. I definitely don’t want to just do a boring love triangle. Those get angsty quick. It can be hard to figure out the exact events that would best show this sort of conflict, and the possibilities can be paralyzing. There’s a lot of vague wandering around conflict and ideas, and thinking “I could…no, no, that’s not quite it.” Like going shoe shopping, and looking for the ultimate pair of shoes: comfy, cute, and not too expansive (I am not sure such a pair actually exists).

I have other ideas that don’t fall into either of these camps, but they are far less prevalent.

You might be wondering at this point why I care, or sound so pleased with myself. This is a fair thought.

The neat thing is now that I have identified this about my ideas, I already know what to look out for. I already know I am going to have to work on the characters of all the ideas I dreamed/thought up a scene for. Most writers can tell you that scenes, no matter how cool, do not a novel make. There’s a lot of other stuff that goes with it too. Like, a plot and stuff.

I already know that all the ideas I had from wondering some form of What if?...will need extra love in the conflict department.

Overall, this makes my life easier, and will prevent future frustration. It might behoove you to keep track of how and where you get your ideas, not just the ideas themselves, and see if you have a pattern.

Or do you already see a pattern? Is there a certain way you get most of your ideas? What are the pros and cons of that way?

1 comment:

  1. Well for me dreams are a big factor and, like you said, there's a certain distancing between the characters and me because it plays out like a film. It's challenge to establish that connection you need.

    Other times a voice will just suddenly start talking. Before meeting other writers I would have never owned to this but apparently it's pretty common (?). The advantage of this is that you almost immediately get to know the MC because they are in you head only all of the time.

    The major and obvious con to this method is that one we all complain about. Once the voice starts yapping away there's very little one can do to stop it. Unless they're nice and actually let you sleep this leads to exhausted Mia.