It should be no surprise that writers spend a lot of time in our heads. After all, that’s where ideas are born and stories take shape. And when we write something as long as a novel, well, that adds up to a lot of thinking, imagining, creating, brainstorming…. You get the idea. So how do we get those stories from our heads to the written page?
For me, coaxing the full story out of the characters is a long, complicated process. Sometimes they’re helpful—too helpful when competing voices bombard me with ideas. Other times, they wander off with my Muse to enjoy tropical drinks and beaches. At those times, I’m on my own.
Like other writers, I spend a lot of time in my head. And as a true introvert, I probably spend more time there than many others. So maybe it’s no surprise that one of my techniques to draw out those ideas takes place there. What do I do? I imagine that I’m speaking in front of a workshop group about the areas that are giving me trouble (or even “real life” problems). Yes, in my head I’m giving a presentation—something that is way beyond my comfort zone in real life. That happened two weeks ago with Summer at the Crossroads.
(Let’s skip over the fact that I should have been thinking about Death Out of Time. Sometimes we have to go with the characters who, unlike children, might storm off if we ignore them too long.)
My imaginary workshop took place during a morning workout and was an interactive one on rebuilding a novel. (Hey, timely, right?) And, as in real life, when participants can ask questions, sometimes we go down side streets that at first feel like detours. But unexpected insights often appear on those detours. And I found myself summing up a detour about Kat Donnelly’s new story line in one succinct sentence.
My workout was interrupted as key elements for the new story line flooded my mind. I had to run upstairs and write down those ideas before the torrent rushed away, leaving only the devastating half-memory of “the right” story. Ideas for a new character and Kat’s interactions with him/her. That character forcing Kat to keep going despite her exhaustion and the life-altering events of the day. Ideas for Kat’s flaws and struggles as her normal self-confidence faces first an unimaginable turn of events and then the potential fallout.
Now I have a clear image of the new story. And when the time comes, I’ll be prepared to write the new scenes. If I get stuck, I have a one-sentence reminder of what Kat is aiming for in this version. All because I held a writing workshop in my head.
And now I’m calling on Madeleine and her cohorts to help with another workshop for Death Out of Time. Because it’s time we nail down exactly what some characters are after and why our unassuming archaeologist (or is it her brother with the big government contracting firm?) is so interesting to them….
Does anyone else do anything like this to bring your ideas to life? Writers? Non-writers? Or are you slowing stepping away from this blog and heading for the nearest exit?