Please welcome our monthly poster, Karen Frisch, author of What’s in a Name back to Let’s Talk Romance.
THE BIRTH OF IDEAS
By Karen Frisch
Desperately seeking ideas? Take heart, you’re not alone. Sooner or later, every writer fights that battle. The harder we struggle to find plots, characters, or other story essentials, the more elusive they become. Ideas can come from anywhere, though not necessarily in time to help when we need them. What works for one writer doesn’t always work for another.
Many of us start with some coffee, carve out a little time to brainstorm, and hope for the best, when often a jumpstart is easier and more effective. Here are five ways to stir a sluggish or inactive imagination, with ideas to move you forward.
1) Visit places you’ve never been. I’m not suggesting you hop on a plane to Paris. Traveling to a local herb farm with an outdoor café, driving to a town three hours away, or browsing in a bookstore all have one thing in common. They inspire us because they show us something we haven’t seen before. New places can prompt us to imagine what might take place there. They reveal landscape, architecture, or customs that might be unfamiliar to us, and yet they’re close enough to return to if you decide to use them in a story. Example: Sitting at the herb farm’s outdoor café having a cup of tea, you notice a woman enter a nearby greenhouse. Your mind wanders until fifteen minutes later her husband is frantically searching for her. Although you never saw her come out, there’s no sign of her inside. Did you notice anything special about her? Could her disappearance have been deliberate?
2) Delve into the Internet. Investigate subjects you’ve always been curious about, research baby names, or call up plot ideas on a writing website. Explore to your heart’s content since searches by their very nature stir the imagination. Whether aimless or intentional, online searches usually lead from one thing to another, turning up all kinds of topics writers never considered putting into a book—until now. Example: A husband and wife traveling from Oregon to Wyoming spend two nights on the road, checking in by cell phone with the wife’s sister in Wyoming before they disappear somewhere in Idaho. How long does the worried sister wait before contacting police?
3) Play the “What if” game. Mystery authors see life through the eyes of their detective while romance writers see relationships and situations, yet they all start with what if. Need to see it in black and white? Make a list of “types” of men and women. For men, consider traditional types: athletic, medical, businesslike, saving-the-planet types, or down-on-the-farm types. For women, think of various archetypes: professional woman, always a bridesmaid, urban schoolteacher, craftswoman, or nurse. Next, give someone a situation. Example: The high-stakes deal maker from Los Angeles is forced to relocate to rural Vermont for an extended period when his younger sister faces long-term hospitalization and needs someone to care for her small farm filled with rescued animals.
4) Consider a difficult situation you or a friend has endured, and look at how he or she worked through it. Real life is a great teacher when it comes to creating convincing scenes that contain depth. When you create realistic problems for your characters, however, the problem of getting them out of the situation becomes your problem. Why struggle when you can meet a friend or writing partner for coffee and inspiration? Someone else’s problem is always easier to fix than your own, and the handling of it is often inspiring. Example: Suzanne’s husband announces he has tired of their marriage just as she discovers she’s pregnant. Does she tell him?
5) Look to news headlines for intriguing scenarios. Watch for unsolved mysteries in the news. Whether local or national, there’s always a story that hits a nerve with each of us. Pick a fictional first name for your female character, put her into a situation, and explore how she might handle it. Example: Gina walks up her porch steps after dark and sees the front door open and a light coming from a back room. What does she do next?
To give yourself an incentive, re-read something you’ve written that you were especially pleased with, published or not. It will boost your confidence and make writing’s rough road a little easier.
(Karen Frisch is the author of three published novels: the historical romance What’s in a Name from Avalon, the Regency Lady Delphinia’s Deception from ImaJinn Books, and the Victorian mystery Murder Most Civil from Mainly Murder Press. All are available on Amazon, as are her two genealogy books, Unlocking the Secrets in Old Photographs and Creating Junior Genealogists.)