Friday, 18 June 2010

And Then it Hit Me...

In my first blog, I wrote about the catalyst—a beginning sentence and an ending sentence—so generously offered by a dear writer friend that jump-started one of my WIP’s. And I loved reading everyone’s comments as to where their own seeds of inspiration originated.

Okay. That was a spark that ignited the beginning of a novel. But today, I want to go a step further to hear what sort of kick in the old keester gets YOU out of…oh, no, I almost said the WORD that I hate…writer’s block. Cringe. There. I said it. To me, it is imagination constipation. Now that doesn’t sound quite as dignified as writer’s block, does it? Not pretty, eh? Well, it indeed is NOT pretty!

I’ll start off with my most recent light-bulb incident with a current WIP. I needed a scene. A setting to plunk my characters into. That’s all. How hard could that possibly be? Apparently VERY hard, because for several days, my poor hero and heroine were stuck in an awful freeze frame, waiting for me to put them somewhere, and I couldn’t do it. I could only apologize to them as I left them suspended in some sort of awful character purgatory—not really in my head, but not in written word, either.

I stopped thinking about it and walked away from the computer. Damn writing. I’m going to lie on the couch. I’m going to watch life go by out the patio window, and to hell with my characters. If they want out of their limbo, then let THEM figure out a setting. Hey, you guys, wake me when you decide where you want to be.

Well, here’s the beautiful part. I stared out the window, mesmerized by the sunlight on a tall magnolia tree which stands to the right of my patio. The waxy leaves literally glistened in the evening light. For some reason, my mind wandered to a vision of a tree-house. I don’t know why, but it did. Picturing myself hidden among the big, leafy branches of a tree brought a relaxed, kid-happy smile to me.

Then I spotted something curling up through the balcony railing. Ah. Smoke. The neighbor below me had stepped out onto his patio to smoke. I can’t tell you how or why, but suddenly, my scene visualized. Clear as a bell, as if I were standing in the midst of the setting with the characters. I got chills. Lovely chills. I had my scene.

How? What WAS the scene? From that lazy cerebral wandering, I imagined my heroine hiding up in a tree house, getting away from problems in her home. And…oh, this is the part I love. The hero was standing against the tree trunk, smoking, completely oblivious to her there above him. His smoke, like my neighbor’s, snaked up to her as she watched him through the shimmering green leaves of an old oak tree.

I’m telling you, inspiration such as that, which springs from a totally relaxed mind, a mind that isn’t even LOOKING for an idea, is priceless and beautiful beyond comprehension. I wish, oh I wish, I had more revelations like this. They are few and far between. But I can tell you that my best ideas DO come in such a fashion. When and where I least expect them. God, how I love that.

So. You. I’m not idly asking you where your ideas come from. I really, really want to know. When you have imagination constipation, where do your scenes and settings, that dialogue that evades you—the whole shooting match that suspends YOUR characters in literary purgatory—what incidents have happened to free your mind and set them free?

Friday, 11 June 2010

He Poured Sugar into His Coffee…

He poured sugar into his coffee. Those words send chills up and down my spine. They give me shivers. All the soft, sensual kisses on my neck couldn’t send me into exquisite paroxysms of pleasure like that sentence.

What? Am I a sugar junkie? Sweets lover? Well, yes. But that’s got nothing to do with WHY these beautiful words—as the old fifty’s song says—send me.

He poured sugar into his coffee is the opening line of one of my current WIP’s. No, this is not my ego talking. I’m not in love with my own written words. It’s the story behind the sentence which makes it so precious to me.

I told a friend, who is a writer, that I wanted to begin a story, but I had no clear vision of the character or the plot. All I DID know was that, in my head, the hero of the story was gay. Hardly a foundation for a story, not even a cornerstone. Nothing.

My friend challenged me. He pitched two lines to me—a first line for the book and another for the last.

He said to start the book with the sentence ‘He poured sugar into his coffee’. The last sentence? I’m not telling THAT until the end.

It may sound silly, but it worked. Who knew? I typed the sentence, watched it form in black and white on the screen, thinking the whole time how impossible it would be to launch a complete book from that little handful of simple words.

But the moment the words left my fingers, when I touched the keyboard, my character was plunked straight from my mind into a cheesy railcar diner with miles of shiny chrome, red-and-white checkered floors, the smell of bacon, eggs and coffee, and tinkling bells over the door. In that diner, he met his lover and the story began.

To this day, I wonder if my friend actually waved a magic wand— perhaps sprinkled magic dust—over those words to anoint them. Or am I just one of those whose imagination needs a good kick in the ass to get started? I don’t know. I don’t want to know. It’s all too beautiful, the way the imagination works, to bother analyzing it.

And I love this story that I started. I love the character. I know him intimately now. And he’s even more beautiful to me because I marvel that he was conceived by a simple suggestion of pouring sugar into coffee. You know the old query: which came first, the sugar or the man?

I think, too, that this particular hero will always be my favorite BECAUSE of his unique conception. I hope the future will bring many companions to him, other heroes and heroines who are dreamed up in such special ways.

I’m going to ask YOU the same old tired question: What inspires YOU? What beautiful seeds have been planted into YOUR imagination that sprouted into your beloved characters? I’d truly love to know.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Test Post Whoop!