I was talking to a woman who is beginning her first book. She’s thought about writing for years, but never had a good enough springboard to set her on her way. She recently had an inspiration and is ready to sit down and write.
“Do you get your ideas in a flash?” she asked.
I knew what she meant. Sometimes a story comes, like hers, in a sudden burst, as if her muse waved a magic wand and handed her, ready-made, the plot, conflict, motive, character arc, and every other building block she needs to construct a story.
I admitted while an idea might come to me in that way, it was usually a little muddied and out of focus. It is up to me to define it, refine, and shape it.
I do have a good idea of my characters, who they are, their strengths and weaknesses, their backstory. I don’t write it all down in a chart or look for pictures that match my imagination and post them on Pinterest. They are alive in my mind and that’s enough.
So I have a plot and my characters. I start writing. I’m writing while at my computer, and also writing while I’m washing dishes, vacuuming, raking leaves or brushing the cats. Hmm, I think, what if I had him do this? What if she does that? Suppose I have this happen, how would they react?
When I work it out in my head, I sit down and write the scene.
Lately, my main character is acting up a little. I had him figured out, but now he is saying things I never meant him to say. He’s showing me he isn’t who I thought he was, and I’m a little put out. But I’ll work with it, see where he’s leading me.
So I told her no, I don’t get the story in a flash. I know how it starts and how it ends, but the in-between comes in drizzles, dibs and dabs.
But that’s what makes it fun. If I knew how everything was supposed to happen when I started, it would be work.
I’m happy she has her story fully fleshed in her mind. But some sneaky part of me wonders if, when she starts writing, she’ll find her characters have opinions of their own.