My husband and I went driving through the hills of Palos Verdes last Sunday afternoon. He drives a too tiny for me sports car that he absolutely loves and that I find rather confining. It was a beautiful day outside. The California coastal skies were clear. The ocean waves were gentle and incredibly tempting. For October, it was surprising just how many people were still enjoying our ocean waters.
But the air was overly warm and all I really wanted to do that particular Sunday was to stay inside with a good book. I had just finished writing my latest book and was well into the editing process and I was pretty sick of the whole thing. I still had not come up with a title, although there were several roaming randomly throughout my brain.
As much as I knew that I had work to do, I had grown tired of correcting punctuation marks and hunting for run on sentences. And so, really and truly, the only thing I wanted to do was to read my copy of Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke – You Don’t Own Me. I had started it over a month ago and had just not found the time to get further into it. It had waited patiently for me on my desk for over a month.
So my husband convinced me that the best way to get my book fully edited was to take a ride, clear my head and find something else to think about. “You’ll be sharper after you spend some time away,” he said, not really caring about my head but more about having company on his ride past the beach and through the still green hills.
We started our journey off with me offering up potential titles for my book and him coming up with sillier versions to distract me. To my surprise, he also came up with a few good ones. I was just about to launch into a discussion of why I might actually like his last suggested title when a strange man in a most unusual white car drove into the lane next to us. Our car being a lower to the ground Pontiac Solstice, I found myself having to look upward at the driver. The man, apparently aware of my interest, pivoted his gaze down on me, tipped his hat, smiled and promptly drove off.
“What an interesting guy,” I said. “I love his fedora hat (it was a strange shade of blue), but what the heck is he driving?” I asked my husband, who is well versed in the automobile world and knows far more about cars than I could ever hope for.
“A Morris Minor. A 1950 something model, I think,” he said.
Hitting the gas, while hoping to avoid a P.V. cop or two, my husband took off after the beautifully polished white car. “It’s a British made car. Came out after the war. Think it’s named after the guy who designed it.” (See, I told you he knows a lot about cars!)
“That car is older than me!” I said. “And the guy driving it looked like he could be the original owner.” Okay, so maybe I exaggerated a little, but the gentleman did look really old and his style of dress did not speak of Southern California. I think he might even have been wearing tweed on a ninety degree day!
We followed the car and the interesting character chauffeuring it through the hills for a few more minutes before the man turned off on a side street and we lost him. But in that short time, the infamous Morris Minor driver was tattooed on my brain. My husband and I drove home and I raced to my computer to learn all I could about the car I’d just seen.
A few minutes later, my husband stuck his head in my office door and said, “You need to include that guy in one of your books. Stetson…”
“What about Stetson?” I asked.
“That’s what you should call him.”
And so I will. The man in the blue Fedora, wearing tweed and drive a 1950 something Morris Minor car. Hmm, can’t wait to start. And, of course, I’ll name him Stetson.
Other times, you keep pondering over an idea, knowing there’s something more pronounced underneath but not able to give it the bandwidth needed to figure it out.
If you are anything like me, my to-do list is fifteen miles long and has everything on it; laundry, take my son glasses shopping, help get another son ready for college, figure out what to cook for dinner. When all I really want to do is sit down and write and breathe and let all my thoughts come to the surface. Of course even in my writing list, there is so much there it’s hard to figure out what I should work on first and what things would make the biggest impact now.
So I’m trying to figure out what got me to that moment and then ideas of when they’d happened before popped up in my head.
And voila! Something clicks. It feels right. Confirmed inside your heart and soul.
As a writer, I want these moments more than they happen, but when they do occur I can at least now recognize it as something important and write it down and move forward with it.
Do you get these moments of clarity? Where are you when they come? And what do you do when you have one?
Happy Summer and post Independence Day. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday.
Let’s talk about unexpected stories.
I apologize if I’ve already told the story about my upcoming release, “UNEXPECTED LOVE.” My relationship with this story goes back several years. When I first decided to become an Indie Writer, I had quite a few stories dancing around in my mind. I had this idea for a series about a woman and the many men in her life. More like all the men she’d married.
When I set out to start writing the series, the task seemed a little daunting. I don’t know about anyone else, I easily get attached to my characters. But if I don’t feel a connection, it’s difficult for me to tell their story.
When I got the idea for this story, I imagined it as a five book series. I had all the husbands mapped out. However, when I started writing, it felt very forced. I was so overwhelmed trying to tell this woman’s story. I abandoned the series and thought I would tell it as a stand alone. Summarizing each of the husbands and focusing on the one she really loved.
I picked up the pages I’d started, made a few changes and set out to write. I liked where this story was going, but as I got more involved with the characters, the story started to change. It was no longer a story about a bitter divorcee, but a liberated divorcee who finds love in an unexpected source, her ex-husband’s ex-best friend, who just happens to be her divorce attorney. That’s either a mouthful or a blurb.
The more involved I got with Fiona’s story, the more I liked her. But I also felt sorry for her. She’s a sweetheart, searching for her voice. In a nutshell, she married her college crush who later deceived her. Once she made up her mind to divorce him, she found her voice. I love her transition, although it’s not without it’s ups and downs. One of which is the change in her relationship with her attorney and her self-esteem.
Last year when I set out to write twelve titles in a year, I had this title on the schedule as a short story. However, I didn’t think there was enough story for a book. So I resolved myself to make it a short story. I cleaned up the first chapter and started writing. But when I started writing, the story took a turn. It was no longer about Fiona and her husband, but Fiona and her attorney.
I continued writing thinking I could tell the story in novella length. As I got closer to what would be considered maximum novella length, the characters kept talking. No matter how hard I fought to end the story, they kept talking, so I kept writing. I really enjoyed the direction the story was going. Then I wrote myself into a hole. Crap! I didn’t see a way out, so I introduced another character thinking she would help me. Instead, she led me to a wall and the only way around the wall was another character. Hold on, it gets better. When I introduced this character, he brought his own storyline in addition to tearing down the wall.
So here I was with a full-length novel. But here’s the kicker. When I introduced Fiona’s brother [aka “the wall”], into the mix, the story took another turn and led me to a place I never would have imagined being, “Cliffhanger Boulevard.”
Yep, my five book series originally titled, “My Five Husbands” was changed to a stand alone novel. Then it got a title switch to “UNEXPECTED LOVE.” Then it became a short story, that grew into a novella that reverted back to a full-length stand alone, which is now book one in a new series. Talk about unexpected.
So what’s the lesson learned? Never throw out an idea. Instead, put it aside and when the time is right, revisit it. You might be surprised what story you can tell.
See you next month.
Here’s a cover peek.
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