This month, A Slice of Orange is proud to announce that Dianna Sinovic will be blogging regularly for us. Her column Quill and Moss is scheduled on the 30th of May, July, August, October, December, January and March. Please take a minute to welcome her.
One late afternoon after work this past week, I walked down the drive to decompress and unkink, and noticed the winged maple seeds scattered across the asphalt and sprinkled on the lawn.
Silver maple whirligigs, falling by the hundreds—thousands—each a seed that will get eaten (by the squirrels), squashed (by my car), or swept up and tossed in the trash (not the compost!). A few may find themselves on soil rich enough to sustain roots and decide to sprout.
I likened the whirling seeds to the many ideas writers sift through for their next writing project, whether a blog post or a short story or a chapter in a longer work. You might reject one after another idea—too silly, too serious, too [fill in the blank]—until you hit on the one that inspires you. Or that idea may need to lie dormant for a while, until the time is right to nurture it into a sapling.
Case in point: For several years, I sat on the first two paragraphs of a story idea. In my mind’s eye, I saw a middle-aged woman, an aging “hippie,” lighting a candle and trying to connect with the spirit of her dead husband. His name was Tommy. Her name was Weejah, pronounced like the Ouija board. That’s all I had for a long while. I would revisit it periodically, hoping the time was right, but I still stared at same two paragraphs.
Then, just like that whirligig, the seed of the idea finally began to sprout. On the next revisit, as I saw Weejah sitting in front of the candle, I knew then that she was asking Tommy about a new man in her life, one whom she was considering marrying. The conflict would be with her grown children, who were against the marriage. But then, like a seedling, the story stayed small and incomplete for a while longer.
At last I knew I was ready to write it as a paranormal story. It would be presented in scenes that were tied to a séance: Each time Weejah tried to reach Tommy, whether by herself, with her son and daughter, or with her fiancé, something would happen to make her believe he really was there—communicating across the Great Divide.
After several rewrites, it became Tommy, which made it into the Bethlehem Writers Group’s latest anthology, Untethered.
What seeds of ideas have you returned to again and again, waiting for them to finally put down roots?
I’ve been going to a lot of movies lately. Why? Well, my husband and I now subscribe to one of those movie packages where you pay a monthly fee, and can then attend several movies a week for no additional charge. Although we’re allowed to see three, we’re mostly seeing two, and occasionally just one.
As a writer, I find that fun. I try to analyze each plot, note which ones I like and which ones I don’t. Most of them aren’t documentaries, so even if they’re supposed to be based on a true story they’re generally at least somewhat fiction.
Sometimes we just pick a show that sounds vaguely interesting, but we always hope to jump onto one that sounds a whole lot more—fun, exciting, inspirational, whatever.
And sometimes I get new ideas for my own writing from them. I’ve begun a proposal for a new mystery series which might not go anywhere, but, yes, I was inspired by movies!
I suppose that the fact I live in the Hollywood area also gives me ideas involving films, both novels and, occasionally screenplays—that I never write myself, although I’ve taken classes.
I’m wondering if the theater chains and companies that offer these multiple movies are actually making money. I hope they’re doing well enough to keep it up.
Do you go to movies? Do they inspire you to read or write?
And Happy Holidays to all of you! I’ll have a post here in early 2019. (Wow, that sounds as if it shouldn’t be happening so soon!) And when I do, I’m hoping to have some writing news to convey.
As authors, one of the most often asked questions Janet and I hear is, “Where do you get your ideas?”
There are a myriad of answers. Inspiration is everywhere. We never know what may spark an idea for a scene, a section of dialog, a short story, or an entire novel. One of the many methods we employ, but don’t often tell when on stage or at a book signing is, “We eavesdrop.” Let me explain. The eavesdropping is not intentional. We may be out having dinner with friends and a conversation at a table next to us may be loud enough for us to hear.
Standing in the checkout line at a big box store or supermarket is another. Snippets of conversations may drift past us and cause us to think…”That would fit perfectly in my story.” In this age of cell phones and in our daily travels, it is sometimes impossible to avoid overhearing private conversations. Some may think this rude, but if people are going to speak so loudly, it’s fair game.
Janet was at a buffet and overheard the parent say, “Son. If you’re going to take all that food you have to eat everything on your plate. If you don’t eat it all, you’ll have to sit and look at it.”
Even while on vacation, our “writer brains” won’t turn off. Several years ago we were on a trip to China. We overheard one of our tour members ask another while at lunch, “Don’t you think these people would get tired of Chinese food all the time?” The comment was not meant to be insensitive, but it was funny. We love to hear stories from people we meet while traveling. and we’ve used many excerpts from things we’ve heard.
We have heard random bits of conversations people don’t think others can hear. Will was standing in the customer service line at a home improvement store when he overhead to guys complaining about the small size of his imported car’s trunk. The guy said something like, “You couldn’t even stuff a dead guy in there if you had to.” Will used part of that in his book THE FINAL CHECKPOINT. In this mystery a headless corpse was found in the trunk of an abandoned sports car. The head was dumped somewhere else because it wouldn’t fit.
Overhearing conversations is only one way of getting inspiration. People-watching at malls and airports are another way to get inspired. Everyone has something going on in their lives and as fiction writers, we can dream up plots from our imagination. In the course of hearing things the often warm our hearts, sometime they break our hearts and other times they are so funny that we have to bite our lip to keep from laughing out loud. Janet and I often look at each other, shake our heads and think, “You can’t make this stuff up.”
Me. Someone who can talk incessantly. Who never seems to max out my words each day.
Why is it when I don’t have time to write, ideas and words flow in my mind? When I’m driving, in the shower, at a kids event. It seems that I have no issue coming up with blog post ideas and story ideas to explore or messages to write. I’m just not in a position to actually write them.
[tweetshare tweet=”Why is it when I don’t have time to write, ideas and words flow in my mind?” username=”A_SliceofOrange”]
But today? Nothing. I even left my house to work specifically on my NaNo work and write my blog post and guess what? My brain is mush. I want to curl up and take a nap.
Actually I think it’s because I’m exhausted. My bandwidth is maxed. And there’s good reason.
My husband and I are coaching my younger son’s robotics team. We have our FIRST Lego League tournament this weekend and we’ve been pulling more than double shifts.
We have six 7th graders on our team. Our robotics table is a large table with Lego missions all over it and our robot is made out of Lego’s. We program it to accomplish as many missions as possible in 2 1/2 minutes. Pretty cool.
But wait, there’s more.
We have a five minute project presentation as well. Each year is a different theme and we have to find a real world problem within the theme and innovate a new solution. This years theme is Hydro Dynamics. Anything to do with human use of water.
As the kids did their initial research, they stumbled onto how much water is used to make shirts. The information we found out is fascinating. Textile mills all over the world use a process called Wet Processing to shape, color and finish clothing. Not only do they use A LOT of water, the runoff is full of chemicals, so the water is not reused and pollutes the environment.
There are a number of solutions out there but there are over 15,000 mills in China alone. So getting each and every one to change takes time and money. And honestly their isn’t enough incentive to change.
Some brands such as Nike, Adidas, Levi and Patagonia are doing something about it and we reached out to several of them. Eileen Fisher gave us the most detailed information. We talked with their R&D chemist and learned more than we could ever put into our presentation. But she gave us the idea we needed for our solution.
See most of us don’t know water is used to make shirts. So awareness is key. If you can change people’s buying habits, it just might be the catalyst for real change. If we ask our favorite brands if they track and measure their water use, they in turn will ask their suppliers.
So the kids created a website to build awareness and tell people what they can do to help. We tie-dyed our own shirts and learned first-hand how much water is needed to rinse off the dye. We made word searches and coloring pages, as well as a glossary page of all the terms they learned over the past ten weeks. They showed to it to their friends, teachers and families and asked them to take a survey. Out of 38 respondents, 61% didn’t know that water was used to make shirts and 68% said they would change how they shop. We took all this information and put it into a presentation. And the kids created a fun skit to go with it.
They decided to call themselves Fiber Friends (think justice league – Fiber Friends Unite). Water waster owns a textile plant and wastes water. Batman, Flash, Blue Lantern, Aquaman and Wonder Woman (we have one girl and 5 boys on the team), capture Water Waster and upgrade the plant to save water. They do a great job and have lots of fun at the same time.
What I love about it is it’s just another form of storytelling and I’ve been able to help guide them in creating it. They learn so much with this entire program – research, problem solving, presentation skills, working together as a team.
I’ll have to update you on how we do, but in the meantime if you want to take a look at their website, here’s the link: https://ffunite.wixsite.com/fiberfriendsunite
Hugs & Blessings,
Although new to the writing fiction world, Denise Colby has over 20+ years experience in marketing, creating different forms of content and copy for promotional materials. Taking the lessons learned from creating her own author brand Denise M. Colby, Denise enjoys sharing her combined knowledge with other authors.
If you are interested in a marketing evaluation and would like help in developing a strategy for your author brand you can find out more here http://denisemcolby.com/marketing-for-authors/
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.
Everything he’d believed to be true was a lie.More info →
It was never going to be easy.More info →
Hawk McBride and Randi Ronin could never have expected their chance encounter would be the beginning of the rest of their lives.More info →
Celebrate all year long through Romancing the PagesMore info →