Tuesday, September 27, 2005

One idea at a time

On September 19, Diane Perkins told us she was a "one idea at a time" writer who lives in fear of never having another idea.

Hallelujah, sister!

And here I thought I was the only one. I just stand in hopeless envy of people who have entire folders of ideas, when mine contain ... er, well, what do mine contain, besides cartoon moths that metaphorically fly out of them? I have folders, but are they actually helping me write the kind of novel my publisher is interested in? Let's have a look ...

(1) An article about game preserves in the U.S. where people can come and shoot exotic animals.
(2) A clipping from a magazine about people who steal fossils. Big ones. The kind you need a backhoe to carry.
(3) A newspaper column about a murder at my junior high school. (It was a tough school in the seventies. Clearly, things have not changed.)
(4) A picture of a dishy blue-jeans model cut from a men's clothing catalog. Definitely hero material. All he needs is a story! ::snort::
(5) An article entitled, "Women warriors from Amazon fought for Britain's Roman army." What was I thinking? I don't write
historicals--especially ones set in Roman Britain. That period doesn't sell. Though, with the Clive Owen version of King Arthur, that may change ...
(6) Ooh, here's one: "Bachelorette partygoers mistakenly peg Gainesville officer as male stripper." Hm. Guess I'll mail this one to my buddy who writes sexy contemporaries.

See? My idea file isn't helping at all. I write for Warner Faith. They want gritty, realistic stories that people from all walks of life can relate to. Now, maybe it was your brother-in-law who was the cop mistaken for a stripper, and you can relate to his dilemma. But it's not going to help me out, here.

Ideas are great. They're also everywhere--in every magazine or newspaper you pick up, on the Discovery Channel, on the Internet, thanks to the endless inventiveness of the human condition. But an idea that will carry a 350-page novel? One that you can craft characters and conflict from? Now, that's a different creature--a strange, exotic, and very shy creature that flits through the trees on the edges of your consciousness, peeks into your dreams, and flees at the first sign of a concentrated effort to pin it down.

Never mind King Arthur. The next idea is the real Holy Grail.

Shelley Bates


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