A Muse on Creativity

So, I recently found a post in one of my many writer-directed advertisement emails about blogging. It gave some great blog topic ideas for those that struggle to come up with something to write. Although I sometimes don’t need help, sometimes I get stuck. I mean, what do you really want to read about me?

One of the ideas was what inspires you to write? Where do the stories come from?

Honestly? Other stories. Now, before all you English majors out there start screaming the hated word… Plagiarism… let me finish explaining. So, say I read a (as yet unread by me) story about a vampire hunter with a fear of the dark. Hmm, that was a really cool idea (and now I may have to think about it harder), the way the author made the character step up. What about a story with a lead character with … touch magic, but she has a fear of being touched because of some trauma in her past. What if this character only touched one person? What if this character’s trauma impacted some other area of her life? What would she do in a situation forcing her to use her powers or lose something precious?

Okay, now we have a lead character. (If you’re wondering, yes, this is actually a lead character in a story I’ve started, her name is Dakota). Who’s the person she touches? Well, I recently watched a TV show and was impressed at the unbreakable bond between the two lead characters, who were brothers (TV show: Supernatural). So what if my lead has a brother that she’d do anything for? Anything at all. (She does, his name is Ryan). Would this brother have the same bond as her? What simple events in their past might bring them together. For this, I draw on experiences with my own lovely sister. What did we do together that forged our bonds? What fights did we have growing up?

Sweet, now we have a supplementary character. We need a plot line. Characters for me tend to be easy. I build people in my head like a gamer builds avatars. I can’t help it. But now we have our leading lady and her protective brother, what happens to them to make a good story? This is where it gets fun. I write paranormal, fantasy stuff. If you didn’t, you might send them to a new school and let them blend in. I’ve read some great stories that have no magic in them. But it’s not what I write. So our lead has touch magic. So, maybe we send her to a school full of young magicians, very Harry Potter style. But her brother doesn’t have this touch magic, so let’s vary their gifts a little.

In and of itself, this could be the start of a coming of age story or a new girl in a new place story, but let’s go deeper than that. I want an epic battle of good verses evil. I recently read a story where the good guys and the bad guys were battling over objects of power. This is a cool idea. In that story, there were a variety of options and none of them were more important than another. But in mine, what if we made a defined amount, say six, objects of great power. We’ll take our battle of good-verses-evil and center it around the pursuit of these objects. And since our lead character is a touch magician, perfect match!

Great, now we have a general plot line. After that, getting into the details, that’s the hardest part. Coming up with fun characters and a good plot idea is simple (for me, at least). It’s the day to day slog that gets me lost. So what have I learned to do? Scenarios!! My new favorite tool, which I learned in my creative writing class. A scenario is like a summary of what you want to happen in a scene or chapter or part of a novel. I do a general outline to put everything down using bullet points. This part is jumbled and chaotic, trying to get everything there. If I’m feeling a whole scene, I write it. NEVER let a scene in your head get away from you, you might not get it back. Write it out as soon as you can. At least, that’s how I do it.

Then, if I’m really just stuck. I know this scene needs to introduce the male lead, the love interest, for our lead. And I know they’re in detention together. But that’s as far as my outlining process got. So in with the scenario. At this point, I don’t care what they say or where they’re standing, I just want an overview. I want them to meet in detention and discuss their magics. She’s shy, he’s funny. But he dances around a painful past. I write a paragraph, or more. If a line of speech comes to me, something one of them might say. I write it in there. The scenario doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but me.

And just write. Let it all brain dump right there on the paper. That’s what a scenario is for. After that, I can go back and write the scene from the main points of the scenario. Yay!

Then, it’s just a matter of perseverance. Nothing awesome happens in a week. It takes long hours and days of dumping scenarios onto the paper. Sometimes, I just start and see where it goes. But you can’t let the next great idea distract you from this one. I have more ideas than I’ll ever be able to put into novels. I have over a dozen started ideas in my inventory right now. But you can only work on a couple at a time, or else you loose the feel of the character and the flow of the story. So keep on slugging through. Don’t let a down day get in the way. Lengthen your scenario, write a new one, journal the past of your character or just describe her to yourself.

It works. At least it does for me.

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