Friday, May 24, 2013

Where Does the Next Idea Come From? (subtitled) BE VIGILANT SO YOU DON'T MISS IT!

While I was writing for American Romance, I was scheduled to have surgery to remove a growth from my throat.   As all writers do, I made sure all deadlines were met.  As all wives and moms do, I prepared and froze a week of meals.  And I still had two weeks to wait for surgery.  Because the doctor wasn't sure if the growth was benign or not, or whether its' removal would affect my voice, my smile, or general movement of my lips, I tried to distract myself from focusing on it by preparing a proposal.

At the time, I had two ideas that were nagging me.  One involved the heroine being a nun (my sister, Lorraine, was a nun and had left the convent to live a 'civilian' life - I had lots of inside stuff!)  The other was just a flash in my mind.  I imagined a hero and heroine walking down a dark street when suddenly there are three men ranged across the sidewalk, presenting a real threat.  As the hero braces himself to take them on, the heroine pushes him aside and quickly dispatches all three with brilliant moves.  I imagined his open-mouthed shock.

I couldn't decide which book to write.  Then, in one of those moments that confound me, something in my brain said, "Why not put the ideas together?" I sat still and said aloud to myself, "An ex-nun who has a Black Belt in Karate?" just to be sure I knew what I was dealing with.  And that something in my brain said, "Sure.  Why not?" I replied to myself, "Because it's stupid, that's why not!"

The more I considered it, the more I thought I could make it work.  It's all in the supporting backstory and the motivation.  I created a heroine who was raised by a single father in the military who taught martial arts to Special Forces.  So, what did he do when he had private time with his little girl?  He taught her what he knew.  She entered the Convent because she'd been lonely so much of her life and the nuns she knew in school became her family.  So she joined the order, then realized several years later, that looking for friends was not the basis for a vocation.  So she left the order, determined to live her own life.

She took a job with a photographer who had lost his wife and daughter when they were picnicking on the lawn and a drunk driver lost control and killed both of them.   The hero hated God - so you can kind of see where I was going with it.  I finished the proposal the day before my surgery and mailed it off.  ( That was the old days, Guys.)  Anyway - the surgery was successful, the growth was benign, and the only evidence of the invasion of all those tiny nerves is a weird little dimple on the side of my chin.  Several days later, I was home again, still feeling the effects of the sedation, and sat up in the middle of the night and thought in horror,  "Did I really send out a proposal about an ex-nun with a Black Belt in Karate??" No.  It had to be the residual anesthetic.  I imagined editors passing it around the office and joking,  "We can call it Sister Samurai!" Someone else would say, "No, no.  Let's call it The Ninja Nun!" I wanted to die.

A week later my agent called and said my editor loved the idea and wanted to buy it.  You could have knocked me over with a noodle.

I guess the point is, don't dismiss an idea out of hand because you think it sounds outrageous or even just silly.  If you can prop it up with sufficient substance to make it's outrageousness believable, someone will relate to it.  Don't all our lives have outrageous elements?  That book is called, THE MIRACLE and has done pretty well for me.  And, I believe I'm right about this, there's no sex in it until the Epilogue, after they're married.

Last weekend, a neighbor took me with her to see a performance of a man who reenacted the life of Teddy Roosevelt. 'He's always been one of my favorite historical character, so I was excited.  While we were wandering around the lobby before the show, Teddy Roosevelt walked out into the lobby right in front of me.  I was so shocked, and because he looked so, so like him, I extended my hand and said, "Mr. President!" In character, he shook my hand and said, "Bully!" A photographer took a photo, showed it to me, and I thought, "Great.  Now everyone's going to think I'm old enough to have known Teddy Roosevelt!"

And in one of those moments I described earlier, my brain said, "You have a minor accident on the way home, get a concussion, and wake up with this photo in your hand of you and Teddy Roosevelt."

Okay, probably not a Heartwarming, but something, don't you think?  Do you get ideas in a more normal way, or are you a little dingy, too?  Please share.

5 comments:

  1. Muriel, What a great post. Your ideas definitely come in Knock-you-down phases. I love the premise of the Ninja Nun and think they should have called it that. When I get a reading device I'll have to get that book. And you and Teddy would make a wonderful Time Travel story. One of my favorites and I don't know who wrote it--the heroine went to have a tooth pulled and woke up in the middle of the San Francisco Fire. A cowboy saves her and the story goes on from there.
    Have a fun Memorial Day weekend everyone. Maybe a new idea will rise up and call to each of us.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ninja nun!! I love it :) that's the thing about great writers like you, Muriel, is your mind absorbs and connects ideas in such unique and exciting ways. It makes everyone so interested to see what your next book will be about. I know I'm going to love your heartwarming because of its personal connection to your life, the subject, and your gift at telling such moving stories.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's a great book, too! I have it on my shelves (though it's not in great shape.) I can't wait for your Heartwarming.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Okay, Roz, Karen, Liz - could you just travela round with me and keep up my spirits and my self-esteem?! I promise to do the same for you. As I keep saying, aren't we lucky to be in a business where such craziness is work? A happy holiday weekend to all of you - and prayers for our soldiers and families still fighting.

    ReplyDelete
  5. LOL, I would never prepare food weeks in advance. I'd buy lots of hot dogs and expect my husband and son to eat out a lot.

    You convinced me, I want to read Ninja Nun.

    ReplyDelete