Typically I have no problems coming up with story ideas. And typically the question ‘what if’ sends me gleefully off to the writing space.
With book three waiting only on cover art, two manuscripts that need heavy revising, a stand-alone story just starting the first draft process, and a current editing job, I am busy with words. Yet I need to start book four and this time I only have a glimmer of an idea, which is a first for me. Another first is that I’ve tried out some ideas, floating them to my editor and friend, author Susan Schreyer, who has very kindly given me feedback. Most aren’t going to work. I’m not surprised because even as I was telling her my ideas I felt no bubble of excitement. You know, that urge to rush gleefully to your writing space. Instead I shuffle around and look for dirty laundry, dirty dishes, or as an extreme last resort, dust bunnies.
You know how it is when you try too hard to pin an idea down, and it squirts out from under the pin and jets away? That’s how this current idea is acting. And instead of the ‘what if’ question that has always, in the past, spurred me on, I’m finding the following word taking up a lot of space in the writing brain.
I’m trying to figure out why someone would deface or vandalize a memorial to a group of miners who died in a mine fire. I’m looking for a deeply personal reason that will tie past to present, and goes beyond the simple act of protesting what either the memorial stands for or the mining business.
If I can figure out who would do that act, I’ll have my reason. But then I pause and think, well, if I have the reason then I’ll have the character. I’m currently stuck in the loop – if I find out this then I’ll have that, but I need that to find out this.
Probably what needs to happen is that I stop talking, stop worrying, work on the other writing projects, and let this idea ‘daydream’ its way through my subconscious. A walk in the woods, where I can just let thoughts go and let that inner writer wander as well, will also help.
In the meantime though, I’m wondering, why?
The following photo, from wikicommons, is of the Sunshine Memorial, near Kellogg, Idaho. The miner is surrounded by ninety-one miniature headstones, each with the name of a miner who died in the mining disaster of 1972. I was down in the Sunshine mine just a few years after this fire and have a healthy respect for anyone who can do that job.