I was lounging in my family room one side of my body too warm from the fireplace, one side too cold because it seems that not wearing socks can make my entire being freezing.
Trying to enjoy the last couple minutes of my daughter’s nap, I was sitting in as much silence as is possible in my house; my dogs are either snoring or making a ruckus trying to play. I had already done the customary bet to myself on when my little bundle of curious, messy energy would wake up. I was in a somewhat peaceful parental state, somewhere between asleep and chicken with head cut off. Peaceful, yet Alert.
As I let the day’s to-do list wait, a woman popped into my head. She was completely unknown to me. She was created by a combination of mood, lack of sleep, the need to entertain myself so I don’t fall asleep, and leftover Facebook stuff in my head.
She is dazzling.
She is has that new character smell.
She is completely unattached to any world.
She might make a great protagonist.
The idea of her as a character was like a spark. Soon my mind started to create a world around her. Wouldn’t that be cool? Oh, I bet she would do this! Could she be this? She was a snowball. Once formed, she raced downhill picking up a personality, history, name, and even a dog named Louis.
After a few minutes, I had to make a choice: Write her down or caulk her up to Facebook gossip. Most writers I know get tons of ideas. Some ideas are bright and beautiful while others are flat and smell funny. With time being as precious as calories, I can’t write down everything that pops into my head; however, today, I decided she was too interesting to let go of. I wanted to know more. Of course, this is only the spark for the idea, next comes the hard part.
Every writer has their own way to deal with emerging ideas. I like to stew in them. First, I write a brief bio solely for the sake of not forgetting the nugget of original information. Then I leave the bio on my computer and just ponder, think, and even play What if. I don’t write anything else down, yet. I just go over scene after scene in my head. For my character, I put her in different situations, in different hats, in different environments, each more ridiculous than the previous.
After a few hours, hopefully, I have figured a few details out. Is the character strong enough to carry her own story? If so, what specifics have I come up with having to do with her story? Why do I feel compelled to tell her story?
If the idea has managed to stay in my head until after my daughter goes to bed, I know I have something, or someone, worth keeping. Even if the idea is not strong enough to be its own story, it could be great fodder to expand another story. I break out my Bits-and-Pieces folder and add the bio along with any expanded information I have decided on.
In the end, many sparks will die in my Bits-and-Pieces folder. I often rummage through it when I need inspiration. If a character hangs in my mind long enough, I know it is time to start brainstorming a new project, but with projects in works, and a baby keeping me working, new projects are rare.
What does your idea process look like? How do you determine which ideas are keepers?
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