Sunday, March 29, 2009

Kernels That Go Pop!

All right, I'll admit it, parts of this post I have written on other blogs, articles or given in lectures, but the information is so important I think it bears repeating.

Where do you go to find your story ideas? For me they come from snippets from dreams, documentaries I watch, news stories. There is nothing out there that is sacred or off-limits as far as subject matter that might show up in a book. Granted, I'm not going to listen to a friend's confession of a sorted affair and then turn the details into a novel about love gone wrong - I do employ a high level of confidentuality in that arena. However, the same conversation overheard in a restuarant between two people I've never met- fair game!

Case in point. During a snack break at work one night, I was sitting alone enjoying a cup of soup and looking through a women's magazine. There was an article about a couple who went to celebrate their wedding anniversary. During the dinner, the husband decides to confess he'd fallen in love with another woman, to the point he'd asked the other woman to engage in an affair with him. To his shock, this woman was living with her lover...another woman. Yes, the object of his affection was indeed gay. (I can't help that point in the story I started to laugh. It served the asshole right. Really it did.) - However, I felt so sorry for the wife. The article goes on to say that she stood up from the table and told him that she was glad he got that off his chest, but now it was over. Their marriage. Good for her, says I. Imagine my shock, horror and shaking of head, when she lost weight and took him back. (His complaint was that he didn't find her sexy anymore - well, boo fucking hoo!) The part that continues to ring in my head is that SHE TOOK HIM BACK!!! - Oh, yeah. I really needed to rewrite this story with a less namby-pamby ending and a heroine with at least half a spine to her.

Enter the Cougar Club.

Wild Rose Press has a line in their Scarlet Rose catalog that has cougar themed stories. What a perfect fit for this rewriting of history? I decided my heroine would go through a similar experience, but instead of taking her husband back, she hooks up with a hunky man 7 years her junior who is in all respects a sex God. <---See how one idea gleaned from an article gets morphed into a story that can be placed with a publisher's established line?

And the fun doesn't end there.

Pick up any copy of Scientific American, Archeology Times or Fate Magazine and you'll find a plethora of ideas leaping off the page, waiting to be plucked, stewed and ready for reader consumption. And the wonderful part about using media for ideas is that you can tweak, twist, turn, torch, tickle or torque any idea to fit any genre your little heart desires. Any genre.

Take an article I read in a science journal (I beleive it might have been JAMA or one of the other medical journals hanging around the hospital where I work) that had to do with articial hearts and prostethics that have sensors that can sense heat, and the differences between carpet and concrete. Fascinating. That same article placed in different authors' hands can become a romantic suspense, thiller- either industrial, medical or other, change the parts from microprocessors to gears and you have steam punk, change them from chips to nanotechnology and put it on a space station and you have futuristic or sci-fi. One kernel...many possibilities.

As for dreams, they too can have impact on what we write. A few months ago, I woke from a dream heart pounding, eyes darting, looking for the car that was heading straight for me. Yes, folks, I dreamed I was about to be in a head-on collision. Yikes! The details of the dream were so vivid they wouldn't let me go for the rest of the day. In it, I (or at least me as main character because the person did not resemeble me in the least nor did they live anywhere I even recognzied) was at a party where she got into a fight with a couple of really big men about another man. Now, in the dream I didn't get a sense of who the man was that the fight was about, but that's not important now. So, my dream self left the party and was driving down a dark, windy country road at night (cue tension-inducing music)there was a car coming down the road in the other lane. Suddenly a van behind the first car, swerved out and started heading for my car. At the last minute I swerved the wheel and ended in the ditch.

Scary kids!!!

Later that night, I was in Romance Divas chat room and started chatting to the regular crew about the dream and how I thought it really needed to be exploited and turned into a romantic suspense. In a few hours, that one rather disjointed dream turned into not one, but three stories set in the same town featuring two families and a whole lotta trouble. I plan to turn it into a series to pitch to either Harlequin Intrigue or Silhouette Romantic Suspense. One kernel...three ideas.

I often joke that if I never got another fresh idea again as long as I live, I already have enough material to keep me busy for four liftetimes. As a matter of fact, I think I have too many ideas. (That's not a declaration of open-season on the ones I've shared here. They are mine. Mine. MINE!!!) It's just proof that ideas can be found anywhere, anytime and any place and they can be prolific in scope and genre. And sometimes, if you're really lucky, you can hear them go..POP.



Sierra Wolfe said...

Great post Kat! I used to wonder where all the ideas came from, but now I know, everywhere. When I first started writing, I was afraid that I would run out of ideas or my well would dry up. But, I've got so many ideas written down now, just waiting for me to get to them, I think I'm ok for a pretty good while. :D

Thanks for sharing with us.

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