Friday, 14 April 2006

The birth of an idea

Many writers have likened writing a book to giving birth. My fellow M&B author, Trish Wylie, said that writing one of her books was like giving birth to a pineapple. Ouch!

My second book (still no title), while I’m not sure has been a pineapple, has been hard work. The dreaded “second book syndrome” hitting, probably. Certainly, in the end stages, I was reminded of how I felt when giving birth, and it led me to musing over the analogy further.

I see the ideas stage as the gestation period. That stage when you’re all full of hope and excitement and isn’t-it-going-to-be-wonderful, forgetting that there is some hard graft (and pain and tears) ahead. Thankfully, the ideas stage doesn’t need to take nine months for me.

I may have a handful of story embryos floating around my head, but that doesn’t mean all of them will actually make it to the fully-fledged story stage. For example, I’m whittling down the shortlist for my next story at the moment. There are three contenders:

1. A story idea I got while watching a documentary more than a year ago about people getting trapped in their cars on the motorway during a snow storm.
2. A spin-off story from my first book featuring the pink-haired best friend, Cassie.
3. Something I thought of last week while at Kew Gardens.

What generally happens is that I have other ideas floating around my head (or scribbled in the margin of my notebook) and these will lock in to the main ideas. Maybe this is the moment of conception – when the idea starts to become something more solid with a real possibility of a future.

For example, I may have an idea I want to write a very independent, feisty heroine, or I may want to do a reunion story where the couple have a shared history. Idea number one is a story line that will work with a couple getting back together. Fancy being trapped in a snow-bound car with your soon-to-be ex-husband. Think of all the conflict! Yum.

So really, I think my ideas are more like snowballs than babies as they grow. They start off with a little “what if” and pick up other little snippets of ideas as they roll down the hill and gather momentum.

My first book, Blind-Date marriage, came together in exactly the same way. I had an idea that I wanted to write a very imaginative, creative hero, who was denying that side of his personality. I also had an idea for a slightly off-beat heroine, who had an unconventional life and yearned for the kind of family she sees on TV commercials. These two people were such opposites, it seemed fitting to make them fall in love with each other and watch them struggle with how to be together.

So all this was floating around in my head when, one day, I was driving in the rain, and I went through what looked like a shallow puddle, but as the car wheel hit it, it sprayed water up in the air and soaked someone walking along the pavement. I felt awful! But that anonymous person had suffered for the sake of my art (Fiona, get over yourself!). What a great way for a hero and heroine to meet. Where would they be going? How would this affect their evening? It was at this point I knew the story had legs and I should write it.

As for the next part of the process, I’ll blog about that another time…


Sharon J said...

Do you think it would help if you didn't think of the book as something that will be published? Or is that impossible because of the pressure of deadlines?

Fiona Harper said...

I both love and hate the ideas stage. Part of me loves it, because there's a chance ot let my imagination got wild, but the other half of me hates the fact I don't know where I'm going yet. Too many choices. Too many possibiliities.

Sharon J said...

Yes, I recognise the too many choices thing. I have a file of story ideas that, at last count, had 63 different stories in it. And I've added a few since then. At least I can honestly say that I'll never run out of ideas.

I absolutely love the idea of your h&H meeting through the wheel spray but that poor person who had to suffer... sorry, but you can't help giggling can you?

Fiona Lowe said...

I've spent the last week observing life, snipping out articles and hoping all will combine for one hell of a great idea for a next book.

Good luck with your ideas.