Inspiration - Grab it when you can by Diane GastonMy friend Karen Anders (here with me at the 2001 RWA conference) is a fountain of story ideas. They come pouring out of her-good ideas, often complete with character names and settings-too many to possibly write. Me, I’m lucky if I have one idea at a time, and I always live in fear of my idea fountain running completely dry.
I'll never have those grand, full-blown ideas like Karen has, but what I've discovered is, all I need is a glimmer of an idea.
The Mysterious Miss M started with a glimmer of an idea. I was entering lots of contests for unpublished writers at the time and I had this notion that I needed a very strong and memorable first scene, because contests typically involve the first pages of a ms. I wanted something to make those editor or agent final judges sit up and take notice. So I hit on the idea of a sex scene in Chapter One. I asked myself, “What sort of Regency lady would have sex in Chapter One?” That’s how my idea grew.
Mostly for me the glimmer is a character. My Harlequin Historicals have all been connected so there is always a character in one book who becomes the hero or heroine of the next book. Then I ask, “Who would this character fall in love with? What is the worst thing that could happen to the character?” I build the story from there. For example, for Emily, the heroine of The Wagering Widow, the worst person for her to fall in love with was a gambler, and what if she married him? Cyprian Sloane of A Reputable Rake was a sort of bad guy in Wagering Widow. For his story, I thought, what if he wanted to become reputable? What sort of woman would ruin his chances?
Sometimes an idea comes from unexpected places. One day I found a book on the Barnes & Noble sales rack, Buried Alive: The Terrifying History Of Our Most Primal Fear by Jan Bondeson. I got it in my head that it would be a cool idea to have my hero buried alive. That was the genesis of my Diane Perkins book, The Marriage Bargain.
Sometimes an idea comes late, but when you find it, you know you have your story idea at last. The idea for my October 2008 book, Scandalizing the Ton, initially came from characters, Adrian Pomroy from Innocence and Impropriety and Lydia from The Vanishing Viscountess.
I built a whole story around them, proposed it to my editor who accepted it, but said, “Diane, do you realize you have ended three other books with an abduction?” Doh! I could not do that again. My friend Julie came upon the idea of making use of the scandal and newspapers and gossip, a minor element in my original story. I knew instantly that this was the key. I have been fascinated by the phenomenon of celebrity and the paparazzi. All I had to do was bring that into my Regency.
My point is, you don’t have to have a full-blown idea, just a glimmer of one that excites you. Then build upon it.
And you really only need one idea at a time.
Have you ever built a story on only a glimmer of an idea? Where do your glimmers come from?
Read an excerpt from Scandalizing the Ton on my website. Enter my contest. Scandalizing the Ton will be available in bookstores October 2008.