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Friday, August 22, 2008

Question and Answer Day!!

TGIF. Doesn't that say it all? For me, today, yes.

Before we get to the question, let me congratulate Gillian Layne for winning Carla Fredd's Kimani Romance Release. Gillian, if you contact me via my website. http://www.maureenhardegree.com/, I can get the particulars for mailing you your book.


I'd also like to thank both Berta Platas and Carla Fredd for blogging with us this week and sharing their insights on Inspiration.


If any reader has a question they'd like to ask about writing, please feel free to post it. We'll do our best to answer. Remember if you post a response to one of our blogs this month, you'll be entered in the $20 Barnes & Noble gift certificate raffle. The more you post, the better your chances.


Our first question of the day: What was the spark of inspiration that led to the first novel you wrote?


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29 Comments:

At 10:02 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

My first novel started out as Star Trek Next Gen fanfic, with Data. It just kept going and going, and then I realized I could change the characters names and it would be my own thing. Plus, they had gotten pretty different.

 
At 10:22 AM, Blogger Margay said...

I have been writing, in one form or another, for as long as I can remember - even before I knew that what I was doing was called writing. I was born telling stories. so the spark that first got me writing was probably either reading or hearing a story and thinking I could do that, too. I'm fascinated by what sparks individual books, so that would be my question: How did you come up with the idea for your (current/past/favorite) book?

 
At 10:59 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Esri,
My husband reads Star Trek novels. Data is a really cool character, lots of conflict potential and opportunity for growth. I'm wondering how you went from robot? heroes to elves.

Margay,
Most often with historicals, I get sparks from reading nonfiction history or newspapers of the time period I'm interested in. One example of how my fuse works (its so convoluted it can't be just a spark) would be the historical that finaled in the GH in 2003. I had started with an idea prompted by a book of southern ghost stories. It mentioned a ghost that was always seen before a hurricane. I then researched storms that hit in the south during the 19th century which led me to some Red Cross Relief efforts. That research led me to the 1893 hurricane that caused much devastation in coastal South Carolina. I wanted my heroine to be passing for white, which would have been better for plotting and believability purposes if it was Louisiana. More research ensued.

I read histories of the time period, was intrigued by histories about the free people of color in Louisiana and the placage system and legislation passed during the late 1800's. I decided I wanted my heroine to be a nurse estranged from her family, who returns to help and who has been passing for white. While researching, I found a reference to a hurricane that occurred in coastal Louisiana shortly after the South Carolina hurricane. Perfect time frame and location.

 
At 12:02 PM, Blogger Margay said...

Okay, so what's the name of this book and when can I read it? It sounds amazing! You see how fascinating this is? I love behind the scenes stuff.

 
At 1:12 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Jude Devereaux's KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR inspired me to write my first two books which were medieval time travels. Nowadays it doesn't take much to give me an idea. A lost kid in the supermarket, a scary scene in a movie...etc. etc.

Mo, the ghost story sounds wonderful!

 
At 1:31 PM, Blogger Mo H said...

Margay,
Alas, Amid the Shadows was never published. I hope some day it will be. I loved writing it. Maybe I need to take it out of mothballs and polish it.

Theresa,
I loved Knight in Shining Armor, too! I wrote a time travel after reading it, too, but set in the early 19th century.

By the way, you haven't yet told us why you jumped out of a plane the other day. I want the full explanation! :)

 
At 1:37 PM, Blogger Margay said...

Yes, yes! You definitely should. It sounds fantastic. I would love to read it.

 
At 4:04 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Maureen: I wrote the android story and then heard about RWA and the paranormal romance. I'd just seen the first LOTR movies, so I decided to essentially put Legolas in a modern setting. But both those characters were remote, unattainable ideals, just waiting for the right women to light their fires. :D These days, my heroes are much more approachable.

 
At 4:05 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Maureen: So is there a ghost in Amid the Shadows?

 
At 5:23 PM, Blogger janegeorge said...

Ooh, most excellent question!

I dreamed a scene where a naive college student is in her ideal boyfriend's apartment and two dodgy guys exit down the fire escape. Only she makes eye contact with one of them and they're both frozen for a moment. After the guys exit, her boyfriend calls them, "Two bad men." But what's he doing with guys like that? I've written and completely re-written that novel nine times. It's my sampler quilt and How-To kit.

When I dream scenes I go in and out of one character, seeing through their eyes and then backing up to view the scene again.

Esri, how heady to be the woman who could flip Data's switch! I'm glad it got you hooked on writing romance.

 
At 6:20 PM, Blogger MaryF said...

When I was a kid, I wrote a story based on a crush I had on a movie star (I know - what's changed?) My first grown up book was from a dream about 2 divorced police officers who get kidnapped and their children rescue them. I kept the 2 divorced police officers and the kids - not the kidnapping.

 
At 6:32 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Jane: In the event of a water landing, he CAN be used as a flotation device. (hurhur)

 
At 7:11 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Mo, I jumped out of the plane because my daughter had been begging me to do that with her for two years but she had to wait until she turned 16...but then the people didn't even glance at the birth certificate I brought, so I guess I could have jumped out of a plane a long time ago. It was fun and thrilling and now I can cross it off my bucket list. :) I don't think I would do it again, but I never say never!

 
At 12:33 AM, Anonymous Debra Holland said...

I was dating a totally unsuitable young cowboy. He was cute and fun, but we had NOTHING in common. I started thinking that if we'd lived 100 years ago in the West, our relationship might actually work. That lead to my first story, Golden Heart winner, Wild Montana Sky.

That young man changed my life!

Debra

 
At 7:38 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Esri,
Nope there isn't a ghost in Amid the Shadows. I ended up without one, but I do have a ghost or two in another historical I wrote Widow's Kiss. And in my YA series, there are lots of ghosts--first book titled Haint Misbehavin'. It had a different name, but I felt this title works better for the story, the setting, and the humor.

 
At 7:40 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Jane,
So cool that characters come to you in dreams!

 
At 7:41 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Theresa,
I admire your courage! I could never jump out of a plane. What an awesome sweet sixteen present for your daughter, though.

 
At 7:42 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Mary,
Who was this movie star you based your first hero on?

 
At 7:46 AM, Blogger MaryF said...

Debra, I love that the cowboy changed your life! Does he know?

Mo, well, remember I was nine....it was Robby Benson ;)

 
At 7:49 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Deb,
I had no idea that's how you came up with Wild Montana Sky. How cool! You wrote a sequel to that historical as well, if I remember correctly. What's the sequel titled and where did the spark come for that story?

 
At 7:52 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Mary,
Robby Benson. Ah, yes! Ice Castles perhaps? I think he was the voice of the Beast in the Disney Beauty and the Beast, too.
My first celebrity crush was David Cassidy from the Partridge Family!

 
At 7:54 AM, Blogger MaryF said...

Mo, yep, he was the voice of the Beast. I think the movie I was so excited about was One on One, where he was a basketball player. I remember reading the novelization and whoops - my first introduction to intercourse on the page ;)

I liked Shaun Cassidy, btw.

 
At 9:16 AM, Blogger Santa said...

My first inspiration to write came when I wrote a scene for one of the first blogs out there and the 'keepers of the blog' told me I had talent and that I should write.

And I believed them.....I still do!

 
At 9:34 AM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Thank you for the win, Carla and WNP!

Most of my unfinished manuscripts and my one finished book came from dreams, or that sleepy time when you're not quite awake? It's the best inspiration time for me. I try to keep a notebook by the bed, if my girls don't "borrow" it away.

 
At 1:22 PM, Blogger janegeorge said...

I've got a question:

Have any of you writers done group plot brainstorming? What was your experience? The idea has been raised among my CP's and I'm just not sure...

Esri, does this mean Data is distantly related to the Inflatadate? Oh my.

Mo & Gillian, yeah dreams are fertile stuff. It's fun that the subconscious still demands entertainment!

Theresa, kudos for the parental bravery! I can't even watch when mine go on a roller coaster.

 
At 4:48 PM, Blogger MaryF said...

Jane, I've done the group plotting thing twice with my chapter on a weekend, and twice in an evening. It can definitely help spark ideas, but none of the experiences matched my ideas for the story.

 
At 8:36 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

Jane, I've hosted a couple of plotstorming parties, and they're tons of fun. You know how it is that romance writers talk romance writing when they get together? Well, what can be more fun than hashing through th plot points that
are not coming together for you?

There can be drawbacks. In particular, you are giving permission for other to make free with your ideas, and they are very likely to see your story as their story and want you to write it their way. But you're supposed to work through that, and if a story is deviating from your story, you have to say so. You have to be open to new ideas, yet at the same time recognize when other people's ideas are swamping your story.

Then you go home with your huge stack of stuff and feel totally overwhelmed. At this point, you feel like your story has been chewed by alligators. But you let it simmer in your mind, picking at the various ideas that have clung, and promise yourself to give everything some good thought. You look at it not just as presented to you, but where's the grain of an idea you didn't like, and how might it be re-worked to do what you need. Sometimes there are email exchanges about certain thoughts, and ideas keep on changing and developing.

Storyboards can also work well this way, but often we can spend all day on one story, and other people never get around to their chance. So you have to be clear with your rules.

The most important part is to come prepared. Your group needs to set out ahead of time the rules, and each person has to prepare their plot, characters, outline or whatever, according to the set up you've agreed on.

Usually we do a brief summary of the plot we have in mind, have character sketches, and of course have to say what stage of the story we're in. Then we have to propose our question or problem.

We usually have groups of four, and each person gets a set period of time to brain-storm the plot question. It's good to record things some way or other, and often it should be a person other than the author who records. Usually we do two one hour sessions in the morning, then two more after a potluck lunch. We've tried groups of six, and we're just too tired by the end of the day and somebody gets cut out.

In my house I can accommodate about five groups, or six if it's summer and we can go outdoors. Some groups rent a beach cottage and spend a weekend doing their work.

I've had a lot of good come out of these sessions. the basics of Aphrodite's Brew were worked out in one of these sessions. On the other hand I had a negative experience one time when a well published author told me she just plain didn't like my heroine, and she didn't want to go further with my story, thus cutting me off from any further help.

People do have to be fair, and give everyone their chance, not just take what they can get. Everyone must commit to the entire process. No fair leaving right after your turn, and not helping others.

 
At 11:26 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Jane, I prefer brainstorming to critiquing! Give each person a set amount of time and everybody throws ideas out and everybody must listen to what the author is saying though...and NOT try to change the story. Because we all want a story to be OUR way! But if everyone just listens and throws out ideas for scenes, etc., it's wonderful! My favorite thing to do.

Deb, I LOVE what inspired you to write your book. Wonderful story!

 
At 1:34 PM, Blogger janegeorge said...

Wow, ladies. Thanks!
I feel I can now approach group brainstorming with something like a clue. I knew there should be ground rules but didn't know where to start.I've printed out your responses so I can refer to them.

 

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