The idea …
Often sparked by Sherylyn, occasionally by me.
It’s usually always an event, in association with a character. POTION, for example, came about as an idea Sherylyn had for one of our series characters*. The idea took a life of its own, and before we knew it, we were halfway through the adventures of Alun, Blade and Tegan.
SATISFACTION started as a dream I had one night. An adult tale, slightly risque. I took it to Sherylyn, and by the time she had added her ideas and we had a story we could both run with, it had turned into a children’s cartoon. We’ll write this one as a movie script.
The idea for this on-line novel BARRAIN is so far in the past neither or us can remember what triggered it.
Ideas are everywhere, but the idea has to take on a life before you can spend entire novel on it. On its own, it is nothing.
In writing courses you often get exercises to write about. Look at this picture and write a story around it. What type of car does this woman drive? Take this character and this situation and write a story around it. These are good in that they make you write, particularly if you have to hand something in, (who was it who said that nothing concentrates the mind so well as a deadline?), but they’re not enough to sustain a full novel.
The idea has to obsess you.
When we started this blog I looked around to see if we could use the title ‘A novel idea’. I came across a blog by John Ravenscroft. He had decided to write a novel. In Ideas in the Mist he planned out the characters and his story in what seemed to me a very clinical fashion. I have tried to do this myself and for me it just doesn’t work. I get three chapters into the story and it peters away. Neither of us have ever, yet, been able to run with a story without an idea and a character that grabs us. Good luck to to the man, I thought, because he’s doing it hard.
I kept reading his blog. A couple of months later, he talks about how his novel has slowed to a crawl. One of the reasons he gives is:
“The thing is … I’ve had an idea for another novel. An altogether different kind of novel. And … I’ve been spending great chunks of time that I should have been using to think about (my original novel), doing something else entirely. I’ve been thinking about, dreaming about, wondering about the characters and the situations that could form the basis of this new novel —and getting quite enthusiastic about it.”
John Ravenscroft – A Tortoise Amongst Hares
That’s the novel he needs to write. When you start obsessing about a story, thinking about it all the time, letting it intrude onto other things, then you’re part of the way to being able to live with a story for the length of time it takes to write a novel.
*Series characters. We have some series characters about whom we have any number of stories. The problem with these characters is that they have been around in our lives for so long that they’ve nowhere left to grow, and a story needs to grow and change