Me and my cell phone camera took a walk today and happened by the Redmond Town Center Borders in Redmond, Washington.
Someone asks in a recent blog post:
If you write, where do your ideas come from? Do you start with a scene? A character? A premise? Or do you have some ridiculous trigger that demands you spin a story out of it?
That is a good question. A novel thrusts itself into my poor overloaded mind based on two things: a character, and a theme.
This is the heart of my creative process. I need both a main character with a distinctive voice, and I need a unifying idea. When the two meet, it’s magic. My brain will refuse to let go of the two, and, at some point, they merge and I will have the resulting plot and setting. I am now compelled to write the story.
But where do these characters and themes come from?
Mainly, I observe. I am not a shy man, but I am a quiet fixture. Why does that smartly dressed woman at the airport waiting for the same flight as me have a perpetual frown? Why are the neighbors across the street so reclusive? Is the wife sick? If so, will she ever get better? The Sheriff Deputy in the coffee shop–if she were in trouble, big trouble, would she have the will and fortitude, beyond her training, to survive? If she did have this internal strength, but was in the wrong place at the wrong time, would anybody come to help?
Observation can give me characters, and it can give me themes.
For example, why does our society have a culture of blame-the-victim, bordering on the tolerance for the criminal? Where did this corruption come from, and where will it lead? Why do some cultures today feed off each other, becoming stronger, while others clash, causing conflict? Is a society that devalues the lives of children for the sake of control and equality doomed to failure? If so, how will it fail?
Sometimes, I will be thinking these questions and suddenly they will merge into a story. Like this proto-outline:
The Sheriff Deputy in the coffee shop is in trouble. She is a strong person but in the wrong place at the wrong time. She is a righteous woman, but righteousness is not going to save her now (this is the character, maybe the main character, or an important minor one).
Career criminals, released by our society to prey upon the weak once more without mercy, decided they were going to kill a copy one day. Our society tolerates evil men such as this. It has happened before (in the real world), and it will happen again (sadly, this is also a reality). Where did this corruption come from, and where will it lead? (this is a theme).
The righteous and the evil go at it in the coffee shop parking lot. Outgunned and outmaneuvered, the death of the female deputy is a forgone conclusion. How would she get out of this?
She gets help. A woman caught in the crossfire draws her sidearm and joins the gun battle (this is the glimmering of a plot and also a very strong character).
Why did this woman have gun? Well, she has the typical ex-husband who has threatened to kill her. She decided she wasn’t going to use a paper shield and actually defend herself (this is related to the theme, but also further characterization).
Only, she isn’t defending herself. She is defending someone sworn to defend her! She is shot. Several times. Nevertheless, everyone lives, except the evil men.
And this heroic action caused the next American Civil War (this is now the plot).
That’s my writing process. For me, only when I have a firm character, or characters, and a unified idea to generate conflict as a theme, can I get a plot that works for me. At this point, I have a novel. All that is left is my outlining process (which I do in my head) and typing.
You may think a gun battle in a coffee shop parking lot and the next American Civil War is a gigantic, random leap–but it’s not. The theme, as you recall, is “Where did this corruption (tolerance for evil) come from, and where will it lead?” With these characters and this theme, the plot burst out of me like the alien from the chest of poor Kane on the Nostromo.
This is my creative process, how I obtain ideas and turn them into novels. And it works very well for me.
My little blog is one year old today.
I’ve learned a lot, picked up a blog harem, made a few mistakes, but persistence pays off. Every now and then, someone will query on “Anthony Pacheco Hack Writer”, and that will take him or her to… (wait for it)… ME!
If it is one thing I am appreciative of, is the friends I have made that have stuck to this online gig. I’ve had blogs I’ve followed where the authors stopped blogging.
And I felt loss. I never met them, but I missed them. And still do.
Please, don’t go.
Because I will cry.
So many fellow blogger people to thank and appreciate, I’ll just babble:
J.C. Heart: Her daughter is the Cutest. Baby. Ever. I love to just check in and read her blog. And if J.C. can squirt out a baby and keep writing, we all have no excuses to stop.
Alex Moore: We all knew of her writing talents and she was eventually outed as a beautiful woman. I only wish she posted more! And she occasionally sends me gun porn. How cool is that? I will tell you how cool. It’s WAY COOL.
B J Keltz: One of the most generous souls out there.
Courtney Summers: man I love Courtney’s writing, and she’s such a nice person.
Gary Corby: Gary is a classic literary pusher. The blog posts are always free. If you want the book, well, you have to wait. I have a severe case of Book Lust going here, which almost dives into “stalker” territory.
Larry Correia: A writer who dives into the political rant, Larry so gets his audience. Larry is spooky that way. Larry is going places.
Mornara’s Weblog: Joe, or whatever she is calling herself this month (heeee) has a nifty little blog going that got niftier now that she updates it frequently.
To all these people and the ones I didn’t list (because you stopped posting or I ran out of time or you’re an agent who doesn’t need to be poked at or whatever), thank you very much.
And, lastly, my most heartfelt thanks go to The Wife Unit, the ever beautiful Southern Lady and Wonder Mommy. I can think of no other existence than what I have now.
Well, maybe a published book or two. I think she would like that.
This is an excerpt from an unnamed YA book that I will start to write in… oh let’s see… 2010. I think I will make it the beginning chapter. Maybe. I don’t know. What do you think? Is it any good? I sorta kinda did the literary equivalent of pulling it out of my butt one evening.
Lisa sat in the car in the airport cell phone lot, staring at her phone, contemplating the worst call ever. She sighed and pressed the send button when her dad’s picture displayed on the screen.
“Hi Kitten,” Dad said.
“Hi Daddy.” She tried to say more, but the words just caught in her throat. It had been a great effort to convince her father that she would be okay at home. It had only been a month since Andy died. They needed the money and she needed to catch-up at school.
Now there was… this.
“What’s up? Are you going to be late picking me up?”
“No, I parked at the cell phone lot; I wanted to call you when you landed right away.”
“What’s up?” Her father sounded somewhat worried.
“You know how you don’t like surprises?”
Her father sighed. “Just spit it out Honey. Whatever it is, we can work through it.”
“I have a tattoo,” she blurted out.
“Ugh,” her father grunted. “Wow Lisa that is just… wow. Please tell me it’s somewhere you don’t normally see, like on your butt or something.”
“Weeell… it does go down… there… eventually.”
“Oh? Where else does it go?”
“It kind of wraps around, it starts over my left eye and works its way to my right foot.”
It was quite the lovely tattoo, actually, Lisa thought, other than the almost dying part.
“Lisa. This isn’t a funny joke to play on the Old Man. The flight was long and bumpy. I think I am actually green.”
“Sorry Daddy, but it is a real tattoo. Can we talk about it after I pick you up? The only reason why I called was I didn’t want you to freak when I picked you up. You can freak in the car.”
He sighed. “Fine. I’ll have my bags in ten minutes. Door 6.” He hung up.
Oh no, not the ‘fine’, thought Lisa. She fought hot tears, and then bit her lip. She was her father’s daughter. She would not cry; she had already spent an entire month crying for Andy, she would not!
The tears suddenly stopped, almost as if it was… magic.
Lisa shared a belated sigh with her dad. It was going to be a long day.