Thursday, May 13, 2010
Bubble, Bubble, Toil & Trouble : : Anne McAllister
First, my apologies . . .
I was supposed to have been here before now. Somehow, in the past Lost Week, my Totebags blog got lost as well. I came home from Montana where it snowed and snowed and snowed, and I was sick and the meds the doc gave me were worse than the disease. And then life got even more complicated and, well, suffice to say, Lee's email asking if everything was all right was a surprise.
I'd totally forgotten I was supposed to be here today!
So, I'm very sorry. I won't let it happen again.
But I wanted to come for as long as I can and talk about getting started on a book.
It's customary to talk about sagging middles and 'what do I do now?' and characters who won't behave and try to steal other characters' books. These are issues most of us have if we've written very much at all.
But we rarely talk (at least I don't) about the getting started part because we're always busy assuring ourselves -- and non-writers -- that we have tons of ideas, millions and billions and trillions of ideas, and so what's the probem?
Well, the problem, as I see it, is that an idea (or even a milllion, billion, trillion of them) don't make a book. Not alone. Not without something else going on.
Stirring the pot, I guess. Letting the initial ideas simmer and bubble and mix with other ideas and see if when they come together there is an energy engendered, if there is going to be some toil and trouble between these characters. Or not.
Some ideas, let's face it, just sit there and defy you to write a book about them.
I'm at that point right now. I have an idea. I have a character -- one of my Savas brothers -- who needs a story. And I have a heroine who needs a hero. I think they'll be great together.
Try telling them that. She's got issues. He's playing the field. She doesn't trust Men Like Him. He thinks she's a starchy, prissy snob.
So I tossed them in the pot together and . . . hmmm . . . they are beginning to simmer and, occasionally even sizzle.
I tossed a place into the pot as well. I isolated them a bit, to see if that will increase the spark. I suggested some backstory. Some sputtering is going on. I see possibilities. But it's not quite right yet.
Now what? Well, I could keep tossing ideas in (I do have a lot of them). But often at this point I read. Other writers don't because they are afraid they might be unduly influenced by books they read. They might, God forbid, copy! I don't worry about that. I'm not interesting in copying. I'm interesting in imagining my characters experiencing the conflict of the book I'm reading.
Is it an "oh God, have I fallen in love with a man I only married for convenience?" story? What might my heroine think about that? Is there jealousy? Revenge? A wounded hero? A surprise pregnancy?
Are these cliches? Possibly. But no two 'marriage of convenience' stories are ever identical just as no two people react to the same stimuli in the same ways.
Everything I read is grist for the mill. Every television program I watch and ever movie I get from Netflix gives me a chance to run my people through someone else's hurdles. It's a learning process. Understanding how my people might react tells me more about them, about their story, especially about what matters to them more than anything.
I talk to people, too. I pick the brains of my friends and neighbors. I ask myself -- and them -- 'what if?' And with every 'what if' the mixture gets a little more complex, the possibilities grow. Some things generate lots of energy; the implications are obvious. But there are still a few things missing.
Ultimately I know, as my friend mystery writer Maddy Hunter once said, that it will come down to finding out what one of them wants the most is what the other fears the most.
That's what I'm working towards. When I've got that figured out, I know I have a story. I have a start. I'll have a middle so they can work it out. I'll have an end when they confront that conflict and face their fears. Now all I'll have to do is sit down and write it.
Not always easy, but much easier than when I have no idea at all what is going to happen.
Last week I got author copies of my upcoming Mills & Boon Modern, The Virgin's Proposition (May, 2010, UK, Harlequin Presents, Sept 2010). Reading it over (I never remember what happens, even in my own books), I was reminded of that process.
What the heroine, Anny (aka Her Royal Highness, Princess Adriana Anastasia Maria Christina Sophia of Mont Chamion) wanted more than anything was a love that came from the heart and not a marriage made to satisfy the goals of two countries. Demetrios Savas was determined that he was never going to fall in love again.
Of course it took her 185 pages to get her heart's desire. And it took him 185 pages to discover that loving the right woman was heaven and not the hell he'd feared.
I had a lot of fun writing that book. I'm hoping Yiannis and Edie's book, once I've stirred and stirred, is half as much fun.