Monday, March 27, 2017

I See Plots, Plots Everywhere

Recently I rode up in the elevator in my office building with a middle-aged man who paced the small confined space like a restless lion. It was rather disconcerting, but I couldn't help but wonder: a) was he late for a meeting; b) did he need to pee; c) was he a serial killer trying to suppress his natural urges?

These are the ideas that raced through my head as we traveled up to the 17th floor, where I got off. Who knows what he did when he got to his floor, but since there were no signs of police or a building lock down, I think it's safe to assume that his problem was either a or b.

A day or two later, the Fed Ex delivery man asked if I would use my pass to let him onto our main floor from the 17th. Our main floor is locked off to the public due to an unbalanced ex-employee a few years back. And so is the portion we occupy on the 17th floor, where my office is located. I happily obliged. As the Fed Ex man headed down to the 16th floor, I noted he was holding a very long narrow Amazon box. Immediately, I wondered if it contained a rifle, and if was he going to assassinate someone in our office. It did not and he did not.

Such is the mind of a murder mystery author.

I hear a lot of writers, usually newbies, say they don't have any ideas for new stories or books circling in their brain. They have no idea what they're going to write next. To that I say: Then you're not paying attention.

Plot ideas undulate around us every minute, surging and withdrawing like ocean waves or currents of the very air we breathe. Sometimes they are gentle. Sometimes not so much. But they are always there, waiting to be discovered and fleshed out into short stories, novellas, novels, screen plays and poems.  And maybe they aren't the entire idea, but one for a single chapter or scene. Twice I've gotten ideas from billboards. Once from a sandwich. Another time from a tiny article I read in a magazine. Often these ideas come when you least expect them. Some even come while we sleep.

It's all grist for the mill.

Not too long ago a member of a FB group I belong to about RVing posted this photo. Immediately, an idea hit me for a series - yes, an entire series of stories.  And they have nothing to do with that sharp looking RV in the pic.

That's how inspiration works when you're paying attention. Unfortunately, I don't have time right now to work on this new idea, but I did not dismiss it. Instead, I shelved both the photo and idea for later. In time, they will find their way into my writing schedule. Of that I'm sure.

If you are having trouble coming up with plots, scenes, or ideas, I recommend: 1) relax your brain so that it's supple, not clogged or locked tight; 2) don't look too hard, let the ideas come to you; 3) be observant to everything around you, even the small stuff. Then get ready to pluck the ideas out of the air, like ripe fruit from a tree.

A writer without ideas is a vase without flowers. A gun without bullets;  A dog without a bone.

A writer without ideas ... is just a typist.


Pam Hopkins said...

Wonderfully stated. I have ideas for murder mysteries all the time; unfortunately, I can't write worth a darn.

Sandy in St Louis said...

Love the last line!