Saturday, October 16, 2010
Runaway Trains Part I
I've always thought new story ideas belong in three categories: ravenous mosquito, rose bouquet and runaway train.
Unfortunately the ideas I get most frequently are of the ravenous mosquito variety. Like the insect, this sort of idea is annoying, and there's not much to it, but it's hungry and persistent. This is why it circles your head and distracts you until you feel like swatting yourself with a baseball bat. Mine are forever whining What if...? The only good thing about them is that if you don't feed them anything eventually they do buzz off.
Rose bouquet ideas are much more substantial, and they show up on your mental doorstep like a polite gift from the muse. They're lovely and lyrical, and not pushy at all. Whether you accept them or not, they make you feel appreciated and loved. If you have to set them aside, they're also quite willing to bloom in silence until you're ready to admire and arrange them. Many of my old romances were rose bouquet ideas, and if you plant them regularly they eventually become a garden that is always sprouting new varieties (frankly I never get enough of these.)
Then there are the runaway train ideas. Nothing else is as huge and powerful as these monsters. When they show up, everything else stops. They are often packed with tons of story elements and info, and they are driven by an engine that sounds like it will go forever. When they hit you, they can wreck you for any other story, but if you decide to jump on and go along for the ride, the rush can be incredible.
No matter what sort of new story ideas you have, finding a method of dealing with them is important. Ideas are great, but they can also become such a frequent nuisance that you're never able to finish writing any stories. When you have to commit to a writing schedule (pros are forever under a deadline) it's especially imperative, because new ideas can actually interfere with and even derail your contracted work.
This is where I ran into some problems, because the weird thing about any type of story idea is that I never know how important it is or where it will take me. I've had runaway train ideas that dragged me off to go nowhere fast, and ravenous mosquito ideas that grew into big beautiful stories that seemed quite willing to write themselves. I always thought that after I wrote enough books I'd be able to predict in advance which ideas will work and avoid the ones that won't, but that hasn't happened yet. This also is why I'm also reluctant to banish anything to the void.
Up tomorrow: How I manage story ideas that allow them to develop and grow while I stay sane and on schedule, and what happens when a mosquito idea grows to be the size of a train.
Image credit: © Christian Lagereek. Fahraeus | Dreamstime.com