Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Storytelling Magic

Over the weekend, one of our neighbors a block away had a loud party. The music reverberated through our house. As our bedrooms faced the direction of their home, I took refuge in the family room with a pair of earplugs and a sound-making machine. I turned on the steady rain sound and curled up on the couch. Around 1:00 am, I woke up and crawled into the bedroom for the rest of the night. The house was blessedly quiet. Ah, Silence is Golden.

Wait a minute. I’m getting a mental message.

Silence is a treasure beyond words.

This sentence popped into my mind. Of course, silence is a treasure, and the absence of words may describe the quiet state. But this phrase means something more. It relates to my Work in Progress, a paranormal romance based on Norse mythology. My characters are hunting for the legendary Book of Odin, while other characters in my trilogy search for a fabled rune.

What if the rune translates to the above sentence? What does it mean? Does it refer to a real treasure? Or is it the silence that will ensue once the evil demon Loki is defeated and the final battle is over?
It’s wonderful when your subconscious supplies you with ideas. Usually, these gems come to me when taking a walk, in the shower, driving, or nearing sleep. This is the magic that occurs when your story inhabits your head and it just can’t wait to come out. You think that all you need to do is sit at the computer and let the words pour through your fingers. But unexpected ideas seep through the barriers when your defenses are down. They can provide you with solutions to plotting problems or add a new wrinkle to complicate your tale.

Twice in the midst of mysteries, I’ve tossed in a new character that wasn’t in my original synopsis. Then I had to relate this character to the story. I’ll do the same with the above sentence, but oh, what a delightful challenge. Hey, my characters don’t know what it means when they interpret the rune. Why should I? We’ll discover its significance together.

For those of you who are writers, can you recall instances when ideas related to your story have flashed into your mind like a neon sign, begging you to incorporate them into your tale?


  1. I'm off the topic of your post but silence IS a treasure beyond words. One of the hardest things about living in modern society is how noise obsessed we are. More importantly, most people appear scared of silence because they can't stand having much of it. For folks like me who require greater than normal amounts of silence, it is sometimes torture.

    But to the topic--I love it when you get those flashes of insight. I find this happens sometimes even when its not a work currently in progress. I have a manuscript I've been noodling with for years, and out of the blue this week a new insight came to me for that story. It's a very refreshing feeling, those little creative bursts that come unexpectedly.

  2. I'm like you, BK. I love silence. That means my husband has to play his guitar when I'm done writing for the day or out on errands. :)
    And you're right about the other topic. Sometimes insights can come on another book muddling about in our subconscious.

  3. Please leave a comment, and I'll respond later. I'm off to critique group for the morning but would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

  4. Frankly, I'll be worried when new ideas don't flash into my noodle when I'm writing. You know when this happened most? Last year during NaNoWriMo. The format virtually insures this will happen, and as I was writing the second book of my Zombie legal thriller trilogy, most of the best stuff came as a result of writing like fire and collecting sparks.

  5. I appreciate those flashes most when I'm suffering burnout. I go through at least one serious phase of burnout every couple of years (I'm sure no doubt due to the constant tension of trying to maintain creative energy while the day job is sucking me dry, among other things).

    So those creative bursts are especially welcome if you feel like you haven't been able to rub two creative thoughts together in weeks (or months) and out of the blue, an idea stirs you.

    It literally is like being reminded "Hey, I AM still alive!" 8-)

  6. That's true, BK. It's nice to know you still have your creative mojo when you feel it may have left you high and dry. James, I admire your ability to write so fast. I'd have hoped that pacing would create mental sparks.

  7. Hi Nancy, what you said is so true. I am about to finish the last chapter of my new WIP. Sitting on the sand and playing with my little grandson, I look at the beach and the waves and wondered how I could improve the first page. My grandson said:
    "Look Nonna, this is so funny." He burst into an adorable gigle. That's it. Funny was my answer. I need to make my first page funny to hook the reader. I visualize a new scene and will start writing it now.

  8. I get all my best ideas while I'm jogging. I'll be running along, get an idea, then wonder how I ended up 4 blocks out of the way!

    James, it's interesting you say you get your best ideas while you're writing. For me, those ideas have to percolate in my brain, typically while I'm doing other things, then I write them down. Your way seems much faster!

  9. That's great, Mona. You never know where inspiration will come from.

  10. Jill, do you just remember your ideas, or do you bring a digital recorder along? I'm with you in that my ideas come when I'm not concentrating on writing.

  11. Interestingly enough, I got a couple new ideas over the weekend while doing a bit of oral story telling to my Boy Scout troop during a camp out.

    While telling/acting the story of Beowolf to a couple dozen teen boys, I suddenly saw mental images of characters in a story that is still just in outline mode. But in my mind that Viking saga started to translate to the Crusades, then the Mongolian Empire and next thing I knew I was looking at a scene in Blood of Princes (working title for said unstarted story).

    Anyway, inspiration comes from many quarters and we have to listen when the muses start to sing.

  12. Nancy, I keep my moleskine notebook by the door so I can jot down ideas as soon as I get back from my run. I'm afraid there would be too much huffing and puffing if I tried to talk into a recorder!

  13. Mythological Sam practically wrote itself from thoughts, insights and and random conversations I had with others during the writing process. It's why I love writing. Inspiration is everywhere. . . and I didn't even have to wear a foil antenna hat!

  14. Just finished a mystery novel set in current-day Greece. A long-dead Byzantine emperor invaded my manuscript. It grew to a complete historical thread including his ancestors and descendents. I didn't know why they were in the book until I went back and read the finished manuscript. My editor says it's the best writing in the book. Who knew!?