Monday, December 6, 2010

Brainstorming - aka Finding your Story in a Christmas Song

Okay, so I was going to write about Happy Endings and all – but I’ll save that post for another day. Instead, I got hit with an idea on the way home from work on Friday, and it all stemmed from a Christmas song.

Ever had that happen?

Inspiration can come from the most unlikely places, but songs are great sources.

It can be funny too.

You wanna know which song inspired my latest premise? Santa Baby. Yeah, nuts!! If you want to hear the lyrics sung by Marilyn Monroe, check it out here:

It’s in total opposition to the true meaning of Christmas – even the whole gift of giving idea. But as any good author knows, if an idea starts to jingle inside your head and you start asking the ‘what ifs’, you’re about to catch the fresh aroma of a story.

With Santa Baby, I started asking:

What kind of woman would sing a song like this?

What would happen if she didn’t get all of those things…or lost them all?

What if she was forced to learn the true meaning of Christmas? How might the song change? From singing about Santa Baby to singing about the Holy Baby? Ooo, it sparked a great premise, and one I will have to tuck away for later.

How about The Twelve Days of Christmas? You know, I have some Christian insights on that song, but it sparks my imagination in a fictional direction too. What unique gifts might my characters give to each other for Christmas? How could those gifts carry a secret or surprising message? A ring? A gown? A lost letter? Five gold rings? :-)

In the song, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, I ALWAYS think WWII. Why? A picture of a young woman’s Christmas wish being to see her sweetheart for Christmas. Perhaps he’d been wounded? Lost in action? Presumed dead? But with a glimmer of hope, she waits by the Christmas tree, praying that he’d come home. He doesn’t come, so she leaves to attend a Christmas party. At the party, a live string orchestra plays their song and….You GUESSED IT! – he walks through the crowd. Sigh.

Or the song, What Are you Doing New Year’s Eve. Oh – there are all sorts of visions that pop in my head for that one! The uncertain fellow, the sassy gal. Or what if the story begins on New Year’s Eve? Two souls who meet on New Years and it starts an entire chain of events.

Don’t you love brain storming?

So, what are some writer brainstorming tips? Here are a few:

1. Read, read often, and read like a writer who knows how :-) Some of the seeds of a story come from reading a good story. Perhaps it will inspire a time period, a certain character, or a similar plotline.

2. T.V. watching – characters, stories, followed by the ‘what if’ questions can jump from two-dimensional on a screen to three-dimensional heroes/heroines if you give them a little twist.

3. People watching – characters-in-the-making are everywhere

4. Taking good notes on family vacations. Some of my best story ideas come from trips. Setting can really inspire all kinds of wonderful ideas.

5. Family memories/family ancestry – I have no less than five story ideas inspired by my family history – and I mean family history going back five generations or more. As I’ve said before, Real Life can truly be Stranger than Fiction.

What are some brainstorming tips you have?

What’s one of your favorite Christmas songs?


Sarah Forgrave said...

LOL, Pepper! I want to read whatever you come up with from Santa Baby. :) Love this! I have a trip coming up soon, and I look forward to the fuel for my imagination.

Laura S. said...

Great ideas! These are excellent brainstorming tips.

I love too many Christmas songs to list! I love them all, the classics, religious, contemporary. They're all beautiful and fun! :)

Casey said...

Liked your post here today, Pep! I have had ideas come from one lines in books, thinking, that would be GREAT title, now what kind of story could back that up??

One story I saw on the news the other day is this father of two little boys (he was in the military) made a video for Christmas and sent it to their school to watch. At the very end of the video the father said something to the affect of I'll be home soon, turn around, something like that. He was coming through the door. The two little boys leaped into the air and charged him. It was the most precious thing to see. What a great story ending or idea!

Just had to share that, Happy Monday!

Keli Gwyn said...

I get inspired during my walks to town. We live in the heart of California's Gold Country. Walking past the Victorian homes and businesses that date back to the 1800s spurs ideas for my historical romances set in that period.

Pepper said...

Yeah, Santa Baby certainly is quite a song, isn't it? It's one of my 4 year olds' favorites. Now, what does that say about her? I cringe to think.
The premise is fitting perfectly into a family series I have going on - so I'm tickled. That poor serious brother in the family needs a good dose of a helpless materialist ;-)

Pepper said...

I'm with you. LOVE Christmas music. I created a compilation CD from all of my CDs and just mixed up genre and style. It's awesome.
I think one of my favorite versions of Joy to the World is the one performed by Whitney Housten at the end of the Preacher's Wife.

Pepper said...

So Case,
Are you going to write that story? (wiggling eyebrows)

Pepper said...

Oh my, Keli - that does sound inspirational. I bet it's beautiful. Walks inspire me to - but instead of looking at old buildings, I'm mostly seeing a horizon of Blue Ridge Mountains. :-)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I get inspiration for writing a lot from music, but I've never been inspired for a story from listening to a Christmas song.

A lot of my ideas come from television or books--or classics. Newer versions of stories already told, with unique characters and fun twists.

Some of my favorite Christmas songs are Do You Hear What I Hear and O Holy Night.

Patti Lacy said...

Actually, I HATE brain-storming, but soulmate writer friends Sara and Cammie LOVE it.
Praise God for the Colossians 3:23 team.

You did make me laugh, dear Pepper!!!
LOVE that baby!!!

Julia M. Reffner said...

I like this idea.

Oh my goodness, Casey, that would be a great novella!

Renee Ann said...

Good post, Pepper! So many things provide inspiration, don't they? Seems like wherever you look, there's a story . . .

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Your mind is a creative sponge, soaking up possibilities for the best stories! I love that about you!

Now, if only I could think of something to blog about tomorrow. Sigh...I am so brain dead.

Pepper said...

Oh Cindy,
You just hit on one of my favorite things - Twisting up classics
or contemporizing them. (Is contemporizing a word? If it's not, it should be :-)

Pepper said...

It's Patti Lacy!!
Did I tell you that I love Patti Lacy!!
We sat together at the awards banguet at ACFW!!

Patti - so glad I could make you laugh. I seemed to have that effect on you :-)

Pepper said...

I think we should team up and get Casey to write it!!

Pepper said...

Renee Ann,
Isn't that one of the best parts of being a writer? You can take it with you wherever you go - no assembly required.
The imagination is always available.

Pepper said...

I'd offer you some of my creativity, but I'm so swamped with work-stuff - my creativity is fizzing fast. I have a BIG-TIME presentation tomorrow, campus wide.
It's my first one of such magnitude, and I'm a bit nervous...not wait, let's say I'm a LOT nervous

Anonymous said...

The YouTube link is Eartha Kitt. The version oft thought to be Marilyn is actress and jazz artist, Cynthia Basinet. Found her on iTunes.

"Santa Baby" is completely in keeping with Christmas, it's about sharing.

Pepper said...

Thanks for the clarification, Anonymous.

As I hear "Santa Baby", all I hear are the requests for things for herself - and they are ALL superficial.

Angie Dicken said...

Sorry it has taken me so long to read this! Love your tips. I actually got inspired for my recent wip by watching a national geographic show on the amazon basin!
On another note, my favorite Christmas song is Breath of Heaven (not really a traditional Christmas song) thinking about the beauty in the best story ever, the Christmas story.