Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Are You Lost in A Blank Screen World?

Photo Courtesy
Have you found yourself floundering for ideas? 

Not too long ago, fellow Alley Cat, Amy Simpson wrote on her Facebook about going on a daily run. While on that cool and drizzling rain run without kids, she became wonderfully lost in brainstorming story world. She said, "I may have envisioned romantic rainy kisses and frightening abductions. Ahh romantic suspense! So fun."

A week later an anomaly struck my typically cloudy, humid part of the world. The sun shone from a cloudless sky, the balmy spring temperatures swirled as if on tiptoes to not waken the bugs. God invited me outside for a walk, and I went. 

I let my mind wander freely from topic to topic. The faster thoughts popped into my head and dissolved into another topic, the quicker I found my stride. I took detours down a muddy path to the river and ventured past a school. Soon the sound of birds, the scent of new spring growth, and the fresh air sent me into story world.

Sweet, like chocolate.


I had not walked into my genre.

Materializing in only a two dimensional shape was a main character. Her plight became evident. Her strength--indisputable. Her hopes and desires--a faint whisper. The resolution--hidden in the shadows.

I was intrigued. 

No--it was more like captivated. 

When I returned home, I wrote to a friend who pens stories in this new-to-me genre, and asked what the typical word count should be.

I went to the library and checked out recently published books from this genre to get the feel of what is current.

As the sun rose and set, new complexities popped into my mind creating delicious dangers for the yet unnamed main character. 

Hours later, my husband happened to mention something from the news. An event from years ago had resurfaced with new data. All the news channels reported the breaking news. I took notes and checked the facts.

My character whispered, this is what I was telling you about that day on the walk but you didn't hear me.

Like a robust sunrise transforming into an invigorating sunny day, a new story formed from a fetus idea--nurtured with the story world around me.

Talk about ultimate writer's high.

Something shiny: There once was a television show called "Let's Make a Deal". Contestants learned after time that choosing door number one or two tended to be safe. Sometimes they received something pretty awesome, but never anything crazy. But door number three tended to be for risk takers only. Those who chose number three usually won something like a chicken or a toy car. But on rare occasions the person won the mother of all prizes. 

Back to the topic:
Stepping out of your comfort zone to explore a new genre can be like opening door number three. 

A brief tornado of an idea could strike then disappears in seconds, leaving F5 debris in your brain.

On the other hand, a new genre could be like a seed, planted in your heart, feeding from your soul, desires, wishes, dreams, and emotions. With water and care, the product could be your best work ever.

How are you feeling today? Adventurous? Are you struggling with a blank screen and need to start a new document--perhaps in a new genre? Or perhaps color outside the lines by adding a spice of another genre to your current work. After all, there was a time when no one would have put sweet and sour flavors together. Why not add a spark of fantasy, romance, mystery to your regularly schedule genre?

Before you do:

1. Go somewhere to be with only God and you.
    Suggestions: front porch, back deck, walk around the neighborhood, local 
    park, museum, arboretum, Main Street, beach, woods, etc.

2. Do something physical to get the oxygen flowing to your brain. Even a 
    stroll, a few jumping jacks, or sit ups can do this.

3. Let your brain roll with whatever thoughts pop in. Don't spend time on 
    any topic. Let your mind clear the cobwebs. 

4. This is when you writing juices start to flow. You've set aside issues that 
    creep into your mind, the oxygen is flowing, you are alone with the one who 
    gave you the gift for writing. Brace yourself, one of the best what if's is about 
    to spark. 

5. As the thought lights, ask questions. 
    Perhaps the thought is an event. Where is it? What is happening? Who all is 
    there? How did this come to be? What caused it? Are there concerns, needs, 
    wants? Why would anyone care about this?
    Perhaps the thought is a person. Who is this person? Where is he? Why 
    is he there? What is happening to him? What are his feelings and 
    concerns? What is he wearing? How did he get to this place? What does 
    he see, hear, feel, taste, touch, or witness?

6. Take notes. Be specific. The notes should raise more questions. Write them

7. Investigate any leads. 

8. Formulate a basic beginning, middle, and end to the story.

9. Bounce the idea off someone who writes or loves to read that genre. 
    When I did this step, I was told the story had complexities. I was elated. 
    Complexities build a story when used properly.

10.Evaluate your notes, the basic beginning, middle, and end, and the advice from the writer/reader. 
     Is this story an F5 tornado? Something that will take you away from valuable 
     writing and dump you into a pit of confusion?
     Does this story have potential to go where no man has gone before? (As in 
     a fresh new take on a story idea.)

Don't wait! Act now! Don't delay. Has a story kernel popped in your head even as you read this post? Jot the thought in the comment section. 

Has a thought tweeted to your brain more than once to the point that it just sends retreats hoping you'll notice? Jot the story seed down in the comment section. 

If you could dip your writing toes into the waters of a different genre, even for just one novel, what would that genre be?  Look for others who have answered the same genre in their comments below and connect with them.


This blog post is by Mary Vee

Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes contemporary and romance Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.

Visit Mary at her website and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter


Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Mary, this is awesome!!!! Love your brainstorming ideas! So glad I inspired you ;)

Mary Vee Writer said...

You inspire many people!

Thanks, Aimes.

Carrie Fancett Pagels said...

I have too many stories running around in my head but these are great ideas. And it is often in exactly those situations that you describe, that I come up with new ideas. Nice post!

Mary Vee Writer said...

I have a feeling, Carrie, that God planned it that way. :)