…and each of them stuck in the middle of a situation. You see, these are the books I haven’t had a chance to write yet, but the people and stories are real all the same.
I can’t say when an idea may hit. Sometimes when I’m watching a documentary or reading a book. A few have come from interesting newspaper clippings or news facts. Once in a while my agent calls and says, “An editor is looking for a book about xyz … do you have an idea?” That’s all it takes to get the cranks in my brain turning, and usually within 24 hours I have an idea good enough to sit down at my computer and start taking notes from this new person who’s popped up in my head and the new situation he or she has gotten in the middle of.
Of course, those ideas often get written first because they were on an editor’s want/need list. Other characters and stories must wait their turn. There are only so many hours in a day, and only so many novels I can write at one time. (Currently that number is four.)
So, there are characters in my brain who are waiting their turn. Some of them actually exist on book proposals or within notes on my computer. Others are just foggy images that every once-in-a-while pop their heads up and say, “Hey, remember me?” Usually, when the time is right, that character will get to see the light of day.
I have a book coming out in September whose character had patiently waited her turn a few years. I was leaving the post-office one afternoon when a nickname popped in my mind Ava-tude. Then before me (as if appearing on the windshield as I drove) I saw in my mind’s eye a young woman stepping out of the airport in Paris, France … only instead of being there on a romantic holiday she had her frail Grandfather by her side. Also (because every character arrives with a conflict), the person at the airport picking her up was an old flame that wasn’t expecting her. He was the one who’d given her the nickname Ava-tude … because she often had an attitude. And they were both there to take their grandfathers to a WWII reunion, not knowing the other was coming. Ah, conflict! Romance!
I wrote that idea down at least six years ago. I wrote a proposal up and sent it around, with no bites. Then at the right time the right editor came along and realized what a good idea it was. (I like editors like that.) With some hard work and a lot of plotting and polishing Remembering You (Guideposts) will soon hit store shelves. I gotta love that!
Now you may be thinking, “I wish ideas would come to me like that.” The thing is, they can. What I suggest is to take note of when something interests you. If there’s a news piece you want to tell someone about tear and/or print it out. If there’s an interesting historical fact that you discover in a documentary, write it down. Once you get used to discovering interesting situations, then start considering the type of people who would be at conflict within those situations. That’s where a good book starts, when someone is having a problem somewhere. I guarantee that if you start taking note of those, you’ll soon have a whole stadium of make-believe people filling your imagination, too!