Wednesday, September 9, 2009

On cathedrals, ferrets and bullies...

Took a break from my writing this morning to hang laundry (Phil and I have a washer, but not a dryer. We also have a fridge the size of a kitchen cupboard. Ah, European life!). While hanging laundry and thinking about inspiration and my current wip (work in progress), it occurred to me I should share the story of how I found the idea for it.

It all gets back to this desire to write a simple story! I wanted to write something breezy, upbeat, based in the real world (ie, no fantasy) and funny (I think I have a good sense of humor. Phil disagrees =) ). So I ended up with a goofy character named Charlie Macarooni. I had ferrets on the brain, since an agent (who will remain nameless) had requested a partial of ADÈLE, and as I researched her a bit more, I discovered she writes frequently about her pet ferret. So I wrote a short story about a goofy kid, a missing class ferret, a beautiful blonde classmate, and a nasty, ferret-stealing bully. My critique group loved it, and one of these days I will polish it up a bit and see if it might find a home somewhere.

But at the time I was completely distracted and couldn't be bothered to polish the story. I was way too obsessed with my ferret-stealing bully. Why would anyone be mean enough to steal the class ferret? What was his problem? I was at a writer's workshop and challenged to write about a traumatic incident. At the time I was missing my dog, Connor. That's the only way I can explain what came next, a graphic, horrific description of a car hitting a dog and a boy sobbing over him. My poor, ferret-stealing bully now had a back story.

After that it gets a bit fuzzy. Living in Europe, I've been struck by the combination of beautiful cathedrals and grim history questions about where the money to build them came from. So I had a setting and the beginnings of a theme. And for some reason this setting resulted in pagan spirits, since apparently I cannot write a story without undead. Somewhere along the way I decided Charlie's beautiful blonde needed to be the ferret-stealing bully's sister and she needed a story of her own. Then I dropped the ferret mystery and somehow stumbled into a completely different plot. And then it gets even more complicated...

But lovely. Sometimes I get sick of my writing, frustrated with my stories. But at the end of the day the only way I can spend years on a novel is because I love the story. So my next goal is to find another character to fall in love with, a few different philosophical questions to tangle with, a plot would be nice. But looking back on the process this wip has gone through, it might be a while. My inspiration seems to follow a rather meandering road.


  1. How interesting to hear about the origins of your ideas. I've also told myself many times to keep my stories simple and somehow they never are. I've found, though, that once I allow myself to create a complex mess of a manuscript, then I can go through and cut and cut until it's much more streamlined. So even though it's not "simple," it's much more concise. I think that's what books like Speak do. They seem simple because there's nothing in them that's unnecessary. Happy writing!

  2. So glad to hear someone else struggles with this simplicity thing! Streamlined is a good way of thinking about the end goal.

    I think you're right on SPEAK, too. Not simple, but incredibly well-written and with no excess baggage.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.