Tag Archives: ideas

Let’s Roll the Magic Story Cubes

Happy Friday, friends. Casey here.

Writers are often asked – “What inspires you?” In the past, I’ve shuddered at the question largely because, to non-writers, we seem to have some kind of magical powers. That the universe has blessed us with a special gift that enables us to come up with more ideas than everyone else.

Well, surprise. We don’t have magic powers or a special gift from the gods. Most of the writers I know don’t suffer from a lack of ideas. In fact, we often have too many ideas zipping around in our heads. Why is that? I’ll get to that in a second.

For me, I have loads of ideas for stories. Tons of them. Sadly, most will never see the light of day. There isn’t enough time to fully explore them all. And not all of the ideas are good ones. So, the stories that do get written are the ones that stay with me. The ones where the characters rap me on the noggin’ and say, “Tell my story. Or else.”

So back to the earlier question – why do writers seem more inspired than the average bear?

Here’s my theory – everyone, and I do mean, everyone, has ideas all the time. Most people are afflicted with “adulthood.” They’ve repressed their childlike sense of wonder. There are too many reasons to list why this happens (life happens: family, kids, work, or they have loads of doubt or maybe they don’t care – take your pick).

One of the things I had to learn was to not ignore ideas. To seize them no matter how crazy they sounded. To not over-think them or talk myself out pursuing the idea. Hey, it’s okay to let your imagination run herd. Just do it!!

With that said, while I have no problem with coming up with an overall plot, I can get stumped with actual circumstance (i.e. scenes). And I’m always worried that I might repeat myself and rehash the same ideas over and over. And, really, who wants to do that? Not me!

Then one day, Chuck Wendig (Terrible Minds)  ran a blog post about Christmas gifts for writers. One of the gifts was Rory’s Story Cubes. Designed to be a game for kids, it’s basically a set of dice with pictures. You roll them, then make up a story. And the best part, anyone can play. Anyone (yes, even us jaded adults).

How fun does that sound??

I think it sounded pretty cool. So when I happened upon a set in Newbury Comics, I ponied up the $9.99 and brought them home. And if you don’t want to have physical dice, yes, there’s an app for that. Rory’s and other story dice apps are available at iTunes, Amazon and Google Play (just search under – story dice).

My plan is to use them whenever I find myself trying to spice up a scene or re-work a plot point.  So, while writers don’t invoke magic powers, we can roll story dice and see what comes up.

Who wants to play?

I’m rolling four dice . . . and go! Tell a story that connects each dice, starting with Once Upon a Time  or In a Land Faraway or whatever floats your boat. . .

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(In case you can’t see the images – frowny face, bridge over water, sheep, alien).

Have fun! 

Books are Like Babies

Welcome friends. Casey here.

MysticStorm2_850First off, can you believe it’s already August? Where has the summer gone? There’s something about this time of year (and around Thanksgiving) where I feel like I’m on time’s roller coaster ride.

One minute it’s May and then suddenly August is here and I feel like the whole summer has flown by. I suspect the school calendar plays a part in this phenomenon because younger son would always start whining about having to go back to school (the infamous countdown would begin).

Well, not this year. Steady readers of this blog, may recall he graduated in June (my baby, my baby!). This year he and his older brother will be attending college together. So while they are still going to school, there is no complaining involved (well, except for the ridiculous cost of college texts).

All this thinking about time, combined with the recent birth of the royal baby (HRH Prince George) got me to thinking about how books are born in my brain. While pursuing two books at once (Mystic Hero is pulling to the lead, so by the time you read this, it might be the only book I’m writing), I’ve noticed that the story is often born while I’m writing it.

What?!? But what about all that talk of plotting and planning?

Oh, those things still happen. But like any story, I leave room for new ideas to hatch. I also rely on the characters to dictate how they react to the barriers I toss out. There is no way I can script every waking moment of the story. I decide on the big events and letUndeadSpaceInitiative_200 the rest fill itself in.

So like a baby, sometimes a book can take forever (Mystic Storm - almost ten months) and others are done in less time (Misfortune Cookie - two months). The Undead Space Initiative poured out of my brain like there was a big hole in it and I could barely keep up!  (Note: this is writing time. Not the time it took for me to plot and plan.)

And like babies, nature can’t be rushed. Some characters, like Zephyr, in Mystic Storm, gave me nothing but trouble. I think it may be because of the whole “cursed to be a woman by day” thing (which I am not apologizing for!).

Not to be too graphic, but any woman who has gone through labor knows that babies don’t just come out in one easy push. And neither does my writing. I can have a week of super productivity and then another week where I have to flog myself to sit down and write. However, I will add a caveat. I did have younger son in my bathroom (in under a half hour of going into labor). He was apparently so eager to enter the world, he couldn’t wait!

Just goes to show –  you never know!!

Has anyone else had this experience? Do you have some books that just take forever to come out of your head?

Me and my baby!
Me and my baby!

The Hoarder

Scribes June 12, 2013
Thea Devine today, and I am the hoarder (can I get a tv show off of this?). I hoard my ideas. I will not share. My ideas and the tangents they take are mine. They are a product of my thinking, my intuition, my interests, my imagination, and things uniquely skewed to my perspective. When once it was suggested that a group of us share ideas we never intended to use, I was adamantly against it. How did I know I’d never use them? I didn’t, and even if I didn’t, I saw no reason to share them.

Now you can make a case that nobody writes the same story even if they’re basing it on the same idea. I do believe this is true, but we’re not talking merely loglines here, we’re talking paragraphs and page-long stream-of-conscious concepts and high concepts, character and scenic description, snippets of conversation, incidents that I’ve witnessed or overheard, words and phrases, titles, log lines, tags, opening paragraphs and opening pages, brief synopses, and all kinds of things that might be useful somewhere, sometime.

My idea file is like a treasure chest. Sometimes I go back and review everything I’ve written in those files — years worth, things I might have forgotten, things that are a key to something else I’ve written or I’m writing now, things I want to work on that rereading them gives me fresh incentive, titles I’ve forgotten, characters I should write about, lives I want to explore fictionally, things I will not share.

Is this selfish? I make no apologies. And I ask you to really think about it: how do you feel about your ideas? Do you keep them to yourself? Do you share? Am I being not only selfish, but unfair?

Thea Devine is working on a contemporary erotic romance. She’s USAToday best-selling the author of 27 erotic contemporary and historical romances and a dozen novellas.

Themes and Memes

Thea Devine today, watching as the snow stops, the sun comes out, and ready to jump-start some new ideas. I created this list for a workshop I gave at several Chapters (including CTRWA), and I’ve had a few new thoughts since I distributed the handouts.

Maybe you’re looking for a theme, an idea, a spine, some motivating mojo. Maybe you need a break from the WIP and want to write something just for the change (like, in my case, Not Sex). Maybe you want to play around with some bigger ideas and plot points. Maybe this list will help.

Family, faith, community: I think these themes the most important today
Anything goes vs old time values
Hedonism vs. religious stricture
Good vs evil
Something profound – like failure – shapes and changes a protagonist’s life
Loss of friends, community, job: after adversity, struggling to make a new life
Impact of separation, divorce, death
The love that could not be
Rebellion and where that leads the protagonist
Old boyfriend returns and upends everything
Consequences of sexual attack (Steubenville)
Repercussions of cavalier sex
Rags to riches: heroine spirals down and out and climbs back to a better life
An unseen lurking threat
Haunting — by ghosts real or imagined, conscience compels actions
Objects of desire: the key to a crisis in the present is in the mystery code located somewhere exotic that will save the country, the world, the planet (I love this theme)
The government is out to get us
The government is out to save us
Child in jeopardy
Impact of random violence (wrong place wrong time)
Controlled threat (stalker, serial killer)
Apocalyptic event changes life as we know it
Hero/ine against all powerful cabals that seek to dominate everything

And then …
Peripheral characters tell hitherto unknown story of a historical figure of real person –
The Other Boleyn Sister, the Tsarina’s Daughter, The Paris Wife
Ongoing characters reader falls in love with: Stephanie Plum, eg.
Exotic locations in exotic times: Wilbur Smith and Barbara Michaels, ca 1920’s Egypt; Daisy Dalrymple mysteries (1930s)
Wounded hero (like Jesse Stone) solves small town mysteries
Impact of major historical event (9/11, Columbine, Newtown)
Beloved fictional characters — like Mr & Mrs Darcy solving crimes; Jane Austen parsing out mysteries etc.
Boomer characters — the Covington novels
“clubs” — book, knitting, quilt. Jane Austen etc.
Historical mysteries — Alienist, Dante Club, Anatomy of Deception

Need some motive power? characters could be searching for family, a murderer, a lost sibling, assets, heirs, vengeance, treasure, lost love, an abandoned child, a new life, another chance.

Or they could be running from a murder charge, an ex-spouse, a stalker, toxic relationships, their childhoods, the past, responsibility, secrets (see below).

Or they could vanish. People leave for any number of reasons: they committed an opportunistic crime, were in an accident, were kidnapped, just took off, eloped, escaped an abusive situation, were running from the law, were seeking to start over, committed suicide

Maybe someone’s hiding something: someone’s secretly …

An alcoholic
An Exhibitionist
A pill addict/drug addict
A gambler
A shoplifter
An extortionist
An embezzler
Bulimic
Covets her sister’s husband
Endures physical or emotional abuse in a loveless marriage
Did bad things out of jealousy and never got caught
Got pregnant by seducing a man who resembled her husband who couldn’t have children and passed it off as his
Has an irresistible impulse to kill
Is really a bad girl when family and friends think is so good
Did something bad just to see if she could get away with it
Had a secret baby she gave away
Thought she was adopted; finds she was her mother’s natural illegitimate child

That’s it, guys. What do you think? Any ideas to add to the mix? I’d love to hear them.

Thea Devine is working on her next erotic contemporary romance — and pondering a handful of other ideas.

What John Said

I’m going to tell you what John said. John is the calm waters next to my endlessly churning hurricane.. John is orderly, logical and precise. I am way on the opposite side of that. So John keeps me sane during these crazy publishing times.

Arguably, every time in publishing has been a little crazy, so this is one thing John said to me when I was suffering my huge writer’s block year. He said, books get written one page at time (a journey of a thousand words?). One page at a time. If I didn’t write that one page, there wouldn’t be a page 2,3 or even page three hundred.

That was very comforting. I mean, who can’t write one page, even if it’s gibberish. But you know this writing secret – whatever you write, it’s not gibberish and it may be the start something wonderful at some point.

Or it may not. But putting words on paper is so satisfying in and of itself that it’s worth galvanizing yourself to write that one page even when you think the water’s muddy and the well is dry.

And, as it turns out, the well is never dry. The creative waters may scrape the rocks at times, but — as John said when I was reluctant to use an idea in my current WIP that I was saving for another book — there’s always another idea. Seriously. He said he’d rarely seen me run out of ideas.

Really. There IS always another idea. Aren’t our antennae always out, searching for the snippet of conversation that could be a head-snapping opening line, the thing in the news from which we can invent a high concept novel, the personal experience we can spin into an inspirational romance?

Aren’t you talking to people everywhere, listening to conversations, asking questions, reading everything, studying your husband who has had your number all the years you’ve been married?

Aren’t you trying really hard to fit a plot around the fire at the pharmacy? Are you writing everything down?

If you had to plot in 100 page chunks? That’s daunting. One page — focusing on what the reader needs to know? No problem. Only that and nothing more. Okay, got it done. Oh wait, you have to keep going — you can’t stop there. You seeded the first page with all kinds of things you need to carry forward. Keep going — page two and three, four, five … and then — maybe — the magic starts to happen.

Or not. But you’ve got a nugget you can save for another day, another plot, another WIP.
Remember what John said: you write it one page at a time, and there IS always another idea.

Thea Devine really loves John. She’s working on her next erotic contemporary romance.

Do Not Disturb – Daydreaming in Progress

Happy Friday everyone! Casey Wyatt here.

Shh… hold on a moment. I’m staring out my window. Aren’t my squirrels cute? I know I should be writing but I’m vegging.

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I’m not thinking about anything writing related right now either. And that’s okay.I’m remembering a recent trip to Ikea with my buddies, Katy, Suze and J. We had a lot of fun with those owl puppets.

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I’m letting my mind wander while I look at this. . . . this is such a divine tree.

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I’m a true believer in daydreaming/vegging out/being lazy. I can’t think of a single idea that originated from me sitting down and saying, “I will now generate story ideas.” That totally doesn’t work for me.

Here’s where my past ideas came from:

  • Mystic Ink - baby name book while I was researching a totally different story.
  • The Undead Space Initiative - driving my car.
  • Misfortune Cookie – while daydreaming during my day job. Let me clarify – I was working on something repitive and my mind went into some other dimension.
  • Ascension – during a car ride.
  • Unnamed projects in the works – various places like sitting around being a couch potato, waiting in line at the grocery store, watching the news, and driving in the car (that seems to be my biggest idea generator).

The best ideas always sneak up on me when I least expect them! Kind of like those gremlins in the dryer that steal socks – no one sees them, yet the results are the same – two go in – one comes out. And don’t tell me I’m the only one with them! Either that, or I have a pocket dimension in my basement.

I have to thank Jamie for her post Monday - I don’t wanna. It reminded me that it’s normal to not do anything once in a while. In fact, I would argue that if you don’t stop and stare out the window regularly, you will never, ever have any fresh ideas again.

What does everyone else think? Can you command your mind to be creative? Or do you have to trick it like I do?

The Russian Coat

The Russian coat is packed a plastic bag, still on the floor of my office because I have no idea what to do with it.  For one thing, it has a history.  Back in my older son’s senior year of high school, the class, in conjunction with a course in Russian literature, travelled to Russia during spring break.  My son left wearing a blue ski jacket when he boarded the plane.  When he arrived back at the airport a week later, he had this thick woolen brass buttoned military coat: the Russian coat.

That coat went with him to university in Chicago, it and he enduring four years of minus zero degree winter weather (and how glad I was he had it) and then it came back home and into the hands of my younger son who wore it for the last two years of high school and beyond.  At that point, my older son was working overseas, we were on the cusp of moving to CT, and as we were cleaning things out, I thought maybe it was time to donate the Russian coat.

My eldest was adamant that we shouldn’t. The Russian coat had a story, it was his story, his history;  it  was part of his growing up. We had strict orders not to donate the Russian coat.  By that time, it was in pretty bad shape:  it needed a really good going over, repair, and a major cleaning.  Was it worth all that if it was just going to be packed away and nobody was planning to wear it ever again?

As I’ve written previously, my mother was born in Russia; my grandparents emigrated here in the 1930’s so I’m not without some sentiment on this matter.  I feel that pull to keep some connection to a history that’s in my blood if not in my consciousness.

But maybe there’s a different story about the Russian coat that I, the granddaughter and daughter of those immigrants and romance author, have yet to excavate from its tattered remains. I mean, this could be my Doctor Zhivago moment if I’m ever bold enough to grab it.

Until I’m certain of it, though, I’m feeling, fatalistically, that the Russian coat just might be with us forever.  So it sits, a victim of inertia, bundled up, on the floor of my office and I nudge it every once and while, and wonder what to do with it. I try to imagine that moment my son actually came into possession of it, and wonder whether actually having the object is necessary if you’ll always have the memory.  I wonder if this is how we all get stuck with the objects of our memories that we just can’t bear to relinquish.  And if the reason we hold onto objects is to hold on to our history in order to assure that our children and grandchildren know and remember that we were here.

How many things have tethered you because of memories?  Are they inspiration or clutter? Are you someone who can easily let go of objects?  Or do you hold onto things forever?  Is your house as cluttered as mine? What would you have done with the Russian coat?

Thea Devine is nearly finished with Beyond The Night, the sequel to The Darkest Heart, to be released April 2013.  She’s pleased to announce the reissue of His Little Black Book in October.