Vancouver is in fast forward mode to enter spring. There is colour, finally, after months of monochromatic gray. Sure, the skies are still the same drab shade most of the time (nothing new or shocking for us who live here), but the gardens are suddenly exploding with yellow Forsythias, pink Japanese cherry trees and other early blooming species. Our bird feeder empties twice as quickly as a few weeks ago. The city is coming out of hibernation. And it all happened while I was away for merely two weeks.
And with nature awakening, people’s moods seem to follow in the same track. That’s the power Mother Nature has over us. A power we should not take lightly. Suddenly we find ourselves rewarded with more smiles all around. The usually surly bus driver gives you a wink, the butcher adds an extra ounce of meat after ringing up your bill, and best of all, we hug our loved one just a wee bit more tightly when reunited after a busy day. We notice more spring in steps of young and old, shoulders a little less hunched and those of a certain age feeling more limber. I swear, I am not making this up. Writers, perhaps more than other representatives of homo sapiens, notice these subtle changes in their surroundings.
Not surprisingly, just as the first spring flowers pushed hard to break through the sodden Wet Coast earth, my mind turned to thinking of a new writing project.
For a start, I was pondering the age-old question writers have been wrestling since times immemorial. How do writers ‘know’ that this is what they are going to spend the next year or more writing the story of what just struck them. Or perhaps you have been pondering a plot for months or years and finally you can’t put it off any longer. Was it a visual image, or an emotion or mood that suddenly gripped you, something that happened in your own life long ago and something reminded you of that event, or simply a story on the news that resonated.
Likely, it could be any of these.
So I started mulling this wisdom over in my head. What to do? Deciding on the genre seems like to most logical first step. But, being spring and seeing a new spring in people’s step around me, I thought, well, why not take a risk. So I tried something new. I tried to be guided by what recently surprised, startled, moved or pleased me most – an image, an observation of human activity, an emotion, an unexpected comment from someone I thought I knew but turned out I did not, or a discovery of some kind.
Trouble is, far too many potential story lines evolved. I could have gone in any direction. Political thriller or espionage (Ukraine news provided plenty of ‘what ifs’); the missing Malaysian plane (conspiracy potential), or spinning a yarn after watching the tennis championship win by a ‘who? how?’, an Italian who nobody expected to go all the way to the top, who goes by the absolutely lovely name of Flavia Pennetta. This ‘senior’ 32-year old played the most elegant, yet oh so aggressive tennis I’ve seen. My crazy writer’s mind went into overdrive: What a cool name for an undercover! Perhaps she could be a fictional tennis player who is using the sport as a front for a project to expose cyber-terrorists infiltrating the CIA? Or the White House. Or Stephen Harper and friends. Or some such. Definitely potential to become a fictional hero off the tennis courts as well.
Yes, there is a story in most everything we see and experience, something that causes some kind of emotion. The more deep-seated the better. The more outraged the better. The more delighted, the more horrendous the better. All of it, as long as it gets us out of our comfort zone and our rut. To catapult us into a different zone.
Have I found the ‘Eureka’ moment? Sadly, no. There have been far too many. Time to do more house-cleaning of my cluttered mind and start to focus. Trouble is, you can only commit to one story idea at a time.
What exactly prompted you to decide on the topic of your next novel? What was the Eureka moment when you said, “That’s it!” and you couldn’t wait to sit at the computer and started typing your first chapter or outline.
I can’t wait to hear what worked for you. Meanwhile, don’t neglect what you’ve been born to become: A writer!