Where ideas mysteriously appear for eight Rogues….
Gayle Lynds: Some writers march into their kitchen to eat. A lot. Others go outdoors to garden or sit in a favorite lawn chair, morosely swigging Johnny Walker. And then there are those who take showers. Lots of showers. Do showers wash away bad ideas and clear the way for great ideas? I’ve been wondering about that. Hoping, actually.
So, Rogues, where do you go to jog free the ideas that propel you out of plot hell, resuscitate a character into breathing life, or create the perfect setting for a terrific chase or romantic encounter?
I can’t wait to read your answers!
Ideas? Well, sometimes when my brain feels foggy, directionless, I just need a good friend to take off my idea-stifling hat to allow my mind to wander in a different direction. In my case, ideas blossom from travel, adventure, and research. Every time I go into the field, I return refreshed and energized, full of options about how to handle a challenging story point. And the fun I have exploring provides inspiration to keep typing.
When the words have stopped coming and the voices have gone silent, I usually need some fresh air. A walk, playing with the Westie pack, a little gardening or just sitting outside and listening to the birds can help eliminate roadblocks. Of course, it’s more difficult during the winter months. That’s when I retreat to the sunroom to read a book or get on the treadmill and listen to podcasts about writing or marketing. But nothing recharges the battery like soaking up some sun. One of my favorite spots is this patio right outside my writing room.
I go straight to my husband. He’s not a writer—he’s a farmer—but he’s so good at brainstorming and always comes at a problem from a different angle than me. Sometimes, when he’s planting (as he is this week and next, and the one after…) or harvesting, I go out and ride along with him. Sometimes he gets me out of the house and we ride the ranger around our acreage. Also, movies. Movies (previews, especially, before the main feature) and a giant tub of buttered popcorn always work wonders!
When I write myself into a corner or get blank screen syndrome, I retreat to certain areas I’ve designated as “think spots.” The key to a good think spot is that it does not contain a computer. I need to physically remove my keister from the chair and my eyes from the screen in order to shift my brain into a different gear. I’ll take a pad and pen, going old school, and leave the room to sit on a couch. For me, the most important thing seems to be a change of setting and a reversion to low tech.
This is going to sound super-not-interesting, but I seem to get my ideas lying in bed. Whether trying to sleep or trying to wake up, my brain likes to say “Hey! What if you did this…” The character could just work here. You could have this scene come before that scene. And suddenly the problem resolves. I’m almost always too lazy to get up and write these insights down—but in the morning I will remember the gist, if not the precise wording.
I’m a boring writer. I don’t do anything special like take long walks or smell roses or bake bread or go antiquing to open myself up so ideas will flow. Most of the time, my ideas know to jog right on in when my butt hits my writing chair. To make the showing up worth their while, each morning I supply said ideas an ice-cold glass of V-8. It’s always good form to give ideas a little somethin’-somethin’. An incentive. A reward. Tribute? You don’t want ideas bypassing your place and knocking instead on Karin Slaughter’s door. And they will. Ideas are fickle. What happens if I’m out of V-8, you may ask? Nothing great. Ideas are also petty as all get-out.
If you climb the meadow behind my house, you get a view of that mountain peeping out. Blue in summer, aflame in fall, bald or snowy in winter, a haze of green in spring. Enshrouded by clouds, or as clear as if it were in glass. When I need to clear my head and reenter the world after a day of writing, I look at this mountain. And when I need to envision the greatness of a scene. To imagine the expansion of possibilities in a plot, or picture my character walking through nature of a menacing sort. Monks, seekers, soothsayers, dreamers, poets all make use of mountains. As a fiction writer, I always find inspiration there.
It may sound kind of “inconvenient,” but I honestly do get a lot of ideas for my novels when I happen to be swimming laps in one of our pools every day. We travel between our houses depending on the season, and now we are back at our home in Washington DC where we built this pool in our backyard, so this is where I’ll be spending an hour each afternoon for the next two months. The “inconvenient” part is that when I get an idea, think of a clever name for a character or a neat location for a key scene, there I am — all wet — with nothing to write with. (OK, perhaps I should keep a pen and pad at the shallow end, but I’d still be dripping) So, when I’ve done my 50 laps, I quickly dry off, head inside and try to remember everything I thought about in the previous hour.