Sunday, December 9, 2007

Craft....developing ideas

I've been talking about characterization, but want to take a detour tonight. Where do you get your story ideas? How you develop the storyline for a whole book?

I usually come up with settings, the characters and what brought them there, and some likely subplots. Then I start brainstorming lists of ten-thirty things that might happen in those subplots, weeding out the silly or boring ones, and ultimately come up with a semi-plausible list of scene ideas. Solo. This weekend I did something totally different--and it was a blast!

Two long-term writing friends, Cindy Gerard and Kylie Brant, and I booked a room at a brand-new casino hotel, which we chose because it was centrally located, had very reasonable room rates, and would likely have good food at reasonable prices. We got there Friday night and checked out Sunday at eleven...and did we ever work! Twelve hours on Saturday. Several hours on both Friday night and Sunday morning.

We asked for a later check-out, but overheard the desk clerks whisper "But they aren't gambling!" so their answer was that the hotel was full! Nope, we sure weren't there to gamble--instead, we each had a new story to work on, and with three brains at work, we each came away with a thoroughly plotted new story! In fact, my friends were kind enough to help me start work on plotting a second one, as well. Tossing out ideas, playing off each other's strengths, and discarding the ideas that didn't work, I think we each came away with far stronger plots than we would have on our own--with many of the problematic points identified and deleted or tweaked. And we each headed for home excited, invigorated, and ready to really get to work on our new projects!

Having an intensive plotting weekend isn't an idea that originated with us--we've heard of other authors doing this. But it's a great system! My friends and I don't critique together, but we sure plan to get back together again in April--and again, later in the year! about you? Do you have a critique group? Good friends who are avid readers? You can do this, too! The weekend was inexpensive, splitting a room three ways. But you could simply set up a whole day sometime, meet, and equally divide up the time so everyone receives their fair share. I look back at all the years when I've been a part of one critique group or another, and wish I'd been arranging intensive plotting sessions all along!

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