Saturday, February 25, 2012

Novel Inspirations

I’m not sure where plotters get their inspirations. During a recent conversation with a plotter, she said she thinks in terms of umbrella themes and plots that then lead her to characters, their goals and their conflicts—both internal and external.
Just thinking about all that mental labor makes me tired. But it certainly accounts for that author’s depth of character and intricate storylines.
As for pantser me:
Many of my story inspirations begin in bed. Not because I’m an erotic fantasy writer doing research… When making love, I ‘m totally in the moment.
My subconscious self, however, may have conjured two people arguing at the top of their lungs. That argument may provide their external conflict and may also be part of their own internal issues. Either conflict may or may not have led to the argument. At this point, I haven’t a clue. I just have these characters who need to resolve their issues—whatever they may be.

News stories or magazine articles sometimes inspire stories. A romantic suspense I’m still noodling on raises its hand and beckons with enticing, bejeweled fingers every presidential election year. Another romantic suspense that I’ve written and sold came from an article about emerald mining in Colombia. It Takes a Thief came out of that article. I’m hoping to see it release from Ellora’s Cave (EC) in 2012.

Sometimes another author’s work inspires me. I’m not talking about plagiarism, but something more like a spin-off. Mary Stewart’s Arthurian Quartet (The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, etc.) not only left me awestruck but reluctant to let go of the magic. Whether hers or Merlin’s I can’t say.
Anyway, those books led me to write a Regency and a Victorian sequel sort of rooted in those Arthurian legends. Both sucked. But someday I may resurrect them as erotic fantasies.
My first erotic novel and first ever sale was inspired by a short story by Charlotte Boyett-Campo titled The Windsday Club. Only two chapters long, it made me hot. It made me laugh. It made me wonder if I could write something that funny, that sexually arousing.
Apparently I could. Ellora’s Cave (EC) bought Passion’s Four Towers (PFT) and the rest, as they say, is history.

Your own work can inspire you. For example, I set myself up to write a sequel to Passion’s Four Towers—maybe even more than a couple of sequels. But when I finished I had a problem. Two of my secondary heroes had let themselves be led into sexual satiation. Which meant my sequel went into the toilet.
Lucky for me, my heroines’ dead mother rescued me. Kerrie dragged her ghostly chains, wailed like a banshee and in general made herself a pain in the… She kept at me until I wrote Kerrie’s Quest for Passion (KQ). That filled my time until Gerard and Edgar had recovered enough to take their heroic roles in Passion’s Twins (PT).

And then, due to circumstances beyond my control…

Between writing KQ’s and PT, Angela Lansbury’s Murder, She Wrote caught me in the what if of virtual reality. Sexy Hercules star Kevin Sorbo played a VR designer accused of murder. The crime aspect didn’t inspire me, but the VR did.
That’s when I set out to become the Sue Grafton of erotic fantasies. Since every series needs a foundation story, I wrote His Virtual Virgin, followed by a sojourn I’m still taking through the alphabet. I’m up to G—His Virtual Gift—which released February 15, 2012 from eXtasy Books.

Your publisher may also inspire you to write a themed story. EC did and I wrote four short stories/novellas around food and the arts. EC didn’t buy one of them, but eXtasy Books contracted for all four. In fact, I now have a series called Sensuous Seasonings.

Chapter members may also inspire stories. I have almost total recall of hooking up with SVR members at the Denver RWA national convention in 2000. We were talking about what we were writing and I described a plot I was noodling on and our own resident humorist, Judy Ashley said, “Oh, so you’re writing Saving Ryan’s Privates—which became my first sale to eXtasy Books.

Sometimes there’s just something in the air. How often have you seen stories by different authors that have the same core theme? Over the fifteen plus years I pursued becoming published, I’ve encountered this phenomena a lot. I don’t know if Laurel K. Hamilton got her inspiration for Jean-Claude from Anne Rice, but it’s easy to think that’s what inspired her vampire stories. And Shanna Abe’s magical, marvelous Drakons could certainly have inspired shape-shifting dragons.
Obviously, I’m a fan of all these talented authors.

Faces. I based a couple of my heroines on a little girl with reddish-blonde hair and sea-foam green eyes I saw on a cruise up the Sacramento River. A craggy-featured old man missing some teeth might inspire my next excursion into VR.

All this is by way of saying inspiration can come from anywhere. You just need to listen and look.

Dee Brice
Erotic Fantasies Where Nothing is Forbidden


Tina Donahue said...

Great post, Dee - welcome to SNSD!

I'm a plotter myself. I can be doing anything - driving, making dinner, watching TV - and I suddenly envision two people in my mind in a scene (scene varies, can be in bed, they're arguing, making up, whatever). I start to think about them, their lives, jobs, histories.

And then I start plotting. My outlines are usually as long as my novels, but the beauty of it is, by the time I start writing the first line, I have the story so well in my head the first draft and subsequent ones are a breeze. No doubling back to chapter two to see if it's right (or what I wrote) when I'm on chapter six.

To me, plotting a novel is like planning a trip. It helps to have a map and a route so I don't take any unnecessary detours. :)

Tim Smith said...

Nice post, Dee.

I'm also a plotter and like to use the "what if..." thing when I run across a news item or hear a story. When I begin writing I have the beginning, middle and end in my mind but there are times when I'll come up with something and decide to make a detour. It keeps things interesting.

jean hart stewart said...

I started out as a plotter, little outline notes and everything.Now I'm almost completely a pantser.But at some point I'llmake a rough outline of the chapter. AndI always have the beginning and the end in mind. Interesting column, Dee.

Dee Brice said...

Oh but, Tina, those detours are what make writing the story so much fun!
Dee Brice

Dee Brice said...

Tim and Jean,
When I first started writing I didn't even know the beginning, middle or end. I just wrote. And boy! did my characters love leading me down a path and then leaving me to figure out how to get back! Now I at least have an idea about where the story's headed. I still take those wonderful detours--couldn't do without them--but I leave breadcrumbs to get me home again.
Dee Brice

Fiona McGier said...

I just love the whole process of giving "life" to the characters who are anxious to have someone else's mind to live in besides mine! It's like sending your child out into the world...you hope they will be well-received, but you had no choice. They had grown too noisy to be kept in your head! grin!