It was supposed to be a
brainstorming session, but instead I just stared at the
And as I watched, something
quite strange happened; little stick figures began to run around
my whiteboard. Right before my eyes!
Convinced I’d finally lost the
plot – although my family would say I’d lost it long ago – I
backed away, staring in disbelief.
As my hands shook and my heart
beat a virtual tattoo, I closed my eyes. This couldn’t be
happening; perhaps I had fallen into a new dimension?
Somewhere out of the silence,
a cackle of laughter rose. I sneaked a peek. The little horrors
were scribbling on my whiteboard!
I’d heard of characters
becoming alive in the author’s eyes, but this really was quite
ridiculous. Before I had the chance to protest, the cheeky
devils had begun to chart my characters:
Hero: tall dark and handsome
Heroine: short and blonde
No! This was not how it was
meant to be! Stereotypes - that’s all they wanted. But
stereotypes are not for me.
I reached for the Valium, but
before I had the chance to swallow it down, they’d added more to
their mischief making: "It was a dark and stormy night..."
Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek! What were
they trying to do to me? I want an original opening, not a
cliché, and certainly not something that’s been written before.
Staring out the window I
noticed it was indeed a dark and stormy night. Perhaps there was
another way to describe the scene?
"Heavy rain fell, people
scattered trying to find shelter; Jake Peterson turned his
collar up and bent his head toward the wet ground. Little did he
know his entire life would change when he turned the corner."
Before I’d even finished
writing my opening words, the tiny fiends were scurrying about
the whiteboard again.
"Boy meets girl, boy and girl
fall in love, they live happily ever after."
No, no, no - I will not write
These characters need to learn
their lesson; this novel will be a romantic suspense. There’s
nothing formulaic about that.
Perhaps I could start with a
good murder – the heroine could witness it, almost get herself
killed, then suddenly find herself on the run and meet her hero.
And there doesn’t even need to be a happy ever after, although
the book would certainly sell better if there was.
And what about the setting?
I’m sure those phony scribblers would love for me to set it in a
big city. Well, phooey to them, because I’m going to set it in
the outback, or at least in the outer suburbs. That ought to get
their backs up!
And what they probably don’t
realise is that I need an outline. Not
that I’ll necessarily follow it to the tee, but I’ll certainly
use it as my guiding light, then if I seem to be getting off
track, I’ll have a way to get right back on again.
While my characters are up
there on my board and in my head, I’ll ask them a question or
two; an interview if you like. About things of old, their
childhood, or maybe the sister who died in the summer. Perhaps I
should query the hero about the time he jumped naked into the
river in the midst of winter – I’m willing to bet he would hate
talking about that time in his life.
Or we could discuss the day
the heroine came home from work to find her mother dead on the
stairs, and the police came round, and the coroner too, and how
they took her father away...
And if I asked him about the
day he fell off the roof, because he was afraid of heights, or
the time she cried for most of the day when her brother put a
frog in her bed, I wonder what they would say?
Or perhaps the time he found a
gun under his dad’s bed and his friend loaded it and shot the
neighbour’s dog. They buried it quick,
without anyone knowing, and kept that secret for years. She
might tell me about the scar on her face or the limp that she
has. Or the knife in the cupboard, way back in the dark where
no-one will find it?
She might mention the blood
all over the kitchen, and why blood makes her feel faint.
All of these things I will ask
them at will, although I’d just bet they’d both hate that!
Well, what do you know, my
whiteboard is clean. Time to outline my story...