Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Anatomy of a Book – The Big Idea

 How do you come up with story ideas? It’s a question most authors have heard a bazillion times. The answer is—it all depends.
Ideas can come from anywhere and everywhere: a personal experience, news item, chance-heard remark, book that didn’t turn out “right,” or the fleeting glimpse of a person or a place. Sometimes things get started with an unusual character, an intriguing situation or even a theme. Once in a great while a story arrives complete in every detail, like a flower unfurling its petals in the mind. More often, however, it begins with the germ of an idea and develops as bits are added one after the other.

My WIP (Work in Progress) is a case in point. I haven’t quite finalized the title, but it will probably be some variation of THE AMALFI ABDUCTION. The book will be #3 in my current Italian Billionaires series from Steel Magnolia Press. The other two books are THE TUSCAN’S REVENGE WEDDING, and THE VENETIAN’S DARING SEDUCTION, so you can probably see where I’m going with it. I love Italy and the Amalfi Coast is a beautiful area that I enjoyed while visiting there.

So I want to write about the Amalfi Coast and I intend to have an Italian Billionaire hero. Two things decided right off the bat. I also want to use an abduction situation. Why? Because it has interesting possibilities for conflict, humor and sexual tension, all of which I want in this story. With this scenario, it seems convenient to include a private island, and it just happens I’ve read about private islands in the Mediterranean.

Great, three or four initial ideas meshed together.  What next?
Town of Amalfi, Costiera Amalfitana
The Amalfi Coast road snakes along cliffs high above the sea. It’s a stunningly gorgeous drive, but has such sharp bends that it becomes almost a one-lane road in places. Smaller European cars are usually okay, but two large vehicles such as delivery trucks or buses cannot negotiate  some curves at the same time; one of them has to back up into a conveniently placed lay-by. When I was on this road a couple of years ago, we encountered a traffic jam as two big tourist buses met in a curve and neither wanted to back up. Then impatient Italian drivers crowded so close around the buses they could not move forward or back.

So what if my hero in his fancy Italian sports car is caught in such a jam going in one direction, and my heroine in her little rental vehicle is trapped in the other? And what if the heroine is a traffic cop from the U.S. who unsnarls jams all day long?
Why a female traffic cop? I don’t know; it just seems to be what the situation needs. Blame my muse.  You’ll also notice I added a bit of personal experience here to insure a vivid setting.

Okay, we’re getting somewhere.  But why on earth would an OMG handsome Italian who is rich beyond dreams abduct a somewhat too competent American woman? While I was mulling this question a friend happened to mention her extremely vocal and eccentric long-haired Siamese cat. Hmm. What if this incredibly valuable and wily cat escapes its carrier in the hero’s car, and then….

Well, I won’t give away too much of the story, but hopefully this glimpse of my thought processes will illustrate how a story can be put together by piling one idea on top of another.
Next up: Naming the characters.

Since publishing her first book at age 27, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jennifer Blake has gone on to write over 65 historical and contemporary novels in multiple genres. She brings the story-telling power and seductive passion of the South to her stories, reflecting her 8th-generation Louisiana heritage. Jennifer lives with her husband in northern Louisiana.



Landra said...

Love this little entreaty into how an idea unfolds in your mind. I've experienced similar situations, in fact most of my brainstorming story ideas are like pulling teeth.

Then this weekend I was driving down the highway and a story idea hit full force. It was rapid fire and I plotted nearly half of it in a few hours.

Which do you prefer the hair pulling, drag outs with the muse or the rapid fire attacks?

Jennifer Blake said...

I'm always *extremely* grateful for the sudden arrival of a full-fledged story, Landra! Such things seem as if they're meant to be -- even when I suspect my subconscious has been working on it in secret.

But I don't really mind assembling bits and pieces. It's usually a fun mental exercise, like putting a puzzle together. And there are the rewarding Aha! moments that make you chortle as you capture them on paper because they're so perfect.

All in all, I enjoy creating the story framework -- it's turning it into thousands of words that's the hard part.:-)

Regan said...

You have a weird and twisted mind, Jennifer--and I love it! However you arrive at them, your novels enthrall. Thanks for sharing how you do it. I've read all the posts so far and love it. Shared on FB, too!


Jennifer Blake said...

A thousand thanks for sharing, Regan! I'm delighted you found something worthwhile here. Drop in again as I go along with these posts. Feedback keeps me coming up with things to write about.:)