17 October 2007

The Idea Machine

Yesterday over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, they were playing a game with their favorite (and not-so-favorite) romance novels. They presented a list of four word synopsis sentences and made their readers guess what novel it described. (The only one I could guess was "He was a hooker"=Robin Schone's Gabriel's Woman, but I was wrong!)

But what struck me as I read their creative list was how much the sentences resembled the "ideas" that spew out of on-line plot generators. Do a search on the terms "idea generator" and "plot generator" and you'll be amazed. There is also a low-tech idea machine which involves putting individual plot elements written on tiny scraps of paper into containers then randomly drawing a group of elements out together for a plot.

Guess what, folks? Plot "generators" are stupid. Why don't I like them? Because they are void of any connection to things that I have opinions and feelings about. These are suppose to get the creative juices flowing??? If I'm going to spend months of my life with this story, it had better damned be about something that engages and challenges me.

Take my book, Half Moon Rising, for example. The basic plot took shape based on one of my personal pet peeves: genealogy. (Why do hate such a harmless hobby shared by millions? Too many years working at a library helping people with the microfiche for one reason.) Anyhoo...

I was reading a paranormal romance (a good one, too) where the heroine was reflecting on the eternal battle fought between her people and the hero's. Images of their family trees flashed through my mind...and then it struck me how there was never any nerdy vampire doing genealogy in paranormal novels. Then the classic "what if" grabbed my mind. This led me to the idea of a werewolf pack who were as confused about their origins as the crabby lady spending hours reading ship passenger lists from 1870 was about hers.

From that first nugget of an idea came the story of a romance between a werewolf with a big secret and a kick-ass heroine that eventually became Half Moon Rising. And it was an idea I that interested me enough to keep me knocking out the manuscript day after day.

So basically it was a petty, nasty dislike of a beloved hobby that started my brain churning for that book. My current work-in-progress struck me when I saw a picture of a cute guy in a roman soldier outfit. Tomorrow give me a copy of National Geographic, the front page of a newspaper, and a place in line behind the good-looking guy with a snake tattoo up his calf buying sunglasses at Target--and believe me, I'll get a story idea.

The best Idea Machine? Life live, observe humanity, and pay attention to how it makes you feel.

Of course, this is my opinion. How about other authors out there--where do your ideas come from?


Half Moon Rising in print October 30, 2007. Blog: I Want My HEA!

P.S. Just for fun I thought up a four word sentence for my book: Flawed werewolf seeks answers.

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