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I’ve got it…now what do I do with it?

by Robbi Hess

An idea, your idea — it appears to be everything you had ever dreamed of, but now that you finally have it, what do you do with it?

After you have taken the time to savor your genius at having discovered a nugget of an idea that speaks to you, now you need to ponder your writing style.

Are you intrigued by plot, character or setting?

Let’s say, as an example, I give you the idea “three children have crawled into the trunk of a car.” What path does your thought process travel? Are you wondering who the children are? How old they are? Are they boys or girls? What are they thinking, how are they feeling? Are they scared or excited?

Are you wondering where the car is parked? Is it in a deserted used car lot? Is it in the middle of windswept field on a chilly autumn night? Maybe it is slowly sinking into the murky depths of the “bottomless” pond in old Mrs. Smith’s apple orchard.

Perhaps you are wondering what brought the children to this point? What would make them crawl into the trunk of a car? Did someone, or something, chase them into it? Were they just playing a game of hide and seek that has the potential to end horribly because now they are in the trunk and it locks behind them?

Are the characters in your story motivated by what is happening around them or is the setting/atmosphere spurring the characters to action?

Knowing what lures you into a story will help you determine your writing style.

Some people are affected by a scent (the smell of apple pie or burning sauerkraut) others see an object (a necklace, the scarf that looks like the one mom wore the day of her fatal accident) while still others are haunted by a memory (I’ll never forget the day Spot got hit by the car, if only I hadn’t taken the uptown bus that day this whole tragic event could have been avoided, etc.)

What gets your creative juices flowing? What sensory objects touch you and stimulate your imagination? A mystery writer would likely be motivated by plot–the whodunit and how; a romance writer could be stimulated by feisty heroines and brooding heroes; while a travel writer finds himself lost in the beautiful but deadly Amazon River region. The horror writer might find herself lost in the lure of a haunted house or captured by the fear of the unknown in the dank basement.

Know thyself.

When you determine the type of writer you are and the genre and style that grabs you and won’t let you up until you have turned the final page, it will be easy for you to take that newly hatched idea and turn it into a story.

Determining what type of writer you are doesn’t have to put you in a panic or cause you sleepless nights. It truly is a natural process. As for myself, I am a setting driven writer. I’ve discovered that, given a prompt, my mind automatically travels toward the “where” it is happening, what is the mood/atmosphere of where the action is taking place. Is the scene being set in a darkened alley, in a decrepit ramshackle house or in the middle of a dark and gloomy forest. Once I get the setting in my mind, the characters seem to drift into place and begin reacting to the scene.

I have friends who simply cannot pick up a pen or sit at the keyboard until they “know” their characters; setting is incidental to how their characters are feeling and reacting.

The types of books you are drawn to will also give you insight into the type of fiction you will want to pen. Can you think of examples of plot- and character-driven books you’ve enjoyed? Which do you prefer? Which would you like to write?

Now that you have taken a few minutes to ponder your style, you are ready to begin fleshing out your idea and turning it into a full-blown written piece of prose.

This month’s prompt: Choose one of the following settings and one of the atmospheres and see where your mind takes you. Good luck, and good writing! (settings) A city in the rain; an 1890s parlor; a foreign city, and (atmosphere) despair; love comes too late; fresh starts.

© 2002 by Robbi Hess

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