Vodka. Oh. Seriously? My smaller laptop. I am hopelessly attached to screens. I even read most of my books on a screen.
My grandmother, who lived on South Broad Street in Philly. She was born with a caul and had the second sight. When Grandmom told us she’d had a dream, we stopped what we were doing and listened. I wondered, what if a person were born with the caul, but was also breech? What if the caul gave the person the ability to recall his or her pasts, rather than see the future? Would that knowledge help or hurt circumstances in the current life? Would a person apply that knowledge, use it to grow and change and live a more meaningful life? Or would it be easier, safer, less controversial, to shove it to the side, make excuses, find some way to pretend that knowledge didn’t exist?
Generally, I hear a voice, somebody talking in my head. I’ll throw down a few sentences to get a feel for this person. And start asking questions.
Who are you? What do you want? Why do you want it? Who or what is keeping you from getting it? How come? So what are you going to do about that?
That’s the kernel, the start of the adventure. After that I run the idea through a series of exercises to define genre, themes, protag, antag, turning points, blah blah blah. I talk it to death with my writing buddies, then I write up an outline. Then I talk about it some more. Then they tell me to shut up and write. Then I write. Then I decide the story is puerile and pointless. Then I go back to the exercises, try to figure out where I went wrong and why I’m wasting my time trying to write. Then I cruise the internet, looking for places to travel, possibly settle permanently, where reading has not yet been invented. Then I talk to my writing buddies about the project some more. Then they tell me to shut up and fix it.
Somewhere along the way, most of the time, something that might, just might, be a really good story emerges.
All the Light You Cannot See, by Anthony Deorr. The novel had ‘Soon-To-Be Major Prize Winner’ written on every page. The story is structured perfectly with two protags in two different places traveling two different and parallel timelines and is a continual reference for me to see How The Author Did It.