Is there anything scarier to an author than a blank page?
Define scary. Like being shot at scary, alone at midnight when you hear a noise in the house scary, or gas station sushi scary. Those are the editor type of scary.
Fear of the blank page isn’t really a problem for me. I think it falls under the annoyance level of things. Like fasting before bloodwork and finding a line at the lab when you get there. The page is just someplace to document the BS that rolls around in my head. It may hold a grocery list, a letter to a friend, or a great story idea. It also may be the repository for the garbage that I need to get out of my head.
Story ideas are a bit like those pre-printed grocery lists. I don’t need coffee every time I go to the store… wait… that’s a bad example. I don’t need flour or eggs every time I go to the store. But they’re on that pre-print list for the time you do need them. I have a list of story ideas that I’ve thought of over the years, but most of them are just that—ideas. Without characters and plots they aren’t really anything:
Girl meets boy
Fish out of water
Damsel in distress
Only mine are more like:
Embassy guards that are special ops – Girl meets boy
Musician/murder witness has to be stashed on a ranch – Fish out of water
Genealogist being stalked by crazy biker hitman – Damsel in Distress
The Embassy Guard
No Safe Haven – coming soon
A Shared Fear
For me, it all comes down to finding the right connection between people and plot. None of these were fully formed concepts when I started. They were ‘What if this happened?’ concepts.
The other day I thought about the female lead and tried to find two things that would work together: a job and a reason for that job to have put her in danger. I don’t want to write another cop—the last two standalones are cops and they’re a lot of work to get right. While almost anyone can be in danger from something they saw, I just finished a ‘witness in danger’ book, so the next person needs to have been caught up in something at work. Finding something different and interesting is where the issues occur.
Plus, it needs to be plausible… yeah… always an issue. I now have a character, a job, and a reason for her to be in danger. That’s a concept and I can now work out the plot and the timeline. I’m seven days away from NaNo and I’m hopeful that I’ll have the plot worked out by then.
Now comes the scary part—actually writing the damn thing. Onward!
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