Ideas in the Morning, Reprise

Writing the Novel: From Plot to PrintBlock, Lawrence. Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer's Digest Books. Copyright © 1979, by Lawrence Block.

Lawrence Block's web site:

In the chapter titled "Developing Plot Ideas," Lawrence Block writes:

Two and two makes five. Which is to say that synergy is very much at work in the process of plot development. The whole is ever so much greater than its parts. The writer, in possession of one fact or anecdote or notion or concept or whatever, suddenly gifted with another apparently unrelated fact or anecdote or et cetera, takes one in each hand and automatically turns them this way and that, playing with the purposefulness of a child, trying to see if they’ll fit together. (pp. 52-53)

As has been the case lately, I awoke with an intriguing idea staring me in the face. Only, this idea wasn't fully formed. I was witnessing a scene being played out between two characters. First there were images. One character played with his digital camera, examining photos he had taken earlier that day, and then his companion spoke. The first, having heard his companion's words, then gave some commentary on the second's words. His commentary triggered my imagination.

I got up, went into the bathroom to weigh myself (as is my wont), got dressed, made my bed, all the while my mind playing with this idea, spinning it around, casting threads here and there, seeing what sort of web would result. Then the opening scene came to me and I played with it, too. Soon the idea gained some weight, the web of a body having started to adorn its bones. It's an idea that gives me the chills, an idea that excites me, an idea that is luring me into its web, but its time is not yet.

"Continue to spin," I said to my spidery muse, as I typed up what few threads of the idea I could see. I made notes, and I promised that I'd come back to examine just how much more elaborate the lattice-work had developed. My spidery muse nodded, trying to tempt me more with another silken thread, but I politely bid her, "Later. Keep working, though."

Lawrence continues later in the same chapter:

Stay awake. I heard very early on that a writer works twenty-four hours a day, that the mind is busy sifting notions and possibilities during every waking hour and, in a less demonstrable manner, while the writer sleeps as well. I liked the sound of this from the start — it was a nice rejoinder to my then wife if she said anything about my putting in only two hours a day at the typewriter, or skipping work altogether and going to the friendly neighborhood pool hall for the afternoon. But I'm not sure I believed it.

I believe it now, but with one qualification. I believe we can be on the job twenty-four hours a day. I believe we can also choose not to, and those of us who make this choice severely limit ourselves. (p. 55)

2 comment(s):

monstro said...
January 24, 2010 2:49 PM

It's amazing how we sometimes have our imagination sparkling all over the place, for no reason at all, or for several reasons combined. :)
I hope some of the ideas you're having will become part of a story.

g d townshende said...
January 24, 2010 5:22 PM

I'm sure they will, but I'm hesitant to say what sort of story will result, or even how soon I'll be able to use these ideas. Some ideas take years to develop. Others come to the writer all of a piece, ready to be transcribed. Still others can take months, or weeks, or days, or, in some cases, just a couple of hours to develop. It's different with each idea, different with each story.

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