Jilly: Bolt from the Blue

Bolt from the BlueHave you ever had something fire your imagination, completely out of the blue?

Yesterday Michaeline was celebrating a good writing week, thanks (maybe) to her psychological priming experiment. My writing could have gone better, but my story week was a revelation. I went for my regular monthly haircut and as my stylist is not only a genius scissorhands but a good, long-standing friend, we always skip the blah-blah about length, layers, etc and dive straight in to the good stuff. It’s invariably interesting, but this week it was story gold.

We started off predictably enough, comparing notes about Christmas and our families, and from there somehow we found ourselves on the Mediterranean island of Madeira, where he lived until he came to England as a teenager. He described it so clearly I felt as though I was there, then something sparked my imagination and I wasn’t consciously listening to him any more. I’d taken a couple of snippets from his childhood memories, transformed them, spun them around a hundred and eighty degrees, and right there was a compelling heroine with one hell of a powerful back-story. When I came back to the real world I had to halt the haircutting while I made some quick notes.

I added more notes on the tube and when I got home I found a new notebook and filled the first half dozen pages without stopping. It’s the heroine’s story, all the way, but I figured out who the hero is and he has a strong back-story too. I know both main characters’ goals, how they meet, how their lives are tied together and why they have to co-operate even though they don’t know or trust one another. I don’t know their names and I only have a sketchy impression of the world (it’s somewhere fantastic and magical, not Madeira, or the UK, or the US). Lives are at stake. There are powerful, important secrets, which is another surprise since Characters With Secrets are usually high on my list of no-nos.

I’m not quite sure what to do with this gift from the gods, since

  • I’ve never written anything even vaguely like this except a few fun Friday improvs;
  • This is a big story, maybe a quest, could be a trilogy or more;
  • It will require a considerable amount of world-building;
  • It might require first person POV. Not sure if I’m comfortable with that;
  • I’m not quite sure what I’d do with it if I wrote it, and
  • I’m supposed to be working on my second contemporary romance. I know that world really well, I like the characters, and have several more books already lined up to write. I want to write them.

I’m an orderly soul and I don’t like the idea of putting a part-developed story on ice to work on something that’s jumped the story queue without so much as a by-your-leave, but this heroine is pushy and she’s not going away. Deep down, I feel as though ignoring her would be a mistake.

I’ve been making notes and vacillating about my next steps since last Tuesday, but I’m tempted to give the idea a couple of weeks of serious attention, see how it shapes up, and then decide.

Have you ever experienced this kind of creative ambush? What did you do about it?

11 thoughts on “Jilly: Bolt from the Blue

  1. Jilly – how great to have inspiration strike when you weren’t expecting it. That’s exactly how I wound up with the story idea that became my last NaNo project. I’d say your plan to give the story a shot, at least for a couple of weeks is a good one. If it turns into something you really want to invest the time in, great. If it doesn’t pan out or you just aren’t ready to continue working on it, then the break from your current story may turn out to be just what you needed to refresh and refocus. Either way, seems like a win.

    Looking forward to hearing how things turn out.

    • That’s encouraging, Elizabeth – your NaNo project turned out really well, right? If I could get that kind of flying start it would be wonderful. I’m definitely going to give it a try. I’ll keep you posted!

  2. Oh my! You must write this. Immediately.

    Yes, I had a similar experience a few days ago. I had this little seed of an idea, for a kind of a sweet story, a little quirky, kinda fun. I’m planning to mess it with some at the end of the month. I was in the middle of something mundane and what I needed to do with the story, an element, an important element, a twist and a zing I couldn’t ignore dropped in front of me. I had to stop and write it down. And I got scared. I almost erased it. It turned my sweet, little story, into a big story, an important story. Can I pull it off? I don’t know, but I have to write it this way…or not write it at all.

    • Wow, Mindy! I’ve read before that repetitive, familiar tasks are really good for working out story ideas (like Jeanne’s gym/walking the dog routine). Glad you didn’t erase your lightning-bolt twist. It’s okay to be scared, but if the universe sends you something that special, you have to go for it and give it your best shot.

  3. I had this in reverse in the summer of 2014–I’d set aside The Demon Deals the Cards because I couldn’t seem to move it forward. I was happily working on a piece of women’s fiction about a woman who has an extreme makeover, then tries to resume her old life with her new body, when TDDC came roaring back. I’d been putzing with TDDC for three years before I took that break. I finished it in eleven weeks and I’ve had to do almost no revision to that last part. Like Minerva, it sprang from my head fully formed.

    The moral of this story is: go where the Girls tell you. Cam and Mary will be waiting when you get back. They may even sort out some of their issues while you’re working on this new idea.

    • And that worked out brilliantly for you! Now I’m totally convinced. I’ll give the cuckoo in the nest my full care and attention and hope it grows at cuckoo-speed. And if Cam and Mary could sort themselves out while I’m feeding the interloper, that would make me very happy indeed 🙂 .

  4. Oh my god, Jill! Follow your Girls! They are taking you on a trip to Madeira in the middle of winter! Don’t turn down this gift. Just dive right in. Your other projects are there and waiting if you should come down to earth.

    I gotta go back and read the comments. Sneaking a peek, it looks like the person above me is saying the exact same thing. (Waves at the three above me, who have already said the same thing, LOL.)

    P.S. My great week last week was a total ambush. I somehow rode the wave, and I’m 4000 words into a sequel (probably novella length, but maybe if I cobble enough sequels together, I can fool someone into thinking they are . . . no, no, I don’t want to jinx this. It’s too darn fun).

    P.P.S. I think you are very suited for fantasy. (-: Forgot to mention that in my enthusiasm. Fantasy Madeira sounds like . . . paradise, with some evil thorns that can be pulled out again.

    • Yes, I think there’s a consensus here 😉 … if the Girls serve it up, grab it with both hands and say thank you. That’s what I’m going to do. In fact I’m going to try a little priming and see if I can collage the main characters this afternoon.

      Hope I can catch the wave, and that your momentum whooshes you through another good week!

  5. Go for it! I think the new story idea sounds great, and it’s definitely worth at least a few weeks’ worth of fooling with it to see if it’s an idea that needs to perk more, or if it can be worked into a plot fully formed. I’ve had bright moments here and there, but nothing as major as what you’re describing. I wouldn’t leave that one out in the cold. Best of luck!

  6. I love this, Jilly! You should definitely go for it. I agree with everyone else. And one other thing: you have really stuck to Cam and Mary for a long time now. It’s not as if you have a track record of flitting off after every new thing. So, if the girls are telling you this is important, it probably is. Even if it turns out it isn’t this particular story, this might be part of the journey that you need to go on to get to where you need to be. I’ll be cheering you on all the way 🙂

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