Elizabeth: Stroke of Luck

Michaeline talked about the intersections of creativity – all those wonderful and sometimes seemingly random bits and pieces that the Girls in the Basement send up – in her post on Saturday.    I’ll admit brainstorming explanations for one of her ideas, a gardener, who encountered a body buried beneath the forsythia, kept me happily occupied for hours this weekend.

Of course the last thing I need right this minute is a shiny, fun, new idea to distract me from what I am supposed to be working on.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I currently have an over-abundance of random ideas.  It’s not too surprising.  With all that is going on in today’s political climate – intrigue, collusion, unexpected developments, partisanship, protests – there is a seemingly unending source of material (as the late-night television hosts can attest).

I have overflowing notebooks full of ideas for stories.  I collect them the way my mother collected recipes and quilt patterns.  Like her collections, most of my ideas will probably never make it out of the notebook, but half the fun is catching them and daydreaming about their possibilities, even for a short while.

It’s hard to tell which ideas will stickor connect with other ideas to form a potential crunchy plot.  Over at Argh Ink, Jenny Crusie’s current WIP is a case in point.  Some thoughts in her posts about the show Lucifer last year morphed into a full blown story that is well on its way to being a completed book (fingers crossed on that).

Some ideas fail to stick because there is no real conflict.  “They had a great life and everything worked out perfectly” doesn’t really make for a very interesting or compelling story.  On the other hand, not getting what you want, or getting what you were sure you didn’t want, can lead to some very interesting possibilities.

In real-life a few years back, there was a job I wanted.  I had been temporarily filling the position for months and really expected to get it (as did those around me).  I was disappointed when they gave the job to an outsider instead.  I told a friend, who said “congratulations.”  When I said, “but I didn’t get the job,” he said, “I know.  Congratulations.  You’d have been miserable in that job.”  He was right of course.  After some definite conflict and some “character” growth, I later wound up with a much better job.  I’m also pretty sure the guy who got the job I had wanted found it to be pretty miserable himself.

“Not getting what’s wanted” is the concept behind the current story idea that’s keeping me distracted.  The heroine, a reporter, wants to cover the new big, shiny exciting story.  Instead, she gets sent to the middle of nowhere (sorry, Kansas) to cover a political campaign that she has no interest in.  Her disappointment in not getting what she wants turns out, of course, to be a wonderful stroke of luck when she meets the hero (a politician), encounters obstacles and character growth, and fights for her happily ever after.

Figuring out how things might progress has been fun and a bit of a challenge since the heroine and hero have opposing political beliefs.  I had planned to just briefly sketch out some ideas so that I could come back to this at a later date but when I started dreaming about the story and, more importantly, remembering what I dreamed long after I woke up in the morning, I took the hint that the Girls wanted to play with this story for a while longer.

I was happy to comply, especially since Facebook continues to be full of posts and comments that show people with opposing views interacting (definitely conflict in action).  There appears to be no shortage of people on opposite sides of pretty much every issue, which can be annoying in real-life but a treasure trove for a writer.  Ignoring the ever-present trolls who apparently just like to hear themselves speak (or type as it may be), I’ve picked up some really good ideas for issues they can butt heads on and, more importantly, for ways they can compromise (they do have to get together in the end, after all).  I will admit, the compromise examples are pretty few and far between, but I remain hopeful there.  I’m giving this story one more week before I turn my attention back to the revisions I’m supposed to be working on; unless of course the story really takes hold.  In that case, all bets are off.

So have you had an instance in real-life (or have your characters had one) where not getting what you wanted turn out to be a stroke of luck?

5 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Stroke of Luck

  1. I think this is a great illustration of two story-generating principles: journaling (of which blogging is a form), and joining a group of like-minded individuals for brainstorming. (-: Our blog is a combo of both, which really is a source of ideas and encouragement!

    I like your new story. I lived in Kansas for six months when I was in elementary school, and the thing I remember most is that our district made us pay for school books! I thought that was so completely bizarre, and I’m sure it reflects a lot on the people of the area. The politics, when you dig in, must be fascinating.

    I take a real zen attitude towards life, because not getting what I want has turned out really well in a few early instances. (-: My first boyfriend, for example. If I had stuck with him forever and ever . . . well, who knows what would have happened? He (and my third boyfriend, too, now that I think of it) were examples of the Noble Bad Boy — “I’m no good for you, baby; don’t mess around with me.” I have no regrets, and in fact, I’m a little bit grateful because they were both right (-:.

    I’m not sure if the flip side of the zen attitude (ie: not wanting too much, vs. not minding too much) really benefits my career as a writer. I should probably want it a whole lot more, instead of sliding it into the “well, if it happens, it happens” category.

    • Michaeline, I may have to reach out to you for your Kansas expertise. 🙂 That’s interesting about having to pay for textbooks. I remember some schools doing that here, but only private schools.

      I think your zen attitude towards life sounds reasonable. I can think of a lot of instances where I really wanted something, but was lucky enough not to get it, but that is generally only something you realize in hindsight. Maybe embracing zen from a writing perspective enhances your creativity – providing more time for writing and less time for worrying about how it will all work out.

  2. I like your story idea, Elizabeth. The vibe reminds me a little of Jenny Crusie’s Strange Bedpersons. It’s easy to imagine how they could butt heads. I’d love to see how you’d bring them together.

    I understand exactly what you mean about not getting what you want. It’s happened to me on occasion. Once, like you, I got passed over for a big promotion. It seemed like the end of the world at the time, but in retrospect it was a Very Good Thing. I could have stuck around, but even angry me knew that would have been a bad idea. So I left the company without finding a new job first, something I’d been taught never to do. It was scary and exciting and it turned out really well, which gave me the confidence to take other risks in the future. I was very, very lucky not to get that job 😉

  3. Pingback: Elizabeth: You’re Wrong! – Eight Ladies Writing

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