Jumping into the Rabbit Hole

Alice_in_WonderlandSince I was a kid, I have always been drawn to the story of Lewis Carroll’s (whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The idea that you could be walking along in a completely ordinary world, and then fall down a hole into an extraordinary one, is mesmerizing.

At night when I can’t fall asleep, I imagine myself falling through Alice’s rabbit hole. As I drop, images flash through my mind of whatever my semi-conscious mind can dream up. Sometimes I find answers to problems in my life or in my writing, and sometimes I am just lulled to sleep by a cascade of pictures that eventually blurs together.

My favorite thing about Alice in Wonderland is Alice herself. One of her defining characteristics is her curiosity, a value that leads her down exciting paths. She isn’t afraid to say yes to something new, and as a result she meets bizarre people and explores strange lands. I have tried to imbue this quality into Valerie, the heroine of The Conjurors, and let her curiosity lead her where it will.

P3240097The real-life inspiration for Valerie is my sister, Cheryl. She has Alice’s curiosity but more brains. Some say that writers create idealized versions of themselves in their main characters, but I realized after finishing the first book in the series that I had unconsciously modeled Valerie’s personality on the most adventurous, fun, compassionate person I know. Her fans call her “Cheryl the Explorer” because she embraces traveling the world and learning about new cultures. She takes smart risks with her life and doesn’t accept the status quo. But best of all, she is kind. She’s someone who will give you the shirt off her back and has a moral compass that always points true north. I just hope Valerie can live up to the person who inspired her.

100,000 Words in 100 Days

shutterstock_77716045Lately I’ve been fighting with myself. There are so many excuses not to write every day – I have a toddler with a virus every other week, a demanding day job, and family and friends that I want to spend time with. At the end of the day I’m so tired that I feel like eking out an ounce of creativity would be like squeezing water from a rock.

But on the other hand, I’m a happier person when I write. Suddenly on my commute to work instead of being annoyed with the traffic, I’m imagining scenes that I’m working on. I feel more attuned to what’s going on around me, because I never know where inspiration might strike. And when I wake up in the middle of the night, instead of stressing about a deadline the next day, it’s because I just solved an important plot puzzle that had been nagging me.

I’ve always been a person who likes to have a solid goal, so I’ve made the decision that I will write every day, no excuses, for 100 days. With some luck, I hope to have a very rough first draft of the second book in my series completed at the end of that time. Hopefully at the end I’ll have something solid that I can edit, and my sanity will still be intact. Wish me luck.

Let the plotting begin…

A course more promising / Than a wild dedication of yourselves / To unpathed waters, undreamed shores ~William Shakespeare Winter’s Tale, Act IV, Scene 4

Life is never more interesting for me than when I’m plotting out a novel. Suddenly, everything I encounter feels like inspiration. Watching my husband beat a video game, a news article on an exciting archeological dig in Egypt, or a friend’s work horror story all fill my mind like puzzle pieces begging to be put together to show me a bigger picture.

The characters come first – a name, a face, a mannerism. Soon I’m wondering what advice they’d give me about a coworker who is trying to sabotage me, or thinking about how they would react if they woke up in a completely new world. Would they panic? Or would they relish the adventure?

Next, I sense connections between the characters, how their personalities fit together. Romance and rivalries start to emerge, and I find myself empathizing with one character above the others. I’m rooting for that person to win and be happy, logically aware I’m rooting for a figment of my own imagination, but emotionally invested anyway.

Last comes the action. This is my favorite part. On the outside, I’m living my life as usual, driving to work, sitting in meetings, cooking dinner. But as my body goes through the motions, I’m really watching a movie unfold in my mind. The movie stops and starts, rewinds and zips to the end, only to wind up back where I left off. I start to feel like I’m living two lives, one in the real world and one in my head, but I know one thing for sure. Life is thrilling and full of possibilities.

When you are writing a new story, how does your creative process begin?