Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ginger Solomon: Living the Dream - My Writing Journey

Ginger Solomon

Long before I began writing novel-length fiction, I wrote my thoughts in a journal—sometimes on paper, sometimes on the computer. I would pour out my soul to God in writing—a prayer, if you will.

Everything went into the journal—pain, joy, frustrations, prayer requests, and anything and everything in between. It helped me cope with my life surrounded by many young children. My oldest was thirteen when my seventh was born. Yes, I had seven children in thirteen years. No, none of them are multiples.

Many days I was at my wits end trying to keep everyone happy and schooled, but at naptime/reading time, I could sit in my room, or at the computer, and write out everything that was happening. It helped relieve stress. It also brought me closer to God. I could feel His comfort as I shed tears over some of those pages.

Over the years, the yearning to write intensified. I would sit with pen in hand over a blank journal page and wonder what it was I should write. Nothing came to mind, so I kept journaling.

Many times, over a period of two or three years starting around 2007, I sat staring at a blank page/screen. The desire to write bubbled up inside me, but I didn’t have a story to tell.

One day I woke with the most amazing dream stuck in my head. I went about the day’s business—breakfast, quiet time, school, etc. When afternoon quiet time rolled around, I found I had to write the dream down. That dream turned into my first novel.

I didn’t know anything about writing a novel, had never really considered doing such a thing. I wrote it and even had the nerve to send it to agents, who subsequently rejected it. It hurt, but I vowed to myself each time a rejection letter arrived that I would LEARN how to write, and I would write a novel that would glorify God. So I joined the American Christian Fiction Writers group and I read and listened. I went to their annual conference and I listened. I soaked it in day after day.

Meanwhile I was writing my second novel, One Choice. I applied everything I had learned up to that point. I took it to conference and pitched it. It was then that I learned large, traditional publishers did not like for the hero or heroine to be non-American. I sighed.

I loved the story, but I put it aside and began another novel—a Scottish historical romance. I pitched it and sent it to editors and agents. One editor was very kind in her rejection and gave me some great pointers. But it was still a rejection.

While that one had been out there in the hands of editors and agents, I began another novel—a second Scottish historical romance. I’m still in edits on this one, but it has been requested, and I am close to sending it to the agent and editor.

Sometime last year, I went back to One Choice. I still loved the story, so I decided that starting smaller was not a bad thing. I had heard good things from friends about Astraea Press. I submitted my story and held my breath (figuratively, of course). Then it came—not a rejection, but an acceptance.

I was finally going to become a published writer. And it all started with a desire to write, and a dream.

In One Choice, my heroine, Cahri, also journals. It became her substitute for prayer when she felt God had betrayed her trust. However, I would say that she was still praying, albeit in a different way and not consciously.

I still like to journal, though now that my kids are much older, I don’t do it as often as I used to. My prayers have changed as my children have grown. Today many of my prayers revolve around their safety and their future. I also pray that One Choice and any future book I write will bring glory to my heavenly Father.

About the Author:

Ginger Solomon is a Christian, a wife, a mother to seven, and a writer — in that order (mostly). When not homeschooling her youngest five, doing laundry or fixing dinner, she writes or reads romance of any genre, some sci-fi/fantasy, and some suspense. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, president of her local writing group, and writes regularly for three blogs. In addition to all that, she loves animals, horses especially, likes to do needlework (knitting, crocheting, and sometimes cross-stitch), and loves to sing in the choir at church.

About the Book:

Cahri Michaels is American by birth, but Belikarian by choice. Being selected to participate in the Bridal March forces her to give up the independent life she’s created for herself. She’s not ready to be anyone’s wife, much less to a man she doesn’t know.

Prince Josiah Vallis despises the centuries old tradition—the Bridal March—that is forcing him to choose a wife from fifty women. Why does it matter that he’s twenty-five and still single?

When Cahri and Josiah meet, sparks fly. Will it ignite a godly love that can see them through or will they be burned, never to be the same?

One Choice links:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Delia Latham: Word Painting

Show, don’t tell. Wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard or read this concise piece of advice.

Want to know why it’s repeated so often? Yep, that’s right. Because it’s absolutely, totally, completely, unequivocally crucial. The best writers paint pictures in the pages of their books, and the reader is so caught up in the word art that she forgets she’s reading and simply lives the story.

How do these amazing authors produce such magic? They recreate that “glint of light on broken glass” with vivid imagery. They don’t just describe a thing; they bring it to life in vivid 3D Technicolor.

The moon shone brightly on the meadow.

Well, that tells us there’s a moon tonight, and that the setting is most likely a rural one. But, seriously…boring, some? Let’s see what we can do to insert a bit of magic.

The meadow lay under a blanket of silvery moonlight. Each blade of grass seemed illuminated from within, creating an emerald shine across the open field. Buttercups, their yellow petals bright with moonglow, made a splash of illusionary sunlight in the glimmering darkness.

Clearly, painting a word picture requires the use of more words, and more concentrated effort. But it is a well-rewarded effort when the result is a riveting piece of word art. The above is an over-simplified, quick illustration. Imagine what could happen if someone took the time to really put some thought into it.

In the above example, I used literal descriptions. Another way to create images in a reader’s mind is through the use of metaphors and similes.

What are they? Both serve the same purpose: They show how two very different things resemble one another.

A simile does that by using comparison words: “like” or “as.”

Her eyes shone like blue stars.
The engine roared like an enraged bull.

A metaphor might make the same point, but without the use of comparison words.

Love is a rose.
The winding highway was a snake in the night.

The key to “show-don’t-tell” writing is specificity. Be more specific. Yes, you’ll use more words (more paint, and more variety of colors, textures and styles). But it will pay off in writing that grabs your reader and pulls her into the story…er, painting…and allows her to live the action right along with the hero/heroine.

Details create specificity. You find the details by getting INto your writing:

·         INterrogate your story
o   (Ask all the who-what-when-where-why-and how questions you need to know about your story, setting, etc.,—and then ask more.)

·         INterview your characters
o   (Know them inside out—the good, the bad and the ugly. Where was your hero born? Where did your heroine grow up? Who’s in their families, and where are those people now? Does your hero like the President of the United States? Is your heroine a leader or a follower? Ask questions until you know every tiny detail. Hey, they’re taking up space in your head…you have a right to know!)

·         INvestigate the back story
o   Find out what happened before page 1. What past events created the current situation? What happened in your characters’ childhood/teen years/early adulthood that made them who they are now? )

·         INvolve the five senses
o    (Sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Let your reader experience those things with your characters. How does the wind sound blowing through the tree outside your heroine’s window? What smells drift up from the street below? As she steps through the front door of her workplace, does she still taste the sharp, citrus freshness of the grapefruit she had for breakfast? What do her gloves feel like against her fingertips? Are they soft and silky? Smooth? Supple with age?)

·         INsist on getting it right

o   (Refuse to stop mixing colors until you hit on the perfect shade for the object you’re painting. Don’t settle for baby blue if you wanted indigo. Keep at it until your create that masterpiece.)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dora Hiers: Tips to Transition from Pantser to Plotter

In September 2012, I resolved to evolve from pantser to plotter. For those of you unfamiliar with the terms:
  • A pantser sits down in front of their laptop and starts typing, with only a few rough ideas for either characters or story floating around in their head.
  • A plotter uses an outline and finds their rhythm by organizing their thoughts prior to any actual writing.
Usually, a writer falls naturally into one category. Trying to do the opposite of what comes natural is like writing left-handed when you normally use your right. Early on, I tried both methods, but plotting frustrated me so much that I considered inflicting serious damage to my laptop.

But as I celebrated with writer friends over their multi-book contracts, I knew that I'd never be able to accomplish this if I couldn't learn to plot. A key component of the proposal is the synopsis. No synopsis=No proposal.

I started my transition by writing two proposals encompassing five books total, which for me, meant writing books from a synopsis instead of the reverse. I’m thrilled to report that I just sent the last completed book to my editor. Woo-hoo!

Want to know how I transitioned from pantser to plotter? I'll share my secrets. :-)

PrayNo explanation necessary.

Characters.  I'm a visual person. I need pictures, so I started by finding my hero/heroine online and getting to know them. Then, I asked my character (whichever one you connect with first) these questions.
  • What do you want? (Goal)
  • Why do you want it? (Motivation)
  • Why can't you have it? (Conflict)
Develop the story idea/premise.  What terrible thing happened in my character's past to make them how they are today? Keep asking "what if?" until you come up with a story idea.

Write a few pages.  Writing backstory helped me flesh out the characters more, so that I could go back and fill in some of the blanks. Just write a bit and let words flow. It's OK. You’ll delete them. The goal is for the story to reveal itself. You may need to tweak the premise after doing this.

Picture the story sequence in your headDo what it takes to find your zone. Close your eyes. Throw in a CD. Let your dog walk you around the park. Record the chapter number, the date, point-of-view, and what you expect to happen in that chapter/scene. If you know how you want the book to end, you can skip down and work backward.

Implement a schedule.  Map out a timeline for the completion of your books. Not only will you be amazed at your progress, but you can plop that completion date right into your proposal.

It’s your turn.
  • If you're a pantser, how do you write proposals?
  • Do you ever see yourself evolving into a plotter? Why or why not?

Journey’s Embrace blurb:

ImageAfter an injury forces Deputy U.S. Marshal Sage Michaelson off duty, he heads to his hometown with two things on his mind: recuperating and reevaluating, but Sage can’t refuse his best friend’s plea to keep a protective eye on his little sister after someone ransacks her house. But Delaney’s not so little anymore—and definitely not the young “Dane” Sage remembers.

Flight Medic Delaney Hunt has loved Sage forever. But, he’s all about control and order while she embraces life and takes risks. As much as the idea appeals to her, she doesn’t need Sage looking over her shoulder. But when things go wrong and she finds herself hanging by her fingertips, who does she call to rescue her?

Will Delaney ever be the woman Sage wants by his side? Can Sage learn to live by grace, recognizing that God is in control? Can they overcome their fears to embrace life together?

Purchase Link

Author Bio:

Dora Hiers is a multi-published author of Heart Racing, God-Gracing romances. She’s a member of RWA, ACFW, and the Treasurer for ACFW-Charlotte Chapter. Connect with her on Seriously Write, her personal blog, Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Delia Latham: Journaling for Joy

When I was very young, I had a diary. Several, actually. I could never resist purchasing them if the price was small enough to fit my mostly empty pocketbook—especially if I found one a different color from the ones I already owned.

All those blank pages...they called to me like a siren's song! It was such fun to fill them with my little girl thoughts and the small, unimportant events in my life. Even better, after every entry, I could close the cover and lock my secrets inside with a tiny key I kept hidden in a special place. In my innocent mind, only I had access to the words I scrawled inside those little books.

I don't know what ever became of those colorful treasures. And looking back now, I have to smile at the flimsy security provided by the cheaply made locks. (Anyone who really wanted to could have gained entry to the world of my mind.) Still, those diaries served to make me want to write something…anything…even if I was just filling pages with nonsense, and had nothing of any real importance to say.

Perhaps those early journal entries sparked the love of writing that carried through into my adulthood. Who knows? I only wish I had kept them, and could look back on them now.

In my novel, Goldeneyes, three journals play a part. The mothers of both main characters kept them (yes, there are two main characters...), and their heartfelt entries were a source of vital information for their families in later years. A small-town newspaper publisher kept his journalistic notes in a set of matching notebooks. When an unbelievable story landed in his lap and he found himself unable to print it for personal and moral reasons, his journals provided a way of documenting the facts. Intended only for his own eyes, they provided an important piece of a puzzle in later years.

This type of writing can serve a number of purposes, from therapeutic to informational to biographical.

It's hard to imagine when we're full of life and relatively healthy, but there will come a time when the memories we share with our friends and loved ones will be all that remain of us. Unfortunately, memories are imperfect, don't really last forever, and vary from one person to another. (I'm forever telling my brother he remembers things that did not happen!)

But words are concrete. Once written, they don't change or fade away.
Committing our thoughts to a diary—even if not on a daily basis and if only in bite-sized morsels—could provide our children and grandchildren with tangible pieces of our hearts, even after we're gone.

Case in point: My Uncle Leon was a quiet, unobtrusive gentleman. A real homebody, he didn't visit extended family a lot, but all of us knew we were welcome in his home any time. He was a kind, gentle man, and very much loved.

After he passed away, I learned that this unassuming man had kept a journal for years. He wrote in it every day. Sometimes he penned lengthy entries, sometimes just a line or two, but he did it consistently. My aunt once laughingly told me that if I ever needed to know what the weather had been on any given day within the past 15-20 years, I only needed to find that date in Uncle Leon's journals. He faithfully documented the local weather every day. Why? Who knows, and does it matter? Apparently it was of some importance to Leon Hankins.

When he died, those books became valued possessions for his two children. They are filled with the thoughts and feelings of their father, written in his own hand, in his own words, in his own way. What could possibly be more him?

You may find that your journaling style and venue changes with time. I started with those cute, cheap little diaries...moved on to bigger, but still always bright and pretty, I blog. I don't include private entries on my blog, but you can - and you can set your blog up to be visible only to you and certain others you might want to share your innermost thoughts with. It's just another possible avenue for journaling if you're more comfortable tapping keys than pushing a pen.

People shy away from journaling for different reasons. Let's talk about them.

1. I don't write well. Who cares? They're your thoughts; you can write them any way you choose. No editor or publisher will pick your words apart or check them for spelling errors. You won't be graded on your input. The journal belongs to you and you alone. Write it in code if you wish! (Just be sure to create a code key for future generations.)

2. I will forget to make entries. Probably so, but again, what does it matter? It's yours. You can decide how frequently you input. But like any other habit, if you make a point of writing consistently—whether it's daily, weekly or monthly—you'll find that you start to remember when it's time to dig out your diary and do your thing.

3. I don't have time. Sorry, but balderdash! If you have time to watch a movie, play a game, work a crossword puzzle…you have time to journal. And what's more important, watching another rerun of I Love Lucy, or penning your thoughts for posterity?

4. I have nothing to write about. Yes, you do. You have opinions on various subjects. Share them. (This might be the only venue in which you can discuss religion and politics without starting a debate!) Talk about how your garden grows. Discuss your hopes and dreams, the ones that have fallen by the wayside and the ones you still harbor within your heart. Write about your childhood, what you learned from your mother, what you admired about your dad. Paint a word picture of your favorite (or least favorite) school teacher. Share your favorite verses of scripture. You have plenty to talk about, and it's all uniquely you.

I'm sure there are other excuses, but that's all any of them are. Just excuses. (An old minister friend from my childhood defined excuses as “the skin of a reason stretched over a lie.”)

Journaling is a special gift you can give your children, a piece of yourself you can pass on to your grandkids. Word pictures that will become little jolts of joy you bequeath to your loved ones.

And that's priceless.

Isaiah 30:8 (New Life Version)—Now go and write it down in front of them. And write it in a book, that it may be seen for all time to come.

Delia Latham
(c) 2007

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Teresa Slack: The Best Writing Advice You Ever Received

Nearly every time I speak to a book club or writers’ group I am asked a variation of the following question:

What’s the best writing advice you ever received?

I understand the interest in knowing what inspires writers to produce. But it’s tough for me to nail down the best writing advice I’ve received out of twenty-plus years of looking for really good advice.

Whether it’s the best or not is debatable, but this advice inspires me every time I think about it. It came from a quote by Raymond Chandler. Anyone who’s read anything about this writer or his writing discipline knows he wrote all the time. I mean all the time. In fact he wrote so voraciously he couldn’t understand writers who didn’t produce as much as he did. He couldn’t figure out what they did all the time.

He once said, “Write as quickly and as passionately as you can. Don’t edit. Don’t second guess yourself. Don’t worry about how pretty it is. Just get the words on paper and then worry about how they look.”

We writers can edit ourselves so much that we dread our next session at the computer. Our story is never satisfactory in our eyes. Since we can’t make it perfect, we do all the things Mr. Chandler warned against.

I don’t know about you, but I am my own biggest roadblock. Or should I say my doubt, fear—and dare I say it—laziness are my biggest roadblocks. But they shouldn’t keep me from finishing the stories I believe I was called to write.

Whether it’s a story idea that’s been pestering you for years, the article you should’ve written last week, or the blog post you put off for too long, write it quickly and passionately. Don’t worry if it’s too long or too short or not original enough. Don’t wonder if anyone will like it or if the market will support it. Just write it. Get those words down. Like the old Nike ad says: Just do it. 

What about you? What’s the best writing advice you ever received? Share it here and let us encourage one another.

Note: One commenter on today's post will receive a copy of Runaway Heart from Teresa. Don't miss this opportunity!

Author bio:
Teresa Slack began creating stories and characters about the time she learned to hold a pencil. Her first novel, Streams of Mercy, won the Bay Area Independent Publishers’ Assn award for Best First Novel. The third book in her Jenna’s Creek Series, Evidence of Grace, debuted nationwide according to Christian Retailing Magazine. Her latest novel, Runaway Heart, is set for official release March 7, 2014.  She grew up in rural southern Ohio, which provides the background for much of her writing. Her down-to-earth characters and writing style have endeared her to readers and reviewers alike. Teresa believes people who think nothing ever happens in a small town just aren’t paying attention. She loves writing in many genres, especially suspense, mystery and romance with a touch of humor stirred in. Someday she even hopes to write a historical.  

Teresa's links:

About Runaway Heart:
Running at the first sign of opposition is nothing new to Kyla Parrish. She’s never held onto a relationship for more than a few months, and she’s quit more jobs than most people apply for. Until Will Lachland. He’s the first man who ever made her think of getting serious about something, about putting down roots. He seems like a dream come true, but like every other man she’s ever met, he expects more than she’s willing to give.
Kyla is determined not to end up like her mother with a string of bad relationships and dead end jobs behind her, but she can’t find a balance between trusting someone with her heart and losing control of her life. But she’s tired of running. Running from life and running from love.
A new man and a new life on the farm where she spent her childhood summers seem like the answer to her prayers. But things are never as simple as they seem. Her heart yearns for love and security. Can she find it even though she can’t forget Will? Or is something else, something greater, calling her heart toward home? 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Delia Latham: What a Character!

Tessa led me to the one desk we had not yet visited. She paused, using a broad flourish to indicate a pig-tailed young woman garbed in black leather with matching hair and nail polish. My new boss's expectant expression bespoke her eagerness to make this introduction. “This…is Maggie!”

The girl’s angular face lit up, her smile engaging despite her black lipstick. She ignored my outstretched hand, jumping up to wrap me in a tight hug instead.

“Welcome to Cell Block C!” Maggie’s boisterous voice floated six inches over my shorter height. She released me and pointed a long finger in my face. “That’s C for Crazy,” she announced. “Gotta be a little loony to survive in here.” Beautiful blue eyes—the only pale color on her person, and therefore startling in their contrast—raked over my conservative suit and matching pumps. “Don’t worry, sweetie. I’ll help you.”

Laughing, Tessa drew me away. “That girl is a character!”

To say the least. And me being me, I couldn’t wait to get back to my own desk—or, more precisely, my notebook—so I could jot down a few words about Maggie. I’ve been writing long enough to know that stand-out characters are the spice of life in any good story.

Surely every writer has such a notebook. If not, how do they survive without it?

I have a collection of them, all packed with comments about interesting folks I’ve met. Their pages are dog-eared, because I use these little tools every time I set out to create a memorable character.

Maggie went under the “Quirky” heading. She’s one of those never-to-be-forgotten, one-of-a-kind individuals. But the world is made up of a plethora of varying personalities…as is a good book. Your character notebook can capture them for future reference.

Be careful not to get caught up in the odd or unusual and neglect the more mundane. Not every character in a storyline needs to be an oddball. Jot down a note or two about each person you meet, but don’t hesitate to profile those observed from a distance. If they snag your attention in some way, they’ll hook a reader, as well.

About the old fellow who hobbles along the streets of our small town leaning on his crooked cane, I wrote: Severe limp. Constant toothless smile. Clothing neat/clean, but worn. Battered felt hat. What’s his story?

A neighbor’s friend, who seems to be next door pretty much all the time, merited the following: Bad red wig. Amazing green eyes. Garish dress style, leftover hippie. Talks a lot.

Little snippets like these form an arsenal of character traits. Mix and match descriptions for a truly one-of-a-kind personality, or filter for something lower key.

Do you have a character notebook in your writer’s tool box? Developing this tool will add spice to your story. That’s a promise—from one character to another.

Delia Latham
(c) 2010

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pamela Thibodeaux: Spiritual (or Universal) Laws of Success for Writers/Authors

Pamela S. Thibodeaux

Artists have been living under the “starving artist” syndrome/curse for years. It’s time to put that old adage to rest! There is creative power in writing and speaking. 

GOD said, “My word will not come back void” and “The power of life and death are in the tongue and he who indulges in it shall eat the fruit thereof.”

SCIENTISTS have proven that sound goes into infinity then bounces back.

THE BIBLE tells us to “write the vision and make it plain upon the tablets...”

SUCCESS COACHES tell us writing goals makes them 10x more likely to come true and that writing/speaking affirmations can change any circumstance in our life.

PROVERBS teaches us, “As a man believes in his heart, therefore he is.”  

THE LAW OF ATTRACTION states what you focus on you will get.
In light of all this, shouldn’t we be careful in what we say about ourselves and our work?

Speaking of which, what does your tagline and/or brand say about your vision of yourself as a writer? Your tagline is important because it is a written statement about you and your work, and every time someone reads or says it, those words are given power to create something in your life and career!

My initial thought for a  tagline was “the Nora Roberts of Christian fiction.” Because I worried about what Nora and her ‘people’ would say about that (not realizing emulation is the highest form of flattery & the greatest compliment), I chose a different tagline. But I often I wonder where my career would be today had I stuck with my original thought.

Back in 2010 when I received my 4th quarter royalty statement for 2009 I was devastated. I realized my husband’s illness and subsequent death hindered and halted my writing and promotional efforts but c’mon, that was ridiculous! Frustrated, I looked up to heaven and said, “God, I’ve always said my writing was about the message, not the money, but I don’t know the message is getting out if there are no sales!" Just speaking that aloud caused an increase in sales for 2010, but not until 2011 did I put the theory of writing affirmations to the test.

Raised Catholic, I knew the benefits of Lenten practices so I decided to write one page a day of positive statements such as I am an anointed and successful writer in my prayer journal for 40 days beginning March 9th. That year 1st & 2nd quarter sales increased by six times the amount they were in the last quarter of 2010!

I continue the practice to this day.

If you are doubting, belittling, or comparing your work to others and/or bemoaning your sales reports, take heed and take heart, because you can change those results by focusing on what you prophesy (speak and say) about your ability and success as an author.

The Bible; The Laws of Thinking by Bishop E Bernard Jordan; The Secret by Rhonda Byrne; Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra; A Spiritual Solution to Every Problem by Wayne Dyer; The Success Principles by Jack Canfield.

Author bio:  

Award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the co-founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” ™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.”

TWITTER  @psthib

 Inheritance cover

The Inheritanceis about the chance we all long for…the chance to start over. Widowed at age thirty-nine and suffering from empty nest syndrome, Rebecca Sinclair is overshadowed by grief and loneliness.  Her husband has been deceased for a year, her oldest child has moved to New York in pursuit of an acting career and her youngest child is attending college in France. Having spent over half of her life as a wife and mother, she has no idea what God has in store for her now.  Will an unexpected inheritance in the wine country of New York bring meaning and purpose to her life and give her the courage to love again?  US Postal worker Raymond Jacobey has been in love with the little widow since he first set eyes on her.  A wanderer searching for the ever-illusive soul mate, Ray has never stayed in one place too long. Raised by self-centered, high-power executives, he’s longed for the idyllic life of residing in a cozy house in a small town with the love of his life. Will he gain the heart of the lovely widow or will he lose her to the wine country of New York?

The Inheritance is available from Pelican Book Group in Print and Ebook, and on Kindle & Nook!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Delia Latham: Finding the Chameleons

"Where do you get your ideas?"

Every published writer has heard this question - probably more than once. 

It's a valid inquiry, but there is no pat answer. The cold, hard fact is—and pardon me if I’m disillusioning anyone, but…—neither babies nor ideas are delivered by a stork with a basket in his beak.

They aren’t for sale on department store shelves.

There’s no recipe for mixing one together, complete with baking instructions.

They can’t be hunted, shot down, beheaded and hung over your doorway as a trophy.

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / shiffti
But they’re out there, hiding in plain sight. Think of them as chameleons. You just have to be willing to play a little hide-and-seek. Chameleons blend into their surroundings, and it takes a sharp eye and intentional observation to spot them. 

Honing the skills to spot those hidden idea gems should be a deliberate daily effort for any writer.

Truth into Fiction

Below is a headline and blurb from Reuter's-Oddly Enough. The headline alone should raise any writer's idea antennae.

Funeral horses stampede, overturn hearse

The story in a nutshell: A hearse overturned when the horses pulling it to a south London cemetery stampeded, dragging the carriage and coffin past appalled relatives and sending floral tributes flying.

This situation is horrifying just as it stands. But let's find the chameleonic ideas hidden in that small paragraph. Time to play "what if"....

• What if the coffin had come open and the body had been thrown out at the feet of the grieving widow?
• What if that body was not the one it should have been?
• What if the coffin was empty? (Where's the deceased? Why would anyone steal his/her corpse?)
• What if there were two bodies in the casket? (Who is the additional body? Did the mortician put it there? If so, why?)

We could find another half dozen story ideas from this one sad little article. But by now you see the "hidden picture."

Beyond the Obvious

A woman and a child sit nearby while you wait to board a flight. The child has hauntingly beautiful eyes. She does not say a word, and displays none of the expected impatient fidgeting, no squirming in her seat, no whining about being bored, no curious inquiries about the upcoming flight. The mother never releases the little girl's hand, and notice tears. Mommy is weeping.

As a writer, your mind should be very busy by now.

Why is this child so quiet? Is she mute? Maybe some trauma has stolen her vocal ability. What trauma? Is Mommy sending the little one away? Where might she send the an ex-husband? A medical facility for post-traumatic disorders?

What if, instead of simply holding her hand, Mommy has the child on a safety harness? Why would this be necessary? Is the child dangerous in some way? Why would she be dangerous?

Where would you take this scene? Would you have questions other than the ones I asked?

If You Could See What I Hear

In a cozy little coffee shop, you wait for a friend to join you. She's ten minutes late, and you're starting to be a bit annoyed. But, like the good writer you are, you're tuned in to what's going on around you—which is why you hear this little bit of idea fodder from the adjoining booth:

"You can't go back there, Teri. I won't let you!"

By the time your lunch partner arrives yet another ten minutes later, you've filled up a whole page in the notebook you carry with you everywhere you go. Your notes might look like this:

"You can't go back there, Teri. I won't let you!"

• Back where? To an abusive husband? Disreputable job?
• Scientific experiments! Maybe she's been taking test drugs and they're doing awful things to her. (What things? Are the results visible? Behavioral? Physical?)
• Will Teri really be prevented from going where she wants to go? Is the passionate statement a threat? Are the women sisters...friends...mother and daughter? Is the statement a warning, a threat, or just a way of speaking?

Coming up with ideas from everyday circumstances is like a mental muscle…it withers away from lack of use. So then, what's the best way to tone muscles? Through exercise, of course. Strengthen, tighten and tone your observation and idea-spotting muscles by working them...every day.

How does one exercise that kind of muscle? Let me count the ways! Take the exercises below and run with them, but don't stop there—come up with some of your own.

  •          Find a good website or buy a book that provides daily writing prompts. Here's the kicker: Don't just read the prompts—carry them out! You aren't practicing until you're doing something. You’ll find an enormous amount of help and information here:
  •          Take a walk, go shopping (people watching), volunteer somewhere (exposure to a world of experiences), etc. Ideas are hiding in life, and you must live if wish to see them.
  •          Flip through the pages of a magazine or browse photos on a stock photo site online. Choose three photos that grab your attention for whatever reason. Create a storyline around those photos.
  •          Free write. Set your timer for 15-30 minutes, then sit down and start writing. Don’t plan. Don’t worry if it makes sense, or whether one sentence relates to the next. Just write whatever comes to mind. You’ll be surprised what nuggets you can glean from these sessions.
  •          Perhaps most importantly...pull out the old enthusiasm and fervor that you wore like a cloak when you first started writing. You need that garment again, and guess what? It still fits.

Are you ready to play a game of hide-and-seek with the chameleons?

Delia Latham is a born-and-bred California gal, currently living in the beautiful mountain town of Tehachapi with her husband Johnny and a Pomeranian she calls Boo. She’s a Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and friend—but above all, she treasures her role as child of the King and heir to the throne of God. She’s got a “thing” for Dr. Pepper and absolutely loves hearing from her readers.

You can contact Delia at any of the following locations: