Monday, October 15, 2007

Brownies: Food for Thought

A recurring question writers are asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?” We get our ideas the same place everyone else gets their ideas. They arrive at odd moments, usually when we’re not trying too hard. When the left-brain backs off and allows the right brain freedom, ideas flow. This happens in the early morning, in the last hour before falling asleep, in the shower, driving, and while baking. Relaxing my left-brain is my reason for shopping and making brownies.

I had the idea for my novella in A Western Winter Wonderland for a long time. The first thing I knew was the first thing I usually know: The Feel of the Story. The atmosphere. The way I will feel while I write and the way I wanted readers to feel when they read the story. Unexplainable, actually, but for me atmosphere is the story skeleton, as much as plot outline or characters. A character always comes next. For this story it was Marvel. I knew she was lonely and had spent her life caring for an elderly father. Life had passed her by, and she wanted more.

She got the wrong man the first time. Sorry, Marvel. My bad. I came up with Brody, an Irishman with a sexy brogue and a son and a backstory about his wife and her unscrupulous father, plus a whole complex scenario where the father-in-law cheated him out of his shipyards yada yada. He was a nice guy. Probably would have made a good lover and husband. But he had too much baggage and something was missing. Chemistry perhaps. So Marvel waited for her perfect man. A couple years passed.

When I needed a Christmas novella, I thought of Marvel, still lonely, still wanting more. Story making can be better than real life, so I could fix that! If my character gets the wrong guy the first time, I just delete him. Poof! And find her a better guy. Along came the New Guy With No Name. Now what? Give him character traits that will play off hers. Give him a backstory, give him something she wants. Give him a name….hmmm…. I put out a query to my blog readers: Please help me name my hero. They had great ideas! One of them had the perfect name. As soon as I heard Seth Paxton, I knew Seth was right. So I jotted down all the things I knew and plotted and made lists and a created a calendar. I’m working on strengthening timelines and transitions, so I use a calendar to keep myself accountable. From my character and plot notes I wrote a synopsis. From the synopsis I wrote the story.

So you see, a story comes from jotting down resonating ideas and eventually assembling them into a plot structure. It comes from sleeping and reading, from watching television and shopping, from showering and eating brownies. That’s my latest story, and I’m sticking to it.

..· ´¨¨)) -:¦:-
¸.·´ .·´¨¨))
((¸¸.·´ ..·´ Cheryl St.John :-)
-:¦:- ((¸¸.·´ The Preacher's Daughter, Harlequin Historicals, 6/07
A Western Winter Wonderland Christmas Anthology, 10/07
Look who's blogging:
http://cherylstjohn.blogspot.com/
Romancing the West: www.petticoatsandpistols.com

23 comments:

Rebecca Ryan said...

I'm fascinated by how the characters morph as you get to know them.

I enjoyed Seth and Marvel. I liked how he was a little younger than her. (Is that giving too much away?) You don't find that often in romance. I like the unexpected.

And the mashed potatoes? Very funny. I've actually seen my children do that. I think it was spaghetti with Noah!

Lucy Monroe said...

Welcome, Cheryl! Loved your post. :) It's a good story to stick to. LOL

CherylStJ said...

Thanks, Rebecca! (Love that name.) Over the years readers have commented about how realistic the children in my books are. I have always used real kids as character studies, gathering ideas for mishaps, appreciating the unique and precious way they have of expressing themselves, and trying to convey how they make me feel.

Marvel as an older wooman was that one thing I was not willing to change about the story.

Hi, Lucy! Thanks for inviting me!

Chantal said...

Hi Cheryl, great post :-)
I wanted to let you know that I'm excited to see you here. I have your book 'Child of my heart' and I have read it countless time. When ever I am in the mood for a re read, thats the one I go for. I just love it.

Chantal said...

Oops, I do mean CHild of her heart. Sorry about that.

Charlene Sands said...

Gee, Cher -- did you see Desperate Housewives last night? Lynette had her some brownies that gave her lots of ideas! I won't spoil it for you if you haven't seen it yet... but it's worth a looksee.

I get my ideas and work out plots while driving with dh. He's good to bounce points off of and see if they work. I just plotted two books in a trilogy on my last long driving trip and it makes the time go by really fast. I tend to daydream a lot in the car- but not when I'm driving!
Charlene

CherylStJ said...

Hi, Chantal! Thanks for letting me know how much you enjoy Child of Her Heart. It is high praise to say it's a comfort read! When they first offered me that story, my concern was whether or not I could do it justice, but my BFF assured me I could. I really enjoyed writing it.

Hi, Char! Thanks for stopping by. I confess I haven't watched DH since season one. But I've eaten a lot of brownies. *G*

Amy said...

Hi Cheryl, I have never read one of your books but I will be picking up a copy of A Western Winter Wonderland. It sound's like a fantastic read.

CherylStJ said...

Thank you, Amy! You'll have to let me know what you think.

Estella said...

I have never read one of your books, but I will be looking for A Western Winter Wonderland.

Julie :) said...

I loved your novella in Western Winter Wonderland so it was great to hear how the story between Marvel and Seth evolved! And like Rebecca I also enjoyed the fact that Marvel was older.

I'm off to eat some brownies. I'm in dire need of some inspiration! LOL

Lucy Monroe said...

LOL Cheryl...you're definitely going to have to take responsibility for the increase in yummy brownie consumption today.

Brandy said...

It's always interesting to hear how authors come up with their different ideas and characters. Thanks! And now, for some reason, I'm craving brownies! *g*

Julie :) said...

Okay, I'm back from eating my orange-infused brownie and had to post one more thing. My absolute favorite line was the "apple" reference at the end when Marvel 'gave her heart' to Seth. sigh. Perfect! This is why I read romance!

Thanks again for the great read, Cheryl!

Cherie J said...

Enjoyed this post. It is fascinating how authors get their ideas. Thanks for sharing Cheryl

LuckyLouPlattsmouthNE said...

Hi Lucy, I want to read your site very soon. For now, must hasten to tell Cheryl I finished Marvel Anne's story this week and LOVED it as expected. Review later. Have a friend who is 9 yrs older than DH and my MIL was 11 yrs older than hubby's Dad (Bob's adopted) so like seeing that. My alibi for being late is a flat tire & 2-3 hr power outage and I'm sticking to it!! LOL
I believe Cheryl develops great child characters because she enjoys spending quality time with her "darlin's" and knows how to make lemonade when life hands them lemons!
Julie, my memory is SO bad I had to look at End Of Story to see the cinnamon-smell of baked apples which I ADORE BTW. And Lemon or raspberry infused choc are 2 other favs.
Chantal, I too enjoyed Child of Heart, just no time for reread at present. That's my Xmas gift to myself-reading for 2 wks on vacation from school unless I'm working some hours at Borders (like having a heroin addict in a crack house! ROFL!!)
Brandy, I enjoy background info and was part of the blogs about Seth & MA's names (her's is from Hayley Mills' 1966 movie 'The Trouble with Angels' which I enjoyed tremendously!!)
Cher, what is BFF? (I'm still learning new abbreviation's- great Shorthand!)

LuckyLouPlattsmouthNE said...

Cheryl, "my bad" is what our HiSchool PE teacher says when he makes a mistake, as in vball misserve. He specializes in working w/kids w/disablities and works WONDERFULLY with my gal.

Lucy, I saw the time I posted and had to doublecheck- now see you are in Pacific NW- hubby is from N of Seattle (via England). We differ 2 hrs in Nebraska and only 30 miles from Cheryl. I read her for 10 yrs B4 meeting a kindred spirit in person.

CherylStJ said...

Thanks for the chat! Guess the smell of brownies drew everyone in this week, eh?

Lou, BFF is Best Friend Forever like the kids say when text messaging. Most recently it was made popular by a commercial for some cellular phone.

My BFF, chocolate?

Lucy Monroe said...

Thanks, Lou! Seattle is a gorgeous place, isn't it? I love living in the PNW. All the green...yes, lots of rain, but wonderful results from it, so I don't complain. :)

One of the biggest blessings in life is when we meet a kindred spirit. I truly believe that.

Hugs to all!
Lucy :)

ellie said...

This was an interesting post which I enjoyed. Love to read about how your characters and ideas evolve. I will be looking for your book and it looks wonderful.

Nathalie said...

A comment not really related... those brownies look so delicious... can I have one!

Lily said...

Love to know where authors get their ideas... and sometimes I am surprised!

robynl said...

Getting ideas while baking and then eating brownies sounds great to me. Keep sticking to that story and you'll be fine, lol.