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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Listening to our Voices - IWSG August 2017

 It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. The brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader.  To read posts from other members, click here.

One night about seven years ago, I lay in bed in that twilight zone between waking and sleeping.  A sentence came into my mind and I liked it enough to force myself to get up and write it down. A few months later I used it as the first line in what I now call one of my practice novels. I had no idea of the story behind the sentence, but once those few words came to me, I was off and running, figuring out who said that line and to whom it referred. Before long, I had a cast of characters around which to build a tale.

A personal essay I read in Yankee Magazine triggered my next novel (I’m still praying this one isn’t just practice.) An artist’s rendering on the page featured a damaged tree branch held up by a home-made crutch. I summoned up an image of a kid sitting on the branch swinging his legs, and that’s where my next story began, with that boy in the tree.

For the next novel, I was ready to begin a new story, but I didn’t have a plot, until I asked myself the following question. “What is the worst thing that could happen to a person like me?” Before long I’d conjured up a recent widow who discovers her late husband had a previous wife she hadn’t known about, and who, as a result of his oversight, inherits the bulk of his estate while his widow remains broke. There’s some truth behind this premise. Many moons ago, I worked with a long-time second wife who was left with nothing when her husband died because he neglected to update his life insurance paperwork. 

I’m editing that story now but lately, I’ve been wondering what I’ll write the next time. So, imagine how pleased I was the other night, when again in the wee hours, an opening scene came to me:

At first Lucia thought the ringing was a part of her dream. By the time she realized it wasn’t, James had picked up his cell.  He spoke into it, his voice hoarse with sleep. 

Truth be told, I have no idea who Lucia or James are but you betcha, sometime soon I’ll figure it out.

My point in all this? Inspiration is everywhere. We have to listen to the voices that speak to us at night. Remember the thoughts that hit us in the shower. Think about what we read. Concentrate on the conversations taking place around us. We have to watch people at the store, on trains, on planes. Anything may trigger an idea for a story.

Listen to this. The other day at work a friend told me how her father had purchased an old New York taxi cab when she was a child. As a little girl she'd climb out of her swimming pool and wrap herself up in a towel. The taxi would be warmed by the sun and she climb into it to dry off while snacking on potato chips she dipped into catsup. Isn’t that a neat scene? I can’t wait to see how it plays out in a future project.