Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Awkward Moments



A friend recently sent me something, via email, that grabbed me and it won’t let go. It was a sign, sort of, and it said, “Awkward Moment: When you’re digging a hole to bury a body – and you find another body already buried there.” As a mystery writer, how could I let that pass? A germ of an idea took hold and I have a basis for a new book.

Of course, this same friend also sent me one that said, “Next time a stranger talks to me when I’m alone I will look at them, shocked, and just whisper, ‘You can see me?’” Good grief! I have to admit there are times I feel like doing this, but I don’t.

I can’t use every sign for a story idea, but after my smile disappears, my brain kicks into gear and ideas start forming. Sometimes ideas for stories come from the most unusual places. If you’re a mystery writer, even a greeting card can start the ideas coming. A comment made in passing by a friend, or overheard at a coffee shop can inspire an entire book. It doesn’t take much more than a fertile imagination. Well, that and a lot of research and grinding hours at the computer.

One of the things I enjoy about the television show, Castle, is something will happen and he’ll start spinning stories to fit the crime, guessing about what might have happened. Once in a while he might even be right, although he’s usually way off base. This is something many writers do. Given a set of circumstances and without having the entire story, they’ll find a scenario to fit the information they do have.

I have a character in one of my two series who’s addicted to chocolate. At some point she’ll want to be involved in a chocolate mystery. When she was trapped in a ghost town, she ran out of chocolate and almost had a meltdown. I can relate to that. Hmm. This might involve a trip to a chocolate factory. I wouldn’t want to get my facts wrong, would I? I mean, research is research. This, happily, could be very interesting research involving some taste-testing.

Now I believe the Bogey Man is going to have to have a close encounter of the grave kind – when he least expects it. I’ve already started writing notes so I won’t forget where I want the story to go.

Someone worried that by writing this post another writer might steal my idea. Let them. There are so many possible scenarios that there’s room for all of us. Someone might write a dramatic and suspenseful story, and someone like me might write something with a little more humor. Another author could even turn it into a horror story.

The life of a writer is so much more than I ever thought it would be. It can be a very solitary existence, but there are moments when we come together and share ideas, and… Well, maybe we don’t share ideas, but we do share experiences and stories out of our own experiences. Mystery writers are, in general, very generous with their time and support of each other, and I do believe we frequently march to a different drummer. Yes, we even use clichés sometimes, like marching to a different drummer. If you prefer, you might say that occasionally we sing a little off key? I do, anyway.

Authors have a lot of fun. Aren’t you glad they share their fun through their books? We’ll do our very best to entertain readers and each other.

So, think before you begin digging a hole in the ground. You never know what you might dig up. Heh heh

28 comments:

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Love this, Marja! You've described exactly what we authors do.

Patricia Gligor said...

First things first. When you go to that chocolate factory, I'd like to go with you. I think Hershey, PA would be a great destination!
Secondly, I enjoyed what you wrote about another writer stealing ideas. I think many of us have a slightly paranoid side to our personalities when it comes to our writing. But, you're absolutely right: my story set in a chocolate factor, for example, wouldn't be anything like yours and vice versa. I do find though that, the less I "talk" about my story ideas, the more likely I am to actually write them.

marja said...

Marilyn, I'm glad you enjoyed it! That Awkward Moment just cracked me up, by the way.

jrlindermuth said...

I lived near Hershey for a time and I can say with certainty it's THE PLACE for a chocolate lover. Even the air smells of chocolate.
Stealing ideas is better than other kinds of theft because, as you said, another writer will give it a different spin.

marja said...

Pat, I'm sincerely hoping I can find a chocolate factory somewhere here in Arizona. However, check out the Hershey factory and let me know what you think. :) You're right, we can be a slightly paranoid bunch sometimes. LOL

Palmaltas said...

Fantastic blog, Marja! I enjoyed this one immensely.

marja said...

John, You and Pat are making me want to visit Hershey, and unfortunately, I can't. Dang! I once went to a workshop for writers and the guy who did it said there are only 32 types of stories to write -- it's just that everyone has their own spin. Don't know if that's true or not, but...

marja said...

Tricia, I'm glad I could brighten your day. Thank you!

Stephen L. Brayton said...

Some ideas for stories or scenes can be conceived from listening to other people tell stories about real life incidents, humorous or otherwise. Some surprises may be in store when you visit the places in your scenes. I changed a scene in my book when I crashed a party looking for building descriptions.

Jake said...

With all digging I do still have not found any bodies. Las Vegas has a chocolate factory so let us plan an excursion. Awkward Moment? So many unable to distinguish one from another. Appreciate all writers & their twists to situations. Keep up the great writing.

marja said...

Stephen, You crashed a party? No! LOL You're right. You never know what might set off an idea.

John Brantingham said...

Writers are awkward, confused and wonderful people. We have to be. Otherwise, what would the fun be?

marja said...

Love your comment, John! Don't forget, many of us are a little eccentric, too.

marja said...

Jake, Las Vegas here we come! By the way, I think you're just digging in the wrong places.

Velda Brotherton said...

Marja, My favorite was the "you can see me?" How often have we all felt that way? Great post with some good ideas, not only for mystery writers either.

john M. Daniel said...

One of life's most awkward moments is when you say something unpleasant about somebody, and that somebody happens to overhear what you've said. It's happened to me, to my embarrassment. Kick that situation up a notch or two, and embarrassment could turn to...murder.

marja said...

John, Excellent idea, and I'll bet most of us have had that happen. Awkward moments AND embarrassing moments.

marta chausée said...

How could I not chime in on this one? In fact, to get hundreds of comments and go viral, I think you should have titled this one: CHOCOLATE.

My favorite birthday card of all time said:

(on the cover) C H O C O L A T E

(on the inside) it's not just for breakfast anymore.

******

That being said, and I have savored more than my lifetime share to the tenth power of chocolate from all the good countries in the world who specialize in chocolate, I'm off the brown stuff for almost a month.

Usually, I go through massive withdrawals when I cut out the flour and sugar cold turkey, but this time it has been easy. HUH? I better enjoy it while it lasts. I don't kid myself that I'll be off the f&s forever-- I'm no saint-- but it's nice to detox once in a while.

As for stories-- they're like snowflakes. I know that from writing 10 minute prompts with my friends. Our stories are always completely different from the same prompt. One time, we all wrote about the desert. That was a Twilight Zone moment, but the stories were still unique.

Great post, Marja. You can't go wrong with chocolate.

Janel Gradowski said...

One of my friends and I were comparing conversations overheard at a party recently. While they were amusing and writer thought-provoking, they weren't exactly PG-rated, LOL!

marja said...

LOL Thank you for ALL of your comments, Marta! I have a small book titled I Never Met a Chocolate I Didn't Like. I think that goes with your card. I also liked the story about the desert short stories.

marja said...

Janel, Half the fun of parties is what you overhear. : )

marja said...

Velda, That's one of my favorites, too. Are we having fun yet? : )

Lesley Diehl said...

I'm thinking that all of us writers that groove on chocolate need to get together and write an anthology called "The Chocolate Murders.".

marja said...

Not a bad idea, Lesley. It would be interesting to see how many different ideas writers could come up with.

James R. Callan said...

Great blog, Marja, and so true. We writers hear almost anything and our mind asks "What if?" and starts spinning a tale. And you are absolutely right. We can give the same idea to five different writers and get five very different books. Thanks for the blog.
Jim

Eileen Obser said...

Great post, Marja. So many points I can relate to. Good ideas and, as Velda commented, not just for mystery writers.

Cora said...

You reminded me of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory that existed in San Francisco when I first moved there in the 60s. Darn, I wish I had had the chance to visit it when it was active. I'm sure it would provide lots of material for a chocolate murder for Leslie's idea of a chocolate murder anthology--which is a great idea, by the way.

Loved Marta's chocolate birthday card, LOL

Marja, I haven't found the right place to dig, but hope it doesn't yield a body--just a chest of gold.
Good post.

Beryl Reichenberg said...

In the art world, whether it is the visual arts, music or writing, we are all influenced by others. But we all render this inspiration in our own way. I always feel honored when another artist is influenced by my art pieces and see it as an affirmation of my vision. So I say, "Borrow away". Beryl