May 2004 NEWSLETTER--CREATING A NOVEL: A NOVEL IDEA
May 24, 2004
JERRI CORGIAT’S NEWSLETTER
News: Apology; New Newsletter Series
Feature Article: CREATING A NOVEL: A NOVEL IDEA
Best Book(s) I’ve Read This Month
APOLOGY: Hopefully when I sent out this newsletter, the internet server didn’t burp and send you more than one copy. Last time I only pushed the send button once—I swear!—so I was chagrined to see three copies show up in my mailbox, as I’m sure they must have in yours. This was a server glitch, but please accept my apologies for giving you more mail than you wanted!
NEWSLETTER SERIES: This month I launch the series on Creating a Novel. Before you read the feature article, though, I want to add a caveat: **No two writers follow the same process.** There is no wrong or right way to create a book; what I relay here is simply my own way.
FEATURE ARTICLE: A NOVEL IDEA
In my most recent contest, I received a lot of questions on where my ideas come from: “Do you sit down and write what comes off the top of your head? Do current events or something you read spark an idea? Do you draw on your own life experiences? Is your fiction based on real people you know?”
The easy answer: “Yes, yes, yes, and yes.”
Think of my brain like a blender. (Gee, lovely image.) Drop a bunch of things in, mix them up, and something emerges. That something is made up of the various ingrediants, spiced by my own perceptions, experiences, and beliefs, but their origins aren’t always readily identifiable. Even to me.
Occasionally, though, I can trace a book’s beginning...
Inspiration from Something I Read:
The whole Cordelia series—SING ME HOME, out now, FOLLOW ME HOME, coming in November, and HURRY HOME, which is still being penned—was inspired by a series of young adult books, featuring the fictional Parrish family, written by Janet Lambert. Anybody remember those? Ms. Lambert started her series with a young Penny Parrish and her family in STAR-SPANGLED SUMMER, and continued it into Penny’s adulthood with stories about Penny’s grown-up children. When I decided to write a book, I wanted to involve myself—and my readers—in a whole fictional world with a large cast of characters—just like I was once enthralled by the Parrish Family. The O’Malley Family was born.
Inspiration Off the Top of My Head:
SING ME HOME’s Jonathan Van Castle started taking shape back in my girlhood—a recurring adolescent fantasy about Boys Who Are Famous and Play a Guitar. (I blush.) It was easy to imagine that scenario into “what if a singing star fell for a small-town woman?” After all, that is what I once ardently dreamed would happen to me. (Preferably the singer would be Paul McCartney. Does that date me or what?)
Inspiration from Someone Real:
FOLLOW ME HOME’s premise—Alcea has all, loses all, but has the cajones to “never say never”—was inspired by a gutsy single mother I know who has never met a hurdle she didn’t at least try to leap over. So I take Alcea, the rich older sister, strip away her money, her home, and endanger her custody of her daughter. Then, to give her at least one more challenge, I have her fall for a man whose idea of “home” is a battered old Jeep on an endless highway. Poor Alcea.
And sometimes I haven’t a clue where the idea came from...
Inspiration From Who Knows What:
In HURRY HOME, youngest sister, Mari O’Malley, disregards her own backyard in a proverbial search for greener pastures. Why I would think she might find them in a camp for troubled adolescent boys and one of its therapists, a childhood chum formerly known as No-Account Andy, is beyond me. Was it something I read? Something I saw? Recurring nightmares about my own teenaged son? (Not really—he drives me nuts sometimes, but he’s a good kid.) Who knows.
Now, those are just premises. Ideas. The characters themselves will create the actual story. (More on that in a future newsletter.) But I proceed from the basic idea to lots of questions... Why would Lil entertain Jon’s idea of marriage? Why would Jon even ask her in the first place? What would bring them together? Keep them apart? Why would Dak be attracted to Alcea? Where could Alcea work without much education and no experience? What would make her want to leave town with Dak? What would make her stay? Why would Mari go back to Cordelia when she longs for city glitz? What would she do to fill her time if she did?
I’m a listmaker. I’m known to make long lists in answer to all the questions I pose to myself... very long lists. They all go into that blender of a brain and get tossed around until “just the very thing” emerges. Secondary characters are born. Little plot twists appear. A subplot surfaces.
And it’s all colored by my own upbringing, life view, experiences, and beliefs. The enveloping themes of my books, the voice, the tone... that’s all mine. If you handed one of my premises to a different writer and said “write a book about this,” she could.
But you’d get an entirely different story. Because everyone’s blender is at least a little bit different.
BEST BOOK(s) I’VE READ THIS MONTH:
STEP BALL CHANGE, by Jeanne Ray
An entertaining, warm-hearted, and breezy read by the author of JULIE AND ROMEO.
LADDER OF YEARS, by Anne Tyler
This novel is not one of Ms. Tyler’s recent ones, but past or present, the woman is a phenomenal writer.
Happy Reading! Jerri
Fiction for and about women rediscovering themselves