Books by Melissa Bowersock

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Attack of the Story

So I finished my latest book (Stone's Ghost), had my book launch last month and was eager to start something new, although just exactly what was not clear. I had several ideas floating around in my brain, but none was clamoring loudly for my attention.

Then I had a short conversation with a friend, also a writer. She had told me she was deliberately holding off on reading Stone's Ghost because she was in the middle of her own ghost story and didn't want my book to bleed into hers. Perfectly understandable. She also asked me if I would beta-read hers when it was done, and I readily agreed.

She told me only two things about her story: there were two ghosts, and one was evil.

That evening as I was going about my normal evening activities, my mind kept coming back to that simple premise. Since I knew nothing about the personalities of my friend's ghosts, nor of their agenda, their conflicts, their manifestations, I began to make up my own. I, too, developed two ghosts, a brother and sister based on some people I knew decades ago. I also remembered stories from my teenage years of a friend's experience with a ghost who set fires in the house. Very quickly I had a story line for my ghosts (which I won't reveal here!), and the basis for their conflict that needed resolution.

Then I needed the story line for my contemporary, living characters. My protagonist is a woman this time, struggling a bit with her moody husband. They've just moved to a small town and bought an old house. He's not particularly happy about it, although she loves the house and the area. 

Very quickly all the pieces were dropping into place. This is a magical time for a writer, because this kind of story-building is effortless. By asking myself a few simple questions, I had my two parallel story lines; I had the way they intersected; I had the conflicts between the living characters and between the ghosts; I knew how the stories developed, how they evolved and how the tension ramped up. I had secondary characters who would become important, I had the back story that would be revealed in bits and pieces along the way. Rather than working hard at this, it would have been more difficult for me not to figure it all out. This story, very literally, took over my brain all that night.

The next day I was frantically writing down notes as quickly as I could. When a writer is in this mode, you have to act fast, because you don't want to lose a single detail. I worked out a chronology, set down some important dialog, began working on names, places, dates. On the side, I noted what things I needed to look up, research, verify. I pulled up a map of my location so I could talk sensibly about it. I did a Google search for images of Victorian houses so I could be looking at a photo as I described my house. 

I also e-mailed my friend and told her I could not beta-read her book until I was done with mine!

Then I began to write.

Just over two weeks later, I'm halfway through Chapter 4. The book is buzzing along. I get held up now and again, pondering the varied directions I can go, but once I sort that out, I'm off to the races again. This is one of those rare times when a book does not need to be cajoled, wheedled, invited, entreated. This is one of those times when the tap is wide open and the story is gushing out. 

Photo by D. H. Parks via Flickr

LOVE it when that happens!