Writers are often asked about where their ideas come from. For me, that would be lightning strikes of creativity where my brain concatenates events and experience with my imaginative wanderings.
Ideas are a popular focus for questions, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone ask where the details of the story develop. This is just as fascinating to me. The details of a story are the building blocks for the tale. They’re the rich loamy soil where creativity can take root and flourish.
When I started writing the first draft of Wandering Soul, I didn’t have a specific setting in mind. That definitely showed in the text. Descriptions were bland and settings that should have been rich backdrops for the book’s action were nonexistent. I knew I needed to work on this. The setting can be as much of a character in a story as the people running around on the pages. I wanted that. So I went back to my childhood.
We moved around quite a bit, but my early childhood was divided pretty evenly between Ohio and Florida. An imaginative and precocious redhead running around in those places… Yeah, I have plenty of fodder for many, many settings. Ohio didn’t work for Wandering Soul somehow. I listened to my writer’s instinct (aka muse), and went with Florida.
Things started to come together instantly. Not just richness of description and setting—as I remembered the soft feel of wild fennel brushing my face while I ran through an old abandoned orchard—but the plotlines and characterization.
For instance, one of the pivotal scenes in Wandering Soul was originally set in a basement. But if the characters had to walk down a staircase to enter the room, it didn’t work for the action. Guess what? There are no basements in Florida—it’s a sand bar. I moved the scene to a garage and voila! The action worked.
And when I realized that Wandering Soul was the first in a series—The Summer Park Psychics—my memories of Florida again came into play. In the second book, Whispering Hearts, I needed a setting where it was believable that dangerous animals could come right up to someone’s house. Being raised next to a swamp was ridiculously useful. Whispering Hearts spoiler alert—yes, sometimes scorpions do find their way up your drain and into your dishwasher.
Those creative blasts that generate the initial ideas for stories are amazing and can be quite a rush. Beyond that excitement, I want to fully immerse my readers in the worlds I create. I want them to love the characters as much as I do, be as afraid for them, long for them to find their way to lasting happiness. Taking time with the details, mining my memories and enriching those experiences with my imagination is how I hope to make my stories feel real.