Sunday, August 10, 2008
Into the Melting Pot
by Christine Wells
Kill me now.
Someone just stole the most fantastic story idea I had for my next book--a series, actually. Well, OK, she didn't steal it. It was just one of those serendipitous things where two people in different parts of the world who don't know each other came up with the same idea at roughly the same time. Unfortunately, this New York Times bestselling author has already converted the idea (did I mention it was fantastic?) to print and now I have to come up with something equally brilliant. Or at least something that will convince my editor to give me another contract.*g*
Story ideas aren't often a problem for writers. We usually have too many ideas rather than too few. However, the process by which the germ of a notion gradually evolves into a concrete springboard for a one hundred thousand word novel differs from writer to writer, so I can only tell you about mine. The closest I can come to describing my so-called process is similar to the way Lady Malmerstoke described (perhaps not entirely accurately) to our hero the way women think in Georgette Heyer's POWDER AND PATCH.
"They jump, you see...From one thing to another. You'll arrive at a new thought by degrees and you'll know how you got there. Women don't think like that."
So here, as near as I can remember, is the leap-frog thought process by which I reached the premise for THE DANGEROUS DUKE.
*I read about the courtesan Harriette Wilson's threat to expose prominent clients if they didn't pay her to keep their name out of her memoirs.
*I thought about power and how a woman in the nineteenth century could seize her own power and wield it to get what she wanted. She might not be able to vote, but she might still play a part in world affairs.
*I watched 5 straight seasons of UK spy series "Spooks" and absorbed the continuing question in that wonderful drama--does the end always justify the means? I asked myself, how does a spy live with what he does? How does he leave it all behind and live happily ever after?
*At the same time, I took an interest in a debate about whether heroines were simply place-holders in romance. The theory goes that the reader doesn't care too much about the heroine's qualities, she wants to step into the heroine's shoes and fall in love with the hero.
*And finally, I thought about the difference between fantasy and reality and whether we really want our fantasies to come true. Could you really live with a hero like Dain in Lord of Scoundrels?
*Oh, and somewhere along the way, I found pictures of my hero and heroine. These were the people I wanted to write about.
After a lot of leaping about, all those snippets went into the melting pot. Then came dithering, writing, rewriting, sweat and tears but no blood, thank goodness, after which there emerged a story that went something like this (with thanks to Publishers Weekly for putting it more concisely than I could):
Maxwell Brooke, a dangerous operative for the Home Office, has unexpectedly become a duke, thanks to an arson that killed the four heirs ahead of him. Determined to bring the suspected perpetrators to justice, he has jailed Reverend Stephen Holt, who may know their whereabouts. Outraged, Holt's sister, widowed Lady Kate Fairchild, threatens to publish a diary that could embarrass high figures in government unless her brother is freed. Although the scandals are real, she hasn't actually written the book yet, and the handwritten volume Max steals from her home contains only Kate's sexual fantasies. He kidnaps her (on the thinnest of pretexts) and begins to make her dreams come true...
Where and when do you get great ideas? Have you ever tracked your thought processes? Do you believe women think differently from men? Are writers simply crazy?
One lucky commentor will win the sum total of all my crazy thought processes in the last year, THE DANGEROUS DUKE!