When the Muse speaks up, better write it down!
I’m about a third of the way through my latest thriller and have found it a harder slog than usual. It might have to do with spending so much time trying to procure a covid-19 vaccination. Here in Florida, the same people who run the unemployment website apparently run the pandemic website.
I think the plan is to have everyone die of old age before they get a check or a shot.
Luckily, I rarely suffer from writer’s block. In fact, my fevered brain is almost always coming up with new plots or ideas to fit into an existing one.
Often, the ideas occur to me in the most awkward moments. I’ve found myself in the shower when an inspiration or a piece of dialogue hits me. I’m at that age where if I don’t get my thoughts down right away, I risk forgetting them.
There have been occasions when I’ve left the shower dripping wet, wrapped myself in a towel, and raced to my den. If I’m lucky, I can sit at the computer and jot something down. If I’m not and I have to boot up the computer, I run the risk of sitting there shivering and damp and wondering why.
(I once managed to get a thought down, only to have the doorbell ring. Insistently. I got a very strange look from the delivery guy who wanted me to sign for a package as I stood there in a towel.)
Now, you may ask, why don’t I just grab the nearest piece of paper and write things down? I’ve done that, but finding paper and pen in my house is a bit problematic. We have plenty of both, but my wife is a neat freak who is always cleaning up. She doesn’t understand that I leave things lying around so they’re handy.
Really. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Thankfully, I work at a desktop computer. It’s basically immovable and, thus, safe from her Pine-Sol predations. (I do have to occasionally plug it back in after she’s vacuumed and dusted; not the smartest maneuver when dripping wet.)
So far, I have been fortunate that inspiration hasn’t struck when I am in other ways indisposed. (Let your imagination run rampant…)
Most ideas, fortunately, occur when I’m reading or watching TV, which I’ve mentioned before. (No, I’m not talking plagiarism; I don’t lift words or actions verbatim.) Take, for example, my current Colin Dexter mania, which combines both my BritBox subscription on Amazon Prime and my actual reading of Dexter’s Inspector Morse books. I’ve read all of them and seen all the TV shows (starring the inimitable and unfortunately now-deceased John Thaw), but I’m still picking up new things I can use in my own books.
For instance, in both the TV series and books, Morse is always working a crossword puzzle. So, I’ve incorporated a crossword into my latest novel. I did the same with a chess game after watching “The Queen’s Gambit.” (Funny, I’m not inspired by anything I see on the news. Probably because I don’t write fantasy.)
In some Morse books, Dexter starts each chapter with a quote, usually from Shakespeare or some other luminary. Now I do that, too, using Bartlett’s as a guide. It’s actually fun trying to find a quote that’s apropos to a particular chapter. I’ve used Shakespeare, but I’m equally fond of Yogi Berra.
Dexter and others have also inspired me to up my game, description-wise. I try not to pad my writing, and I also avoid verbiage, similes, metaphors, and cliches like the plague (I had to get that in). But a little color in any book can be a game-changer, stylistically!
Lawrence De Maria has written more than 20 thrillers and mysteries available in print or digitally on Amazon or at www.lawrencedemaria.com. This column would have been longer, but he has to take a shower.