Puzzle Pieces


(Quick Note - The winner of C.E. Murphy's HEART OF STONE is Karen Duvall. Karen, please email Catie at Catie AT cemurphy.net. Thanks again and sorry about the delay in the results. My brain gave up sometime around Sunday night.)

So I was trying to think about what to write today. I couldn't think of anything. Ilona dared me to write about teh sexx0rz, but I think I will save that for next week when I am really dry (no pun intended, gross Mark!). Someone else suggested that I write about how things inspire me, and I thought that was a great idea.

But then I realized, I have no idea how I get inspired. Ideas just come from wherever they come from. I don't see a picture and go "Ooo, great, now there's a story!" I make up stories, sure. But they usually don't turn into novels.

But what I do have is a tidbit soup rolling around in my head. There are scenes from movies, characters from books, certain glances or expressions that I've caught in a photo that caught my eye. It could be something as simple as a name that I thought was pretty. All of these things float around my head (or on a million post-its, as I mentioned before) and just sit there, waiting.

To me, writing a book is like putting the puzzle together. Let's say you have a great big puzzle. One of those annoyingly hard ones - maybe a bald eagle in front of an American flag.

Everyone always starts with the easy part first - the corner pieces and the borders. Unless you're some sort of puzzle-freak-of-nature, everyone does this. Same with your book. You start with your basic ideas. Okay, guy. Maybe girl. Concept. What are we doing here? Where do I set this thing? You know the basics, but that's about it.

And then you keep thinking things out. You flesh out the borders and build from there. Maybe the setting is mid-thirteenth century England. Maybe you want to do something with tournaments. And something with twins. And a smart-alecky guy. How about a crippled heroine?

All good puzzle pieces. I put them together in my brain and add to the structure. Along the way, I add a few of the puzzle pieces in my brain-soup. I saw the name Aveline a while back and wanted to use it - okay, the crippled heroine is Aveline. In 13th century England - prime time for a tournament. Another puzzle piece falls into place. Smart-aleck hero can be one of the jousters trying to win Aveline's hand. Perfect. My puzzle's coming right along. Let's give Aveline a twin sister who is in love with a Scotsman--

Hey...what? Oops. A Scot in England? REALLY hard sell, especially for that timeframe.

I suddenly came to the perfect puzzle piece that doesn't fit.

And again, this is just like a puzzle. You keep turning and turning it, and it looks like it should ALMOST fit but not really. Maybe one of the edges of the piece is a bit too long. Either way, you can't force it in without totally jacking your puzzle.

So you keep toying with the piece. I do the same thing with plot ideas in my head. Why a Scot? History shows that the Scots were terribly unpopular with the English in the 13th century. Lots of unhappiness on both sides. No reason for a Scot to be at the English court, much less at a tournament.

I've got a puzzle piece that doesn't fit.

I fretted over this one for weeks, maybe even months. The idea wasn't gelling. Pieces weren't fitting together.

And sometimes you stumble across something that locks everything into place. For me, with this particular idea, it happened a few days ago. I was googling medieval Christmas traditions when I stumbled across one line in a long essay about how King Edward III invited King David II of Scotland to a CHRISTMAS TOURNAMENT IN ENGLAND IN 1358.

I nearly swallowed my tongue with seizures of happiness. The annoying puzzle piece that had been flipping in my mind for weeks now fell into place. And now I can move on to filling in the rest of the puzzle.

So anyhow, that's my writing metaphor for the week. Novels iz like puzzles.

Comments

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