Thursday, March 06, 2008

Writers Wednesday - Getting The Creative Juices Flowing

This week at The Pink Heart Society our very own Trish Wylie talks to us about getting the creative juices flowing and how a picture can tell a thousand stories...

There are two reasons for my subject this week. Well there are probably four but I'm trying to control my ability to waffle on at length off-topic. Yeah, I know - Good luck with that Trish...

Anyhoos the first reason is I'm starting a new book for Modern Heat and the second is this weekend I teach my very first workshop. So for those reasons I've been looking at how I do things. Every writer has their own methods during that initial creative period. For me it comes down to three things - thinking time, pictures and music. I think out a very basic plot (cos I'm on the panster rather than the plotter team - if I plot it all out then I get bored...) I find pictures that inspire a scene or two in my head. And then I make up a soundtrack to give me a *feel* for the tone of the book. Now two out of three of those methods I'll be talking about at my workshop but one of the two - the PICTURES - is what I'll be talking about here.
A picture can tell a thousand stories. It's why so many authors who use pics can use the same actor/actress/singer etc and come up with completely different stories - even if we playfully fight over those character pics online - *cough* Ally and Natasha*cough* In my workshop I'll be using pics I used for the characters in my May Modern Heat and once all the new writers have told me who they are in their heads I'll tell them who they were in mine. See - method in my madness!
And for this new Modern Heat of mine I started out with a hero inspired by one of our Male On Monday's here at The Pink Heart Society - they're a gift those things - so no problem - gorgeous - definitely the guy I needed for my first ever Italian. But the heroine? Hmmm... she wasn't quite right. And how did I know this? Cos when I made up my collage she wasn't telling me anything. Now THIS is a B-A-D sign. So I fired her and hired a new heroine. And when I found the look I wanted I went searching for pics online.... and THATS when the pictures start to fill in the gaps in my head...

Now this time I've been lucky, cos the lady I'm using as my heroine Tess Flanaghan has had LOADS of pictures taken of her. This is why choosing actresses/singers etc makes the job so easy. And in this case I spent a good half hour googling and websiting and collecting pictures that had not only the look I needed for my plot, but that might kick the creative juices into gear along the way...

My heroine has four brothers so she grew up a bit of a tomboy - so the pics of her in denim with messy hair and wearing huge boots while sitting in a row of chairs gave me the look I wanted for the beginning of the story. But a big part of the story is her transformation into cover girl. So I knew at some point I was gonna need pics that were a tad more glamorous. But a tomboy isn't necessarily gonna be terribly comfortable in that role is she? Particularly if she's conned into it!

So when I found pics that showed real personality I knew I was onto a winner with this gal. Being a Modern Heat heroine she's gonna have sass and confidence and an irreverant outlook on life. Wellll she is if she's one of my Modern Heat heroines ;) And I think you'll all agree we have pics here that demonstrate that admirably. Go me.

Then we have the random pics that hint at scenes I might use... there she is in a nice quirky car I'll more than likely give her now. And looking like she has some attitude girlfriend! So the chances are it might end up a scene where they have a bit of an argument...

And then we have her looking girlish and playful in a huge great closet with shoooeeessss and pupppppiiieesss! Now if I put that pic together with my storyline then maybe that might be the point where my hero realizes he's not dealing with the usual model-types he's used to dating... I see a break through moment there. And if she can make him laugh as well as attract him to her physically? Yuh-huh.... poor alpha male Italian is in trouble with a capital T.

See where I'm going here?

Now obviously I had to have a girl who would be capable and believeable as cover girl material so it was important I find pics that added to the glamour some too. But I wanted her to still have that joie de vivre (sp?) and irreverance about the whole thing so she could not only make my hero insane, but she could also stay true to who she was. And again I had pics that showed that. The bubble gum one in particular is an absolute gem of a find! And yup - you've guessed it - stands a jolly good chance of making into at least the first draft of the story...

Then we have pics where she's starting to look like she can fulfil her role. Where we see just what she's capable of in front of a camera and we see the glamorous, beautiful, sophisticated woman she can be. And of course, naturally, so does the hero. Score again. The conflict might then come from whether or not she wants to be the woman she's been turned into or the tomboy/happy-go-lucky gal she was out of the media spotlight.

So when I went looking for these pics I had a basic story outline. I had named them and given them some background and had a backdrop for the story. I knew what my conflicts would be. But when it came to where to start or when to start or what these people were really like I was fairly flexible. This doesn't work for everyone. And like I've said every author has their own methods. Maybe they'd pop by and let us know what they are??? Guys???

Cos it's just as fascinating for us authors to find out what other authors do as it is for new writers to maybe stumble across something that might work for them or for readers to discover how some of the books they loved might have started out in the authors imagination...

Me. I'm an adrenalin junkie kinda writer. I like to know who the characters are before I start. I like to live with them in my head for a while. I like that basic outline I mentioned. And then I LOVE the thrill of the ride. I LOVE when a pic shouts a new scene at me or when that scene tells me something I didn't know before and when that something leads to the story taking a twist I might NEVER have thought of way back at the beginning I positively GRIN with excitement. It's all about flexibility I think. And has proved a useful learning curve for me when it comes to things like revisions and re-writes. Cos by that stage I'll know these people pretty darn well and I'll have a fair idea of what they would do when I move things around some. Flexibility is a very important part of writing. TRUST ME.

For a very small example of that. In my story, Tess Flanaghan's brothers are all dark haired and dark eyed. I therefore cast a dark haired dark eyed heroine to begin with. I fought against a blonde. Genetically speaking. But then I thought - hey - it's a Modern Heat... she can dye her hair for Pete's sake! And not only that but she can make a joke about it at some point. Like someone being as genuine a person as she is a blonde maybe? See - another little thing I might have missed out on! Flexibility. Letting the creative juices flow... fairy dust.

So when you look at all these pics you might see one heroine, you might see a different one for each pic. But can you see scenes to go with them? Can you see what they're saying and doing? Does it make them more real to you - even the teensiest little bit??? If it does any of those things then my work here is done I feel ;) Maybe for fun in the comments you could tell us about what you see or who they are or what they might be doing in one of those scenes??? Keep it clean please - we're a family blog doncha know!!! I'll even fire a copy of one of my latest books at the best one...

If you're anywhere at all on my wavelength after all this then maybe you'll understand why my little muse rubbed her hands together with glee and got the pencil out from behind her ear when she had not only this lying down pic of my heroine - but a matching one with my hero... I see them on the floor... maybe some plush apartment somewhere... lying in opposite directions but face to face while they have a conversation steeped in sexual undertones... and it being a Modern Heat...

Well. I can work with that. And that's before I even touch on the subject of his hands...
Now I could talk to you about the influence music has on my writing... but that's a whole other blog that is!

To see what I did with a couple of pics recently and how they inspired my short story for The Sun then pop by my Blog for a look see. And if you follow the link there to the story itself you'll even find a voucher UK and Ireland readers can use to get a FREE BOOK from Mills & Boon!!! Worth it for that alone I'd say ;)

H's & K's
Trish's latest release is part of the Harlequin Presents Taken By The Millionaire mini-series. At The Billionaire's Bidding, the story of Tess' brother Connor is available right now both online and in stores.
To find out more about Trish and her books you can visit her Website or Her Blog.


  1. I suppose, being a Modern Heat, he will eventually discover for himself she's not a natural blonde! :)

    Good casting.

    And great story in The Sun. The girl did us proud.

  2. Trish, what a fabulous post. I love hearing about other writers methods (and madness).

    I'm definitely a pantser like yourself and for me it's all in that crucial first scene — a woman hiding in a ritzy hotel's bathroom (for The Mile High Club). A guy skinny-dipping in someone else's pool (Bedded by a Bad Boy) or a woman in her bra and knickers and a bathrobe being interrogated by a hotel tycoon (my new book The Tycoon's Very Personal Assistant).

    Then I have to figure out where they are, who they are and why they're doing what they're doing. So I pick a setting that speaks to me (The Ritz Hotel in London, a Long Island estate, or a Vegas casino - I'm going to be blogging in July on PHS about how my American travels have inspired my writing ), then rough out the characters and their conflict, play a few key scenes in my head and set off from there.

    I don't know where I'm going when I start off or what's going to happen and I usually have a major crisis half-way through because I've taken a wrong turn, or my conflict's crap, or my characters are behaving like idiots - and then I have to fix it, but I can't seem to write any other way.

    I don't do pictures, but I do have a basic 'concept' especially for my heroes - such as Sawyer in Lost for my hero in Bedded by a Bad Boy. And I usually have one song that I latch on to during the writing which sets the mood. For Bad Boy it was James Morrison's Wonderful World which is all about a guy who's on the outside looking in.

    See, that's another thing you and I have in common, I can waffle on endlessly about this stuff. So I'll shut up now and let someone else have a go.


  3. Trish. I loved your post and the pics really made it special. Thanks a bunch!

    Mary Eason
    Survivor - Available now at Samhain Publishing

  4. Natasha I'm not even gracing the first part of that with an answer. Are you SURE you don't secretly write something hotter???

    Heidi! Well we have a lot in common then really. And I both LOVE and am SUPREMELY JEALOUS of the fact you visited a lot of the places! Looking forward to your blog on it!!! And folks if you haven't read this gals books then get thee to amazon - I LOVED both her first ones (slightly swaying towards Mile High Club as my fav tho... oh my... what a way to cure flying nerves!!!)

    Donna glad you enjoyed my precious!

    Mary - same again! I LOVE these pics and have a selection of them and a great many more in my story collage. She's really helped bring my heroine to life!

  5. LOL I play great attention to detail, is all!