There’s no such thing as a throw-away idea.
Got it? Good.
What? You’re confused? Fine, I’ll explain. *dons smart-looking writer’s cap*
In the course of planning and writing (slowly) the final book in my vampire trilogy, I’ve discovered something I find hilarious. Some of the details I thought would never amount to anything in Be Ours Forever ended up being huge parts of the other books. For instance, I tossed in a line about Caius’ cabin in the woods in BOF. That cabin, mentioned only once in the first book, became a major setting in In Too Deep and will play a minor role in the third (yet unnamed) book. I never thought twice about the cabin while writing BOF. It was an easy way to drop a quick story that’d give readers a better sense of his personality since we never saw his point of view and it was a woefully short book—no room for the type of character building I relish in now.
Little details writers add can, and often do, take on a life of their own. The incubi tattoos in my Inbetween series started the same way. I just happened to like the idea of the gods branding their playthings somehow. Boom. Tattooed hotties at my disposal. But the idea morphed, became something integral to the entire universe I’d created. Which sucks, in a way. Now I was responsible for creating a set of rules for these damn things and sticking to them.
Sometimes writing taking on a life of its own is a pain in the ass and creates more homework for us poor writers.
Yes, I’m aware my career of choice comes with a lifetime of the same sort of homework I shirked throughout high school. The irony is not lost on me. If any of my English teachers knew I decided to become a writer, they’d die . . . because they were too busy laughing to breathe properly.
The point I’m trying to make is, pay attention to the details. Often writers get stuck in a scene and can’t find a way out. My advice? Close your eyes. Step into the scene beside the characters. Look around. Is there a piece of metal that can cut the tape wrapped around the character’s ankles? How about a unlocked door to duck behind during a chase scene? A robe belt to add a bit of gentle kink to a sex scene? Is that background character at the diner giving your main character the stink-eye?
No detail is insignificant. Your mind coughed up that bit of “Why the fuck am I wasting time describing the flaking paint on this wall” for a reason. The reason could be as simple as, that building is old as hell and I want readers to really understand that it could come down on the character’s head any moment. Or the flaking paint could expose a centuries-old fresco long thought destroyed.
The possibilities are endless.
But these brilliant moments only happen if you pay attention. I would’ve never looked at Caius’ cabin twice . . . until I needed a place to hide a few characters and my brain went, “Uh, dude, we got this covered.” It’s like my brain does the work for me.
Wait. That’s the point, right?
All I’m saying is, listen to your subconscious. It’s a vital part of the writing process that isn’t given due credit.
What detail can you pull from your last manuscript that’ll work in the sequel and tighten your story’s universe? Take a look. I bet you’ll be surprised what you find. And, of course, I want you to share.
Yeah, this is one of those posts. Audience participation time! Let’s see what you got.