I’m a bury-my-head-in-the-blanket kind of guy. When something scary comes on TV or in a movie, I hide until it’s over. I’m famous for it. My kids know it. My friends know it. My husband knows it. He’s my enabler. Because when things get really bad, I plug my ears, too, and he lets me know when it’s safe to come out.
So, a few years back when I had the seed of an idea for a novel of psychological suspense—a dark story about a husband and wife who each have a secret life they are hiding from the other and the dangerous game of cat and mouse that results—I stalled out. I had a situation. And the situation was a good idea, but it wasn’t really a story. It had no depth. More than that, I couldn’t figure out why it had no depth. I couldn’t figure out how to make the situation into a story.
And it was even more than that. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t figure it out.
Then one day something happened. I talked to a writer friend who knew I’d been stuck for a while without a story I felt passionate about. I had about four ideas I’d been mulling over, I told her, but nothing really excited me. Amanda offered to take a look at the synopses I’d written. When I sent them, this one—the darkest one—jumped out. “I want to read it! Tell me more!” As we talked about it, the blanket slipped to one side and the darkness crept in. At first, I pulled the blanket back over my head. I didn’t want to see. I didn’t want to “go there.” I wanted to tell a safe story, something that didn’t make me crave a blanket to bury myself into.
But the story kept creeping back. I kept thinking about it, and it demanded more. It demanded darkness. And I couldn’t let it go.
My story epiphany happily coincided with going to the Writer Unboxed Unconference. I seized the opportunity to really embrace the story’s development. A story that is quickly becoming the darkest thing I’ve considered writing. It takes place in two extreme places: in the middle of a starkly hot African desert and the dead of winter on a rural farm in Vermont. It takes place in two extreme states of mind: the euphoria of falling in love and the desperation of finding out someone you love is trying to drive you crazy. At the UnConference, sessions took me through questions and revelations about character and plot and setting—they helped take the story deeper.
Why this story?
If you’ve read my posts for a while, you know that the past few years have been rough ones—writing-wise and personal-wise—I’ve had trouble writing and writing has troubled me. I’ve felt like my ability to write has been locked in. I actually describe it to other writers as “locked in syndrome.” [Read more…]