I have an idea.
I have ten thousand ideas for stories, in fact, which is why I love this lightbulb picture. There are many bulbs, but last night one in particular flared to life.
I needed to start a new novel, one from scratch (there's a reason, but I'll save that story for another time -- it's secret for now), so I trawled through my notebooks to revisit those dottings every writer has. You know the ones I mean, those odd wisps of inspiration which wake you up after a vivid dream of flying, or make you pull over the car on the freeway near the emergency call box, or have you ignoring everything your boss just said to you in the meeting because you had to write it down here, now on the notes to the power point presentation. I have a few of these every day. I've shared a few. There are many, many more.
These dottings are like bottlecaps. One or two is never enough to send in for the prize. You have to keep collecting them. Some will never go anywhere except that cobweb space between the back of your couch and the wall, along with your Canadian penny and the left leg of a McDonald's Happy Meal toy.
Character. Setting. Plot. For an idea collection to add up to a real outline for a story, I need two of out three; I can then fill in the third. A truly, truly dazzling inspiration will be born, whole and complete, with all three.
My idea last night was truly, truly dazzling.
I wish I could share it with you. (I even designed a cover for it already.) But it's still too newborn. And I'm not sure I deserve it yet. As I said last night, I've had the inklings of this idea before -- I had a Setting -- but I felt inadequate to the task of writing it.
What changed last night? Very simply, I realized I knew the four characters who must be in the story. Once I knew the characters -- since I already had the setting -- I only needed a plot, which in turn, was obvious simply by drawing lines between the characters to connect them.
Do you believe there are Platonic Ideals of stories? Somewhere, somehow, there is the perfect version of your story; if you were only a good enough writer, you would be able to give the Platonic Form a Tangible Form. Though your version of the story would never be as beautiful as the Real story, it would at least reflect it, like water holds the moon.