By: Donna Schlachter (previously published in Writing Nuggets of Gold)
In a recent conversation with my agent, she mentioned she talks to editors occasionally who are looking for a specific book to fit a particular publishing slot. My response? “If you get any requests, let me know. Maybe I can write that book.”
As I thought about this later, I wondered if I’d spoken hastily or foolishly. After all, what if they wanted a (gulp) bonnet story? Or a (double gulp) category romance? Did I really think I could write such a book? I came up with lots of reasons why I couldn’t – not my genre, not my area of specialty or knowledge, never wrote one before.
And then I was reminded of the wise words spoken to me at one time, not in this context, but which I will paraphrase: Don’t look for a reason not to write the story; look for a reason to write the story.
So I put on my thinking cap again. Why would I want to write a bonnet story or a category romance or a western or a sci-fi or any of the other genres I don’t write? And the answer I came up with was: passion. And I’m not talking about relationship-type passion.
The kind of passion I’m talking about is the essence that starts a writer’s creative juices flowing, forcing us to work past the first What if? And deeper into the next, Then What? And the next.
I would need a passion for the setting, for the characters, or for the story.
That passion would ignite the story ideas, flesh out the characters, and help me choose (or create) a believable setting. That passion would keep me writing when the words seemed blah, would keep me plotting when I didn’t think anybody would want to read this story, would keep me enthused enough to press on until I typed, “The End”.
Passion has nothing to do with the book as a whole, but everything to do with the components of the story. Passion is also called our Muse, that je ne sais quoi that propels us to our computer and causes our fingers to fly over the keys, the words appearing on the screen as if by osmosis.
Passion also helps us take a teensy idea and expand the details into a full-length novel. Let’s take an example. Cinderella is a short story fairy tale, yet in the hands of another, become the basis for over 30 movies (based on an article on Wikipedia). No doubt each one of these movies contained details that were not included in the original story.
If we take the Cinderella story, let’s go through some What If? Questions to come out to a completely different story: What if Cinderella lived with her father and siblings instead of her step-mother and step-sisters, but they were jealous of her? We’d have a story like Joseph and his coat of many colors. What if Cinderella was an orphan? We’d have a story like Oliver Twist. What if Cinderella was raised in a happy family but went her own way and left home? Prodigal son story.
So let’s take the example of the (gulp) bonnet story. First, I need to remember what my passion is: writing stories that show a God who is bigger than our past. My story might be about a woman journalist who decided to do a story on the Amish, falls in love with an Amish man, and marries him. “Accidentally Amish”. In another story, maybe my character flees to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, because she’s on the run from the mob. “Sister Act”.
Your passion for the story, characters, and setting will be different than mine, because your writing passion, that thing inside you that keeps you writing, is different. Take a few minutes and look at the theme of the stories you write and the stories you want to write. What is the common thread running through these stories? Summarize that theme, or passion, in a single sentence.
My story is about a girl who runs away from home and gets involved in drugs and then gets saved. Your passion might be: I write stories about prodigals and their families.
Now, back to the plotting board. Let’s see. A (double gulp) category romance. My female lead is a bounty hunter sent to bring back a bail jumper. My male lead is the bail jumper, an angry man, who recognizes my bounty hunter as the woman seen driving away from the scene of a bank robbery that led to a fatal car crash twenty years before where his wife was killed. Nobody was ever prosecuted for this terrible accident or for the robbery. Will she be able to convince him she isn’t the person she was back then? Will he be able to see the grace and mercy of God in his own life and extend forgiveness to the woman he blames for ruining his life?
Hmmm. Might be able to make that work……
If you don’t have a burning passion to write a particular story, the idea will likely fizzle out like a candle in the rain.
1. List the top five topics/genres you like to read.
2. Look at your most recent work in progress — does it fit with what you like to read?
3. Dig out an old project that fizzled. Did it fit with what you like to read?
Donna writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas, full-length novels, and non-fiction books. She is a member of ACFW, Writers on the Rock, SinC, Pikes Peak Writers, Capitol Christian Writers Fellowship, Christian Women Writers, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; blogs regularly for Heroes, Heroines, and History; and judges in writing contests. www.HiStoryThruTheAges.com