MamaWriters are thrilled to welcome back the wonderful New York Times bestselling author Angie Fox!
She’s talking with us about brainstorming, and some of those great overlaps between being a mom and being a writer. AND she has a very cool quiz we can take (What Supernatural Pet is Right for You? )
If you post your answers in the comments section, you may win a copy of her latest release A Tale of Two Demon Slayers!
Moms being creative
Last week, my daughter managed to make yellow Play Doh toast and slip it into the toaster without me seeing (until I smelled it). My son painted the entire kids’ bathroom with pink foamy soap. And while both bouts of creative expression were messy (to say the least) they were done with complete dedication and a willingness to explore.
When you think about it, that’s not terribly different from what we do everyday as writers. I’m always looking for ways to break out and think about my books in a new light. And while I can’t always be as creative as a three-year-old, I do have a few tricks that have worked when it comes to taking my stories to a new level. Or at least they’ve done a good job at keeping the writing part of my day fairly sane.
The character push
In the beginning of my series, the heroine’s long-lost grandmother shows up and – whoops – locks the heroine in her bathroom with an ancient demon. I’d pushed the situation, but the grandmother was too nice. My critique partner called me on it and, blast her, she was right. I sat down and brainstormed a few pages of alternate “grandmas” before I hit on an idea I loved – a Harley biker witch grandma who hurls recycled Smuckers jars full of home brewed magic. One character change and the book became a lot more fun to write.
Sometimes, the first idea isn’t the best idea. Mini-brainstorms during the writing of a chapter always help me see if where I’m going is where I want to be. Sometimes, I go back to my first idea. Other times, after I’ve forced myself to come up with a page full of alternatives, I find I like a new idea better.
It works on big plot points, but just as well on little details. For example, in A Tale of Two Demon Slayers, Lizzie finds a mysterious egg-shaped stone. I had no idea what it was, but decided to play with it. Turns out, it was a dragon egg. The egg hatches and Lizzie’s talking dog, Pirate, decides he has a pet. It made me smile to think of a pet owning a pet. Lizzie is not happy about that. She has enough going on and doesn’t think her dog needs to own a pet.
So she tells Pirate to find a new home for Flappy the dragon (Pirate named him, not Lizzie). So Lizzie is battling evil people and losing track of what Pirate is doing. He keeps promising to find a new home for the dragon, but instead Pirate is hiding the dragon, and loving the dragon and teaching him tricks. Every time Lizzie realizes the dragon is still there, it’s gotten bigger and bigger and, well, it’s just one more thing she can’t quite control.
Kind of like motherhood.
The “chill out – this doesn’t have to count” brainstorm
Sometimes, when a chapter just isn’t working, I have a hard time making the (often necessary) massive changes, because I don’t know if I’m going to make things better or (gulp) worse. But one day, I borrowed a technique from my days as an advertising writer and lo and behold, it works on fiction too.
I made a duplicate copy of the impossible chapter, and then went to town on changes. By letting my brain loose on a “throw away” chapter, I freed it up to stop thinking about “How am I going to get my heroine out of the love scene and ramped up for hell?,” to “Hmm…pillow talk. This is a good time for the hero to admit he wasn’t one hundred percent honest with the heroine at the start of the book. Now the heroine can get so mad that she dumps his boxers in the ice bucket, throws his pants off the balcony and almost goes to hell without him.”
Brainstorming is all about freeing up your mind and your creative energy. You get to surprise yourself, and feel the rush of excitement as you hit upon new ideas and new places to take your story. Because when you’re fully engaged in the story, pushing your characters harder, waiting to see what’s around the next bend – chances are, your audience will feel the same way.
Angie Fox is the author of A Tale of Two Demon Slayers, a new release from Dorchester. And she’s giving away a copy right here. Just take the quiz, inspired by Pirate and his pet dragon. What Supernatural Pet is Right for You?
Post your answer below and you’re entered to win!