Hello Readers! Today I’m pleased to share guest post from Tara Gilboy, as a part of blog tour for Rewritten. Rewritten is Middle Grade Fantasy, second book in Unwritten series. If you missed my review on this book, check it out➡ HERE ⬅.
Guest Post: Where Do Good Story Ideas Come From?
One of the most common questions writers get asked is “where do you get your ideas from?” Often when I hear this question I freeze, because I’m not sure I have a good answer to it. I get ideas for stories all the time; I believe one of the requirements of being an author is to remain forever curious about the world. Or perhaps writers are all a bit prone to anxiety. One of my professors in graduate school remarked that she thought ideas often come from a writer’s neuroticism. We are always imagining the worst that could happen in any given situation, and then rather than letting our worries develop into severe phobias, we write stories about them.
Recently, I was hiking on a mountain trail near my house, and as the sun started to set, I began imagining all the things that might jump out of the trees just beyond the next ridge. Axe murderers? A bigfoot creature? (Local legends call this creature a ‘zoobie.’) Ghosts? My mind started wandering about what would happen if something did leap out from behind a rock, and suddenly I was making up a story in my head about campers who stumble on a cell phone while hiking a trail, and on the phone is video footage of what happened to its owner…
So ideas are all around us all the time. Getting good ideas for stories is another thing entirely. Most of the ideas I come up with are terrible, as my writing friends can attest. (Well, who wouldn’t want to read a story about a mountain-dwelling zoobie?)
The idea for Rewritten evolved from a variety of factors. When I finished Unwritten (for those of you unfamiliar with it, it’s a middle grade fantasy about a girl named Gracie who is a character from an unpublished fairy tale, whose parents took her out of the story, and into the real world, as a baby, to save her life), I knew if I wrote a sequel, Gracie would need to go into another story world, but I wasn’t sure what this story world would be. Would she go back to Bondoff, the fairy tale land of her birth? Somewhere else?
As I was struggling with these ideas and working on some other writing projects, I was also performing improv and taking classes at a San Diego comedy theater. A couple of the classes I took were on longform improv. One of the things we talked about was how to perform an improvised full-length play in a particular genre. It could be science fiction, Shakespeare, horror, film noire, musical…. You get the idea. As an exercise in class, we sat down and listed “tropes” for every genre, things that are common to each. For example, in Shakespeare, there are a lot of misunderstandings, mistaken identity, metaphors, love stories, etc. In film noire, there is usually rampant sexism, chain-smoking detectives, and dialogue that uses words like “dame” and “ace.” These lists got me thinking a lot about what genre might provide the highest stakes for Gracie, and it wasn’t long before I zeroed in on gothic horror, which also happens to be one of my favorite genres to read.
I spent a lot of time reading classics like Dracula and Frankenstein and making lists of tropes and clichés. I knew I needed a setting that was very contained, claustrophobic even. I imagined an old manor house, which I named Blackwood Hall. I wanted a creature that haunted the night. I listed spooky imagery like cemeteries, dark woods, shadowy hallways. Even then, though, the book hadn’t taken shape: I was stuck. I kept starting and stopping: even though I knew where Gracie’s journey would take her, I hadn’t figured out yet what that journey meant for her. In other words, I hadn’t figured out what Gracie’s goal was.
It wasn’t until I started delving deep into Gracie’s character, figuring out what her emotional wounds were that she needed to resolve, and thinking carefully about what she wanted (which ended up being about grappling with the events of Unwritten and who she was) that I was able to complete the novel. It was only then that I understood what impact traveling into the world of Blackwood Hall would have on Gracie.
And that brings me back to my point about what makes a good story idea. In order to have an idea that is sufficient to create a whole story, you have to know what your main character wants. This is the through line that will sustain your novel and hold all the events together, so that it feels like a cohesive story. Every time I’ve started a novel that floundered (I’ve written A LOT of partial novels that I abandoned halfway through), it’s because my protagonist didn’t have a strong enough goal. Ideas are all around us, and if you keep your eyes open and your curiosity sharp, you will find them. Once you’ve found your idea, think carefully about what that idea means for the main character. If you’re writing about time-traveling opera singers from outer space, or a town built of cotton candy, or a family of misunderstood mountain monsters, make sure you know what that journey means for your characters. That’s how you turn a random idea into a story readers won’t be able to put down.
Rewritten (Unwritten #2) by Tara Gilboy
Expected publication Date: April 7th 2020
Publisher: North Star Editions/Jolly Fish Press
Genre: Middle Grade / Fantasy
“After learning the truth about her own fairy tale, twelve-year-old Gracie wants nothing more than to move past the terrible things author Gertrude Winters wrote about her and begin a new chapter in the real world. If only things were going as planned. On the run from the evil Queen Cassandra, the characters from Gracie’s story have all been forced to start over, but some of them cannot forget Gracie’s checkered past.
Even worse, Gracie discovers that as long as Cassandra has her magical book, the Vademecum, Gracie’s story is still being written and none of the characters are safe, including her mom and dad. In a desperate attempt to set things right, Gracie finds herself transported into another one of Gertrude’s stories—but this one is a horror story. Can Gracie face her destiny and the wild beast roaming the night, to rewrite her own story?”
What do you think about the book and post? Have you read this book already or any book in this series? Are you going to add it to TBR?
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