As if from Nowhere

Originally posted on August 3, 2010 at 4:10 PM

When we were on vacation, I got an idea for my next novel. It takes place in Lake City and is a horror novel, and that’s pretty much all I’m willing to tell you at this point. So as you can imagine, walking and driving around Lake City for a full week, I was continuously inspired by things to add to my plot, characters to create, and nice details to fill things out. I tried to relax and just enjoy being there, but I don’t work that way. When my writing brain gets an idea, I will be thinking about it on the back burner (or front, if I’m IN the situation like that) until it’s written down. There was no use fighting it; I was, essentially, working on vacation.

That’s part of the creative artist’s blessing and curse, I think. At first I thought I was just doing that because for the past few years, I’ve made writing my priority, which means I’ve trained my mind to actively look for inspiration. Especially since I regularly write new poems, I’ve become pretty in-tune with things that catch my fancy. But when I really thought about it, I realized that that wasn’t actually the reason I couldn’t get my mind off of the new novel idea. I’ve been creating fiction from vacations since I was a little girl.

In fact, the first time we ever went to Lake City as a family, back in 1997, we stayed in a cabin for a week during the summer. My brother and I shared a room with two beds, and in the closet of that room was the crawl space access. Now, being from Texas, we’d never even heard of a crawl space before. So when we discovered a “secret” door in the floor that led under the house, I was immediately inspired. I concocted a whole storyline—which I appropriately dubbed, The Vacation from Hell—in which a vacationer is locked in the underground crawl space and left to starve. I even wrote out a note that ended in shaky, fading letters saying, “But it’s been two weeks now without food, and I can’t… go… on… much…” I begged my parents to let me leave the note partway sticking out the door for the next vacationers to find, but I think they said no. I was ten, and already trying to write novels, regardless of my lack of follow-through.

Likewise, in our family trip to San Francisco (I don’t know how old I would have been), I plotted a horror novel I was calling The Muffin Man, about a serial killer, Trevor McVille, dubbed “The Muffin Man” who, literally, lived on Drury Lane. He left half-eaten muffins at each of his victim’s bodies as a clue for police. The idea was ridiculous, of course, but the first “chapter” that I actually did get around to writing was surprisingly good. This was maybe in middle school. I think I was into reading Mary Higgins Clark at the time.

Around that same time I came up with another idea that was poorly written, but inspired me as an adult to write a piece of flash fiction that I absolutely love—”She Sleeps.” And now that same concept has become a poem in my Around Dark Corners collection. Although most of the other early “novel” fragments were less useful, it does show that I’ve always been working on fiction plots in my head, and typically on vacation. What does this mean? I don’t know if I believe that some people are really, truly “born to do” something with their lives, but if so, it certainly seems I was meant to do this.

The new novel idea is better than The Muffin Man, I promise.

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