Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mixing the Strange With the Normal & Dan Wells

I got another review of Ribbon of Darkness today from Heather Moore, an author that I admire and respect. If you want to read it, you can do so here.

Also, have you entered to win a free copy of Ribbon of Darkness yet? If not, you should by clicking here.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Book Academy conference. The keynote speaker was Dan Wells, and if you like horror fiction, then he is the author for you. He has written, I Am Not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster, and I Don’t Want to Kill You all available on Amazon here. I want to read them myself, but frankly, I'm sort of a scaredy-cat and haven't gotten up the guts to open the Dan Wells book I own. I mean, even the cover looks scary! (I know, I know, it's silly. I'm working on it.)

Dan began his keynote and honestly, his sense of humor caught me a little off-guard. I haven’t laughed that much in a long time. He has such an easy style and really brought the writing process down to earth.

One thing he talked about in his keynote was coming up with ideas. He said that we should be coming up with five story ideas per day, and a few of the people at my table shook their heads. Five? That seems like a lot. But then Dan told us one of the easiest ways to come up with a story idea is to take something normal and put it with something strange. He threw out something normal to the audience, like “buying a dog,” and then the audience members came up with something strange. And boy, did they ever get strange! Radioactive urine that made the grass grow incredibly high and then little people emerged. A dog that can give anyone who pets it superpowers, the dog is an alien, the dog is wanted for a code on its dogtag, the dog is wanted because it’s an assassin dog, the list went on and on. It was fascinating to see how quickly one little idea spread into at least fifty others by just mashing the normal with the strange. It really made the idea of coming up with five story ideas per day more manageable.

That said, I haven’t written down five story ideas a day since the conference, but I think I could. Story ideas go through my head all the time and I have the beginnings of a lot of stories on my computer, but I really like having the normal smashed with strange speech in the back of my mind since that could make my story that much more interesting.

What about you? Do you keep ideas written on your computer or in a journal somewhere? How do you come up with your ideas? And if I gave you one normal thing, like, say, a hairbrush, what strange thing would you come up with to make a story?


Melanie Goldmund said...

I've read all three of those books, Julie, and they are fantastic! I'm not usually susceptible to horror in books, but there was a scene in the first book that really made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

This isn't encouraging you, is it? I didn't think so.

I took the third book to church one day when I knew I'd have to wait for my husband for a longer period than normal. One of the women there looked at it, did a double take, then said, "Are you reading a book here in this ward building called I Don't Want to Kill You?" Then she said that if it was so exciting that I couldn't put it down, she had to read it, too. She borrowed and read all three. I think she liked them.

I should work more on developing story ideas, but I often feel discouraged whenever I come up with one, because then I realise I'm having a hard time developing it, and especially finding a solution for the plot. Yes, I get discouraged easily.

Hairbrushes always make me think of that Veggie Tales song "No Hair for My Hairbrush." Now I can't stop singing it. A plot, a plot, my kingdom for a plot ... oh, I don't have a kingdom. A plot, a plot, my teenaged son for a plot! No takers? Huh. I wonder why.

What if there were an intruder in your home, and you threw a hairbrush at him, which hit him in the chest, but didn't fall to the floor? Instead, it was swallowed up by his, um, flesh?

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Yeah, that's not very encouraging, Melanie. LOL I'm sure I'll get up the courage one of these days.

What a great idea for the hairbrush! And kind of gruesome, too.

I've never seen Veggie Tales, but as I was reading that song title I thought of the idea, what if you had a hairbrush that when used, made all the hair fall out of the user's head? A revenge hairbrush. That could work, especially in a YA. :)

Janice Sperry said...

Or the hairbrush could turn the users hair into snakes. Or makes the users head bleed. Or sucks up the users brain. Who knew you could come up with so many story ideas about a hairbrush. I can see the title now. The Hairbrush of Doom. lol. Great post Julie.

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Hairbrush of Doom. Love it! LOL

Jon Spell said...

I've read the first Dan Wells book. I really enjoyed the book, but it's not what I expected. I guess from the title, I was expecting something more like a mystery. Then it got all supernatural and I was thrown right out of my expectations. (Sort of like that scene in Pee Wee's Big Adventure with Large Marge.) I would probably read the other books, given time. I don't know if that helps you or not, Julie.

I write story ideas in little notebooks I have in various places. I have one at work, one in my car, one at home. Juicy ones that have promise go into my scrap file in my writing program.

Here are some scraps from my work idea book:

Horror Title: I Live to Sever

I read somewhere that neighborhoods with large trees have lower crime rates. Why, I wonder? Are the trees keeping watch?

True story: I got a resume from a job seeker (for an IT position, mind you) listing skills like: modeling, valet, and berry-counting. Can you imagine putting berry-counting on your resume? I can't even imagine a job that would require a resume AND that you have berry-counting skills.

Oh, wheeeeeeeere is my hairbrush? Oh where, oh where, not there, no hair! (Melanie: love that song!)

First thing that comes to mind is something to do with a spouse coming home to find a hair that is not hers on the hairbrush. Who has been in her house using her hairbrush? Who, indeed. Who is hiding in the closet watching her indignation even as she rants?

Sarah Pearson said...

I write random ideas and thoughts down wherever I can, and eventually they go into a file on my computer.

How about a hairbrush that belonged to somebody who died, and when the MC uses it she takes on the character traits of that person?