Guest Blog By P.I. Barrington
Way back when I was a fledgling writer, I did speaking engagements, presentations, and panels with other, more experienced authors. But there was one lady I’ll never forget. Why? Because I didn’t give her enough information when she came up to me after a panel asking “I have the desire to write but I can’t come up with a plot.” I was rushed and told her it will happen, just keep writing. To this day, I wish I could have told her more.
Like play the “What if” game with herself. The game consists of looking at seemingly ordinary things and asking yourself “what if?” What if that car was haunted? Or what if a pair of clones tried to murder one another? Or what if you could find true love (or at least a relationship) in a gas station?
My sister (who passed away a year ago) was great at that game. She could look at a piece of wood and come up with a brilliant plot, setting, characters. Me? All I could see was a piece of wood. Not something you’d expect, coming from an author.
But then again, I’ve finally come up with what I think are two styles or at least mentality of writers. No, I’m not going through the entire “pantser” or “plotter” theory here. I’m going a bit off direction. In a way, they’re the same thing.
No, I’m talking inspiration. Where does it come from and where can an author take it? Well, basically anywhere. But here’s the idea: you have to be open to it. You can’t force it or conjure it up at any point, it has to “happen.” I went outside yesterday and paused for a moment, struck by the sweet scent of dusk and the beauty of my neighborhood. But did I make a story of it? No…at least not yet. But it could be a story, a setting, or some beautiful, engaging prose. Inspiration is there, in my own neighborhood. The children enjoying the last of daylight, yelling, laughing, running as their parents lean on car hoods, watching them and talking to each other. Now, “what if” someone came walking down the street carrying some type of weapon that turned the children into zombies? Who could do that to innocent children and more importantly why? What if it was the neighbor, a pastor, carrying the weapon? Is he really a demon in disguise? What if he is being forced to do it? Who could take a caring, gentle pastor and force him to transform children into the living dead? And, how do the parents stop him if they can at all? Start typing.
Remember this all started when I walked outside for a moment. For me, it took a moment looking around, inhaling peacefulness, and then twisting it all around towards insanity. I didn’t look at a piece of wood and come up with that plot, setting, and characters (who will be introduced later). As I said, I’m not good at “what if”. Sometimes, all you need is something banal and uninspiring, like your own neighborhood. But if you find it easy, like my sister, you’re already ahead of the game. You just have to recognize it, is what I’m saying. Read a book, any book, to see how the author did it. Look at the plot, characters and setting literally around you. Worked for Stephen King.
After a detour through the entertainment industry, P.I. Barrington has returned to her roots as a fiction author. Among her careers she counts journalism and radio air talent. She lives in Southern California where she watches the (semi-wild) horses grazing in the hills behind her house. Her series of science fiction novels, the “Isadora DayStar” trilogy, includes Book One: Future Imperfect: Crucifying Angel, Book Two: Future Imperfect: Miraculous Deception, and Book Three: Future Imperfect: Final Deceit.