I write suspense novels. It’s the genre that I’ve chosen because it is what interests me. Over the years I have developed a number of habits related to creating and remembering storylines. These habits have helped me to gather and retain ideas for future manuscripts. I actually have over a dozen storylines in some level of development. I admit that most of these ideas are at a very high level, but the essence of the main plot is captured in such a way that I’ll be able review the information and move immediately to outline the manuscript.
The first habit is to look at things that appear normal and ask, “What if . . . ?” You then take literary license and plug in your own sequence of events that make the situation suspenseful, even dramatic. As an example, Imagine you are in a big city and a large group of people are standing at a busy intersection waiting for the traffic signal to change. Pretty normal, right? You imagine that a man who is standing at the curb suddenly falls into the path of oncoming traffic. The crowd is shocked and horrified. A man in the crowd is quickly moving away from the point where the first man was standing, holding a manila envelope. He’s trying to not look suspicious, but the fact that he’s the only one not looking at the commotion implies that he’s somehow involved in the “accident.” In this example, the only thing not from my imagination is the normal hustle and bustle of a busy day in a big city.
The second habit is to immediately write down what you’ve imagined. Buy a couple dozen pocket notebooks and use them for just this purpose. Capture your thoughts about the scenario in as much detail as is necessary to ensure that you will be able to remember the storyline and transfer it to a manuscript outline.
The third habit related to creating and remembering storylines is transferring your notes to a document. This is done for two reasons. First, it allows you to review the notes from your notebooks. It also gives you a second chance to add detail to your original, raw thoughts. It also ensures that, if you run your notebook through the washing machine (which I’ve done a time or two) that you’ll have a backup of your handwritten notes.
Put words to action
In summary, the three habits are, 1. ask “What if . . . ? 2. As soon as possible, write down your scenario, and 3. type up your notes as a backup. If you do these three things regularly and consistently you’ll quickly develop a backlog of intriguing storylines for future manuscripts.
Writing Habits is a monthly blog by Loconeal Mystery-Suspense author P. J. Grondin. For more information about P. J. and where he can be found signing books, visit www.pjgrondin.com.