I have a notebook in my desk drawer, which is filled with little scribblings of ideas I have for stories. Some of these date back years, others are more recent. They are nearly all drawn from some quirky little way of looking at things from an alternate angle, or a play on words, or a phrase taken out of context that gets the creative gears turning. It’s from this notebook that I’ll select an appealing idea for my next piece of writing.
When I have finished writing a novel and am in the process of editing it – as I am at the moment, having recently finished penning Vicars and Tarts – I will start turning the next idea chosen from the notebook over in my head, devising characters appropriate to the scenario, and so forth. It soon reaches a stage where I have a basic plot, setting and characters.
I keep turning these things around in my mind, always working on them in the background, slowly ‘cooking’ them until they’re done. Then there will come that sublime moment when the microwave ‘pings’.
It’s a moment I’ve come to call the ‘lightning flash’ of inspiration. It’s when the emerging idea really comes to life. After turning the root ideas around in my mind, I know that I can rely upon my subconscious to step in and deliver the goods!
At a moment when my mind is absorbed in something trivial, perhaps washing the dishes or taking a shower, there will be a sudden exhilarating surge and the story will unfold before me in all its glory! Whole new situations, events and characters will arise seemingly out of nowhere to populate the sparse idea, making it real and vital, springing into life from the deep places of my mind. This is creativity in its purest essence.
My next novel will be a horror. It’s to be titled The Waters of Life. Up until this morning, I had the idea of a bishop’s tomb, from which a healing spring flows. But there is an entity which feeds upon the sickness taken by the waters, taking loathsome life to itself. I had the vague ideas of an investigative reporter, a church reluctant to admit to past wrongs and a community sickening as the entity takes on shape and form.
Now, after a deluge from my subconscious whilst making coffee this morning, those vague basics have been fleshed out into a complete, coherent story. I have characters with names and personal histories, arising from the deep places fully formed. I have a secret order of monks; I have gangsters; I have bribery, corruption and violence; I have a movie set for an exploitation film with strippers masquerading as nuns; I have delusion and self-sacrifice; and behind it all, I have the foulest, most horrifying villain imaginable. I have all that I need to write a hard-hitting, gritty, exciting and truly chilling, stomach-churning horror novel.
I don’t know if other writers experience anything similar. I just know that whenever I offer ideas up to my subconscious, turning them over and over in my mind as offerings to it, it will always deliver the goods!