I’ve always found it interesting to see how the seed of an idea gets planted in my head, and how it grows, and the sometimes-strange fruit that is born.
Not to mention how darned long the process takes!
Last November I participated for the first time in NaNoWriMo—aka National Novel Writing Month. Thousands of people around the globe join in this madness, in which one pledges to write a 50,000 word story in thirty days. I might never have considered doing it if the founder of the event hadn’t written a book about it called No Plot, No Problem. Which was the perfect title to catch me, since I’ve always considered plotting the bane of my writing existence. But what really sealed the deal was that my friend KK wanted to give NaNoWriMo a try as well.
A definite goal and a little personal competition. Exactly the right combination to get me going!
The NaNoWriMo folks strongly suggest that you start afresh for this endeavor. It seems to work best not to work with something you’ve started before, or on something in a series. So I sat down last November 1 without any characters or plot in mind. All I really had was a seed that had been growing in my mind since, um, about 2002, which was when I started thinking about Puss in Boots. No, I don’t think it had anything to do with the Shrek franchise, even though the first film came out in 2001. My mental image of Puss in Boots had more to do with the image on the cat food label I remembered from childhood. (I found him quite dashing.)
Being a children’s librarian I grabbed of one of the many illustrated versions to refresh my memory of the story.
Puss is a trickster character, and the climax of the story is when he tricks the shape-changing owner of a castle into becoming a mouse that he can eat. In some versions the shape-changer is an ogre, but the one I read used a giant. And it struck me that other than being larger (and richer) than those around him, we had seen the giant do nothing to merit being killed and eaten and his castle and lands becoming the property of the miller’s lazy son. Not fair, cried my inner justice-loving child self. That is just so not fair.
Every once in a while through the years, I’d think about the theme of having everything stolen. We hear more and more about identity theft, but I was looking beyond identity, though that was part of it. Under what circumstances could someone have their life stolen?
And how could they get it back?
And somehow, when I began to write my 50,000 words last fall, that was what erupted from beneath the surface. A woman with secrets, who steps away from her life for just a few days before starting a new job in a new part of the country…but when she tries to step back again finds that her life has been stolen. All of it. Home, job, name, money, all gone. It took me twenty-four days to discover what had happened, and what she would do about it.