Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Fueled by lust for big engines & good wine

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know I’ve spent the last couple days ogling the construction workers next door diligently researching the construction trade for my current manuscript.

Actually, it’s not the construction workers that enthrall me (OK, it kinda is).

But my real lust is for the heavy equipment.

I love bulldozers and backhoes, trenchers and cement mixers. My life’s ambition through most of my formative years was to drive a garbage truck.

My fascination with the compactor at the landfill led me to write an entire book about a heroine who loses her office job and ends up working at the dump.

(Let’s all pause for a moment and cross our fingers – or any other available body parts – that my wonderful agent has the same good luck selling GETTING DUMPED as she did selling my romantic comedies!)

In last week’s blog chain on writing process, I touched briefly on the fact that story ideas don’t seem to come as easily for me as they do for some authors. While many of my peers seem to have a constant stream of plots and concepts flooding their brain, I operate more like an attention-deficit eight-year-old.

“Big, spiky wheels!” squeals my inner third grader at the sight of a landfill compactor. “Maybe if I write about it, they’ll let me drive one!”

(Sadly, they did not, though I did get to spend a lot of time crawling around inside them).

And though my inner third grader is not legal drinking age, it was my fascination with wine – plus my urge to drink some and get paid for it – that prompted me to propose LET IT BREATHE as the third book in my recent three-book contract with Sourcebooks.

Oh, and for the record, the love interest in that book is a construction foreman. See? I told you the ogling was research.

I’m always curious about where authors get their story ideas. Do yours come easy for you, or is it like pulling teeth? (Hey, there’s a story idea…)

Please share your experiences in the comments trail.

And while we’re sharing, allow me to share the highlight of my week. I wore a tight shirt used my exemplary powers of professional persuasion to convince the guys next door to let me sit on the backhoe. Alas, I didn’t get to drive it. But they did let me make growly engine noises and that beepy sound to suggest I was backing up.

My life is complete.

26 comments :

Candyland said...

HEll no, my ideas don't come easy. I usually have to bribe them with alcohol, chocolate or get my daughter to say something ridiculous.
Tight shirts get favors??
*Must buy tight shirt*

Julie Weathers said...

They are everywhere. I can't escape story ideas. I'd have to live to be 200 years old and keep all my mental faculties to write them all.

By the way, when I left my husband of 35 years, I got a job driving a forklift. The one I drove weighed as much as five cars, so it was the big dog in the warehouse. I asked the woman at the application desk which job paid the most, so that's what I applied for.

Karla Nellenbach said...

After reading your Tweets the last couple days, I said to myself "Self, this is going to be Tawna's next post." and it was more hilarious than I anticipated...although it makes me wonder what your neighbors need the backhoe for...are they burying bodies...or digging them up? See...that's where my books come from...hmm...note to self. Excuse me while I go write that down :)

Matthew Rush said...

What cool, different premises for book ideas! Sounds like you should have been born a little boy (as opposed to a man).

Personally I've only had a couple ideas, and only one was really decent. I have no idea where it came from though.

Linda G. said...

Cool! And I love the pics of you handling that big equipment! Only, next time could you include a few of the construction workers in the pics, too? *waggling eyebrows*

As for ideas--my trouble is keeping focused on the one I'm working on when all the new shiny ones pop up to distract me. (I know, I know...all it takes is discipline. But, honestly, if I had that would I drink, smokes cigars, and eat truffles for lunch?)

danicaavet said...

I'm actually disappointed. I was waiting for a picture of the construction workers to help um, with my own creative process. *cough*

Sometimes ideas are easy for me and they always come when I'm otherwise occupied, like brushing my teeth, driving to work, getting my hair done. Other times I couldn't catch an idea in a brainstorm. Heh. Sorry, cracking myself up over here. When I'm stumped I read, or watch television hoping to spark ideas.

Tawna Fenske said...

Candyland, writers have to use every tool available to them. Candy, alcohol, tight shirts, whatever :)

Julie, you got to drive a forklift? Can I have your autograph? Better yet, can I come live with you?

Karla, no dead bodies that I can see, but I'll keep looking. Our neighborhood is built on top of a giant lava flow, and that, coupled with the fact that we're all on 1/3 or 1/2 acre lots, means landscaping is a slow process. Though the house has been there for 5+ years, they're just now getting the landscape done.

Matthew, I'm not sure my husband would be as interested in me if I were a little boy (er, scratch that, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't) but I can see the appeal. Of course, little boys probably don't drink much wine.

Linda G, I did tweet a few pics of the construction guys, does that count? I always envy authors who are distracted by a plethora of story ideas. I'm distracted by a lot of things, but story ideas aren't among them.

danicaavet, OK, OK...are you on Twitter? I can tweet the construction worker pics again. Love your line, btw: "Other times I couldn't catch an idea in a brainstorm." I know the feeling!

Tawna

Claire Dawn said...

Love the pics!

Ideas are easy for me. Everything is an idea. I hear a phrase or a song or see a Tshirt or hear a news item and I think, "Hey, what if..." I've got so many ideas I have to stick them in a word document while I work on other stuff. Right now I've got 3 pages of ideas waiting for me.

But like you, my idea does not extend to plot. It's more like, "Oooo, a colour-blind artist!" Heaven forbid I know anythign else about the story!

mumfusa said...

this has always been something that worries me -- where do ideas come from? i currently only have one idea in my head at the moment and i'm wondering if the fear of finishing that book and being idea-less is holding me back from finishing that book.

perhaps i'll have to look out the window more and see what's there to inspire me.

Piedmont Writer said...

I can usually find ideas anywhere, but the good ones are a little tougher to run across.

I love construction guys. I love Mike Rowe. I love that show on HGTV Holmes on Homes -- Mike Holmes. There's something about a dirty, sweaty man that makes me swoon.

Great post.

tammygallant.com said...

My ideas normally start as a *REALLY* good dream. After I write the scene from my dream it gets harder. (I've got about 13 different WIP's with one scene written in each)

At least the sex scenes are easy, I use my *friend's* rowdy past for ideas.

OfficeGirl said...

I get some ideas...here and there.. like stepping on a thumb tack. It dosent happen much but when it does you know it.
Love the pics!!!

Shain Brown said...

Maybe tomorrow they will let you whip it around the neighborhood, and it was a good idea to blot out the truck info (you know from us stalkeresk individuals).

Tawna Fenske said...

Claire Dawn, you're totally right -- the topics sometimes come easy, but the plots? Not so much.

mumfusa, I've had that feeling before, where I think "maybe I drained my idea well dry on that last book." But they always seem to come from somewhere!

Piedmont Writer, love this: "There's something about a dirty, sweaty man that makes me swoon." Amen, sistah. Amen.

tammygallant.com, sure, "friends" are always good for that, aren't they?!

OfficeGirl, love the thumb tack analogy! Too true!

Shain, good eye, noticing my Photoshop work on the truck! I wondered if someone would catch that. It's less a fear for my own safety, and more a matter of protecting Pythagoras careerwise by never mentioning his real name, his profession, or our hometown on this blog. Not like those things would be tough to figure out for a super-sleuth, but I wasn't going to make it too easy with the contact info for a local landscape company :)

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Neurotic Workaholic said...

Because I spend so much of my time working, I get a lot of my ideas from the different jobs I've had. I think about the different workplaces I've been in and the way that employees interact with each other.

I kind of have this fear that one of those construction workers might accidentally drop something sharp or heavy on me, so I always steer clear to the other side of the street. But the guys still look cute from far away...

Shannon said...

Little story ideas float around all the time. The current WIP woke me up from a dead sleep. Stumbling to my office, I typed out the first chapter that night and then let it sit for a year.

When the wine would no longer subdue the voices, I came back and finished it (and am revising now). Since then, I've been whacked over the head two more times with ideas that wouldn't go away...once while making dinner and another while doing laundry.

Since then Michael and I have been having a debate. He believes I receive inspiration when doing housework while I tried to explain the ideas are a sign to stop cleaning and write.

Theresa Milstein said...

If you'd met my son when he was four. you would've had a lot to talk about.

My ideas come easy, It's fixing all my rough draft mistakes that's hard!

Christi Goddard said...

Mine come to me randomly. Basically, I think of something, then I immediately want to do the opposite of that. It's like my brain is in Opposite Land.

Jamie D. said...

I would imagine those construction workers were only too happy to help you out. Probably made 'em feel all tough and manly showing you their "equipment". LOL

I get characters and single scenes very easily - just seeing a person on the street or overhearing a conversation or just daydreaming can trigger an idea for me.

Workable plots though...that takes more work and brainstorming.

tt said...

In a college psych class I learned there are 2 kinds of creativity. Straight line, one idea you can take a for a mile down the road, and burst where you have a million ideas you can't take more than a few feet. Burst - yep that's me. I too would have to live to 100 to write it all. It's literally taken years to learn how to apply/contain the burst principal to one plot at a time - sort of! The rest goes into the tickler file er files!

LR said...

I'm late to this construction party and forgot my helmet but I almost always start stories with a single image: a woman sitting in a diner, or a boy standing on a road.
The rest is filling in the blanks. Who is the boy? What is he doing there?

I tend to not really care about dazzling plots but I've been told I need to change this attitude. :)

India Drummond said...

Love the post... I have no shortage of ideas. It's the discipline to sit down and write them and shape them and edit them that are my struggle!

Tawna Fenske said...

Neurotic Workaholic, you know, I've been thinking about that a bit lately -- I was laid off from the day job in December, and then this book deal happened in February. That means I'm home alone all day, and I've wondered if that much time without human interaction will start to stifle my creativity. Food for thought.

Shannon, I think hiring a professional housekeeper is the key to your writing success. Do that at once!

Theresa, funny, I did tend to have more male friends than female when I was a kid.

Christi, not a bad way for a brain to be in terms of creativity!

Jamie D, they actually seemed a little confused about showing me their equipment, but I didn't let that deter me. I hear you on the challenge of finding a workable plot. That's always my struggle.

tt, this is an interesting concept. In that case, I suppose I'm more straight-line creative.

LR, that's kind of a cool way to approach things. So do you end up sticking with the original image, or does that morph by the time the story is done?

India, ah, discipline. That's a tough one for every writer! :)

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

LR said...

It definitely morphs (the details), but usually I find that the overall "feel" of the story was indeed contained in that first spark of an image.
Will stop rambling now. Thanks for askin'. :)

Margaret said...

What was that book...Mike something....about the shovel? I can see the cover all done up in a dull red.

I share your fascination with large construction vehicles. I have two sons and so everyone assumes the trucks and dinosaurs are fascinating in a mother-son bonding ritual. Nope. Both predate them by more than a handful of years...a lot more.

As for ideas, I consider my malfunctioning memory a murky swamp into which I dump everything I read or see (hence the variety found in my blog link posts :)). Then, usually when I'm sure I'll never have another idea in my life, the underwater volcano gets active and starts spitting out things in odd combinations, whether it's humans with insect reproductive traits or desert nomads riding creatures with little in common to the camel. I can, however, control the start of the influx somewhat by reading cultural anthropology, politics, or science.

Sydnee said...

I'm not sure where my ideas come from. Normally I'd say they come from dreams or idle fantasies, but really, it's probably just the overdosing on allergy and mood stabilizer medication.