Six Fateful Paragraphs

Wow, between here and Twitter and Facebook and the Blueboards, thank you for the responses to my new book cover and the story summary! I still get a bit breathless when I look at the cover.

Speaking of what is now Imaginary Girls, do you ever wonder where your ideas come from? The smallest kernel of them? The defining moment?

I remember when this novel used to be a short story… originally inspired by two particular Cat Power songs (NO, I assure you, my novel is not about werewolves!). I looked back in my archives and found the moment I put down the first-ever words that are distantly related to the idea that became this novel: December 30, 2006. I wrote six paragraphs about two sisters living in a certain house you’ll still find in my novel.

Here’s a blog post I wrote on that fateful day, where I mention having a new idea for a new short story.

I was totally clueless, wasn’t I?

I was writing a whole other novel in December of 2006. I didn’t yet know it would end up living in a box under my bed and that the tiny little six-paragraph something I’d just typed out in a rush would—what? four years later—end up becoming this:

Imaginary Girls cover

The world works in mysterious ways.

Where did your latest novel begin? Can you find the exact moment when it entered your mind? Pinpoint the kernel of an idea that set you afire and got you writing what you’re writing now? Remember an odd detail, like the music you were listening to when it came your way?

It’s a weird thing to look back, no? It feels like such a long time ago.

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12 responses to “Six Fateful Paragraphs”

  1. I was at work and I overheard someone saying something about a bus crash. At least, that’s what I thought I heard. That was the kernel. Is there a bus crash in this novel? Um, no.

    Hey Nova, that’s a beautiful cover you’ve got there.


  2. I was doing improv, and just falling in love with it. I was so sad I couldn’t find a YA about a girl who was a comedian or that did improv (except for COMEDY GIRL), and so I decided to write what is basically a love letter to comedy in the form of YA.

    The song “Hotel California” has always triggered story ideas for me. It has such lonely lyrics. I often like to come up with a title for something THEN write the story. Weird.


  3. It was a couple of years ago. I was planning to start a new novel and for some reason I started thinking of opals. I didn’t know anything about opals, really, except I thought they might be interesting. I remember sitting in a coffee shop with a writing buddy talking about the very basic idea. At that point, I thought maybe it would be about birthstones in general. I had no idea.

    It is weird to look back. Don’t you find it exhausting, sometimes, to realize how much you didn’t know about a project back then, and just how much you had to learn, and write, and throw out and rewrite, and then write something totally different that sort of somehow finds a way to connect? I look at some of the early opening chapters of my current WIP that I subsequently tossed and realized just how easy it would have been to give up on it. So glad I didn’t.


  4. Cat’s comment reminded me that bus rides have proven very fruitful for my writing lately. The heart of one of my just-published stories comes from a moment I witnessed on a bus back in 2007. That moment was totally unrelated to the story until I unexpectedly decided to work it in at the end. I never would have expected that moment would mesh with that story, but it did.

    Just this week I sat in front of a couple having a heartbreaking yet funny yet fascinating conversation on the bus — something I might turn into my next short story. I just sat there soaking it in until the man had to get off the bus, which of course ended the discussion. I wanted to turn around and ask the woman to keep going, to keep telling the story, but thought that might land me in the “Insane Bus Lady” category.


  5. I’m almost to embarrassed to admit it, but my original idea came from an alternate universe fanfic I was writing about a movie, putting characters into a fantasy world. The fic itself wasn’t very good or ever finished (thankfully, also never shown to anyone) but I liked the worldbuilding and it kept gnawing at me for a year or so before I started filling it in with original characters and switching up the situation. Eventually it was totally unrecognizable from the original fanfic and turned into my WIP.


  6. It’s cliche, but the original idea for ASHFALL (forthcoming October 2011, Tanglewood Press) came from a dream. I woke in the middle of the night and wrote 5,000 words in about 2 hours. All of which later had to be cut. My subconscious knows nothing about volcanoes, as it turns out.


  7. It’s different for every project. Sometimes it takes years for that spark to be fully realized. Yesterday I had a huge brainstorming/writing session on a project that started off (in spring of 2008) as one drawing of a character and grew to several characters, without knowing what the story was. Getting closer to knowing after yesterday.

    My zombie cheerleader started as a painting (a really horrible painting that people liked when I posted it on my blog). She hasn’t stopped talking to me since.

    My current WIP started with watching a movie (when I was a teenager) and knowing (now) that I wanted paranormal creatures to be a threat, to the human MCs. It also (hopefully) will capture the feeling of a look that I saw once (he was looking at her, longing for her, but she didn’t know it and wasn’t available).

    So yeah, I’m all over the place with where I get my ideas. Art, character, movies, a look, an ad, whatever causes my brain to run into overdrive.


  8. Nova, I’m not a novelist, but I do write screenplays, and my ideas have usually come to me in my dreams. If I remember the dream, I make a note of it either in writing or mentally. That’s how it has always started, and always with a character.

    Can’t wait for your next novel; I so enjoyed Dani Noir!


  9. Nova, I’m so sorry to be late to the party! I’ve been under the weather and out of the loop for the past ten days or so. It’s a GORGEOUS cover, and I’ve been eager to see it ever since you first squee’d about it online. 🙂

    I remember sitting in my living room across from our friend the medical examiner … telling him about my latest rejection (on a book that lives in a drawer now) … and him saying, “I see a lot of meth cases. Did you ever think of writing about meth addiction?”

    FLASH BURNOUT became a book about more than meth addiction … but the light bulb went off in my head that day.



  10. I was standing in the shower and the beginning lines of something new jumped into my mind, attached to it certain attributes of my main character and the circumstances she lives in.

    It was last November. During NaNo. I was writing something completely different and utterly unprepared for that piece of inspiration, because I was so focused on the current novel. I wrote it down and came back to it this summer. Now I’m nearly finished. It’s rough and it needs a lot of revision, but I hope that I might be querying with it next year. *fingers crossed*


  11. Crazy! I JUST blogged about this. It’s SO interesting to track down the odd places ideas come from, and how a thought you have at the right moment can either float by, or become something bigger.

    The idea for my latest novel came from a trance music video by DJ Encore in 2004. LOL I watch it now and can STILL see the elements that inspired what became my book… Although the video is primarily a rave in a library, which is definitely NOT in my novel. Oh well! 😀


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