As a writer, I have learned that inspiration, the thing that spurs creativity, is not something you can lay your hands on at will. Rather, inspiration sneaks up on you like a pickpocket. But instead of pinching your wallet, it offers an idea to spark your creative juices.
What does this observation say about the writing process? To me it says that when my mind is less fettered by the task of creating, it’s more open to the flow of ideas. I realize this sounds a little clinical and over-analyzed, especially for a process that’s spontaneous, and to be honest, I’ve never tried to dissect it before. Inspiration happens, plain and simple.
Does that mean we have no control over it? Happily, I’ve found this is not the case when corralling a book in progress. But purposefully setting out to trap the premise for a new story is a trick I’ve never attempted. This is where I rely completely on recognizing a compelling theme when I come across it, which is another way of saying I wait for a bolt of inspiration to set my course. The scenario for the third Madeline Dawkins novel is a case in point.
About the same time I was finishing “A High Price to Pay,” an odd coincidence prompted a friend to share her painful story of being courted out of her retirement funds by a very skillful grifter. What fascinated the writer side of me was how this man managed to continue duping people out of large sums of money in a town the size of Santa Barbara. Surely word would spread and warn other unsuspecting folks of this con’s modus operendi…? I was surprised to learn he’s still at it, soliciting previous victims along with the new. Though his scheme has changed appearance from one roundup to the next, the basic principle is the same: he befriends, supports and gains total confidence before closing in on his prey.
Repugnant as this man is, I couldn’t help but see the potential for a fictional character based on his misdeeds. Every good story needs conflict. The fact that the local D.A. had informed my friend his office could not pursue the case was what sparked the outline a story. The more I examined this smooth operator and his brazen scam, the more I recognized a prospective case for Madeline Dawkins, P.I.
I’m now in the process of getting inside this shyster’s head while developing his downfall. At least in fiction we can make the bad guys pay for their misdeeds. All it takes is some well-placed inspiration.
Until next time,