Is There a NEED For Great Novel Ideas?

Nope. Not really.

AH-HA! That surprised you, didn’t it?

What most novelists need is the time and space to develop a mediocre idea into a great one. If you have an idea you think is okay, but want to make it more than that (which is standard), ask yourself “What if? What if I twist the idea? What if I turn it back to front? Or inside out? What if, instead of saying yes to a plan, someone says no? What if up is down? Black is white? Pink becomes bright red? This need not be the main idea for your story, but simply the idea you have for a scene as you write it. Or, as in the many cases where this has happened to me, one of your characters does or says something that changes the tenor or the scene, and possibly even the book when it comes to developing characters. You might be shocked by the difference it can make.

The only way I know of to develop an idea for a novel is to tinker with it, ask all those questions above. You may end up with it staying exactly the same as what you started out with or you may end up surprising yourself and, for the same reason, your readers. It has often given me a jolt when a character forces the change.

I remember writing one Contemporary Romance novel in which the heroine had a very strong sense of self, positive ideas about what she could and should do in certain circumstances, and didn’t take any kind of crap from anyone. (This book was written about 30 years ago before most women had “attitude.”) The hero, who was hot for her, as she was for him though neither had acted on the attraction yet, reached out one day, pulled her in close and kissed her. To his surprise (and to mine), she broke loose, flipped him into the air, and tossed him to the ground where he lay on his back. When he caught his breath, he asked “Why did you do that?” To which she replied, “You didn’t ask. You just took.” That scene required me to go back to the beginning of the manuscript and drop in hints about her having become expert in self-defense and then expand on the reason why she’d done so. It helped immensely in understanding her character. Then, I had to work on his, too, because I didn’t want him to simply walk away, offended. He had to “get it,” and forcibly quell his alpha-male tendencies for a few chapters.

In another, not Romance but SciFi, two of the character hated each other, were ready to kill each other several times. It wasn’t until the book was nearly over that I discovered why the animosity had arisen. In the scene when I learned the truth about them, they were about to be separated and (this scene was in the POV of the main protagonist, who witnessed them coming to full realization of the truth), suddenly, one of the two men in question was seen to be in tears while his companion tried to convince him they had to stay together. Until that point, I had not realized they were gay and all along had been resisting their attraction to one another. Again, that meant back tracking and dropping hints into previous scenes to make it all more understandable. Okay, let’s face it. A Romance writer can’t help but sneak in at least one understated love connection.

You need to understand, I don’t plot out scenes or progression. I “just write” and when my characters do or say things that I never expected, the best thing I, as a “pantser” can do is see where the scene goes to learn whether it works as part of the natural events as the book progresses. I think my subconscious knows long before I’ve figured it out. It does mean lots of rewriting, but since writing is what I do, I may as well accept that any book worth reading has been written and rewritten dozens of times, and there’s no reason mine should be any different.

I’m still in the process of accepting that tiresome fact.