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Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Brenna Lyons

Where do writers get their ideas?

It's one of the most popular questions readers asks authors, and the answers to it range from the mundane to the ridiculous. What question? Where do authors get their ideas?

To answer this question, I think we have to look at an author's mind. An author is...

1. A people-watcher- Though many of us build characters from scratch, we keep a mental (or even physical) database of character traits and quirks. We might make a note of tics, comments, looks, etc. Any little thing might spark a character or idea for a story. Moreover, a peek at a secondary character in book A often prompts an in-depth exploration that spawns book B, where the secondary character is often a main character.

2. A dreamer- Clich├ęd but true, more than one book or story has grown out of a dream. My first serial novel (PROPHECY) started as a dream of a single scene in the book. Ironically, one of my most popular books (TYGERS) grew very loosely out of a dream my husband had.

3. An avid reader, almost invariably- One of the top five reasons authors have for writing what they do amounts to: “I just couldn't find what I wanted to read, so I wrote it.”

4. Inquisitive- Your average author excels at free association. We just can't help reflecting on something we've seen (in real life or dramatized) or read and playing 'what if' from there. We love taking a submissions call and free associating ourselves to a unique approach to meeting it, like when I wrote NEVERMORE to fill the call for the Raven Heat Sheets at Phaze. Being a lover of Poe served me well.

So, where do I get my ideas? All of the above. With more than 75 published fiction works in 20 series worlds plus stand-alones, I can't rely on just one source for story ideas.


booklover0226 said...

Hi, Brenna. I look foward in reading your works.

This question is based on your comment about authors being people watchers.

Have you ever created a character from a person you may have passed on the street? Did you ever look at a person and say, "Yes, this is the way character X would look like?


BrennaLyons said...

Hi Tracey,

Sort of. It's more "This is the way the character would move, talk..." I don't usually pick up character descriptions that way.

Thanks for dropping by!


SiNn said...

Hi Brenna,

im new to your work so i confess i havent read a book yet but fromw hat i have read and checked out id have o say ur work seems awesome

as someone new to your work and seeing that your an ibserver what would be ur advice to a new reader or an aspiring author

BrennaLyons said...

Hi SiNn!

Advice to a new to me reader? Use my web site to your fullest advantage. On the book breakdown page, I separate books by gross type (vampire, ghost, etc.) You can further click on covers or the series pages to find out more about individual books. I have a rating system to help readers find books that appeal to them.

Advice to aspiring authors? I'm actually working on a non-fiction book on the subject, but let's start with a few pointers.

1. Don't obsess over the perfect opening line, perfect hook, perfect market, genre distinctions... While you're worrying about all of that, you could be halfway done writing the book. Write it first, then craft those things or fit the book to a market. There's never only one right market for a work anyway.

2. Don't worry about minute edits while you're writing the book. You can edit poorly-written work. You can't edit a blank page. Get the butt in the chair and WRITE it. Then edit it.

3. Don't try to copy anyone else's writing process. The words come for you how they come for you: longhand or in the computer, quiet room, white noise, music, noise and insanity...even the number of words per day that is comfortable for you. Trying to copy someone else's process will only drive you crazy and adversely affect your output.

4. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try new things. WANTING to be a pantser doesn't mean you'll be good at it. You may need more framework to your process. So try. If it works, keep it. If it doesn't, don't.

5. This is a career. Learn what the terms mean. Learn what's 'standard.' Learn to read guidelines and how to change from standard to what the individual editors and agents want. Learn what the terms mean and how to apply them.

6. Writing the book is only the first step...and it's one of the easier ones for the writer to accomplish. You have to learn to edit, to submit, to market, about contracts, about royalties... You don't just write a book, submit it, and wait for the money to roll in.

7. What's the most important subject to take in school, if you plan on being a writer? ALL of them. Whatever you learn in English (grammar, preferred spellings, etc.) will change with each new edition of Chicago Manual of Style or Merriam-Webster's Dictionary or whatever resources a publisher uses, which is why there is never a real 'standard' across all publishers. You have to be able to do math to check your royalty reports. You have to know science to get it right in the books... In fact, the more knowledge you have, the richer your books will be. That applies to both book knowledge and practical experience.


SiNn said...

thank for taking the time to answer my questions i love ur site deff be checking out ur work for sure