Saturday was a wet dishrag of a day here in Northern Georgia. The Cherokee Spring Pow Wow we’d been looking forward to for weeks was washed out. Our favorite hiking trails were rivers of red mud. No movie was calling us to the theater. For some reason I can’t quite explain, the drab nothingness of the day inspired us to drive around looking for a new resale store in the vicinity of Cleveland, GA.
A few wrong turns, and we ended up here…
Have you ever driven past an old, vacant house and felt some inexplicable, deeply visceral connection? Well, I have. But don’t look for me to be featured on the next HGTV restoration/makeover show. I don’t think I want to be tied to one single distressed property, but I can’t seem to stop the possibilities from bubbling through my brain whenever this strange connection beckons. I see a treasure trove of unborn stories: ghost stories (obviously), historical fiction (real history is rarely juicy enough for my tastes), unsolved mysteries (imagine how many ways someone could hide a body in that house), love stories, horror stories…and on and on and on. Such is the blessing and the curse of an overactive imagination.
Here’s the story starter that bubbled up with this house:
This is not your typical ghost story. It’s more of a love story.
It all started when Daddy left us for a man named Barclay T. Parker and Mother fell in lust with a house. But not just any house. No, it had to be a big, messy, crumbling 1870 Colonial in the deadest, ugliest part of Georgia. No one in their right mind would want to live in this nightmare of a house…even without the ghosts.
Yeah. I don’t know where I’m going with that snippet. Probably nowhere.
Ideas, ideas everywhere. So many ideas! If I sat down today and wrote out every story idea in my journals, I don’t think I could get through them all in 10 years. Possibly not even 20 years. Isn’t that ridiculous?
I never suffer from a shortage of new novel inspirations. When I see classes devoted to helping aspiring authors find story ideas, I just shake my head in bewilderment. I cannot imagine a world without a plethora of potential stories. And I am certain I’m not alone in this embarrassment of riches. For me, the really tricky challenge is to focus on one particular intersection of ideas and inspirations that will produce a finished product that I don’t want to feed to the shredder three months, or even three years, later.
But suppose you’ve found that perfect novel concept. It’s the story you were born to write. Even then, writer beware! No matter how fabulous or mesmerizing the current novel you are crafting, there will always be a fresher, sexier story idea waiting to capture your interest and lead you down a deep, dark rabbit hole.
And that brings me back to the crumbling, romantic 1870 Colonial property that hooked my imagination so unexpectedly on a murky Saturday afternoon in Cleveland, GA. Yes, it was whispering to me of untold stories and I let myself wander down that path briefly, because it’s fun. Then I asked myself, Can I plug any of this into my current work-in-progress?
A little brainstorming, a little creative association, a little game of What if? and wham! I ended up with a great plot point for my current project.
Sir Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
An overactive imagination can be both an opportunity and a difficulty, but I choose to be an optimist.