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A warm welcome to author, Darcia Helle!
Author Bio: Darcia Helle lives in a fictional world with a husband who is sometimes real. Their house is ruled by spoiled dogs and cats and the occasional dust bunny.
Suspense, random blood splatter and mismatched socks consume Darcia’s days. She writes because the characters trespassing through her mind leave her no alternative. Only then are the voices free to haunt someone else’s mind.
Where did the story idea come from? by Darcia Helle
Readers often want to know where a particular story idea came from. You’d think that would be an easy question for a writer to answer. The truth is, that question often stumps me. Sometimes I don’t know. The convoluted process that brings a sliver of an idea to life can be difficult to describe, even when I’m sure of the path. Well, as sure as I can be when characters rule my mind.
My most recent novel Into The Light followed one of these crooked paths from vague idea to finished product. This one began with a dream my father had. He was telling me how real the dream seemed and that he thought it would make a great plot for a book or movie. In his dream, a homicide detective could see and hear ghosts and they helped him to solve murders. I filed the information in the back of my brain (which is a crowded place) but didn’t have an immediate sense of what to do with it. For me, writing has to start with a character and that character has to speak to me. No homicide detective popped into my head asking for the lead part in this story.
At the time, I was working on a different book. Those characters, however, had stalled. They weren’t happy with the direction of the plot or the box I was attempting to fit them in. Consequently, I did a lot of sitting and thinking. Now, to the non-writers of the world, this looks a lot like I’m staring into space, doing nothing at all. On the contrary, this is the most important stage of creation. While I appear to be basking in silent oblivion, the characters are speaking to me. Usually these are the characters whose story I’m working on. They tell me who they are and show me where they need to go.
Occasionally, a new character pops into my head with an entirely new story to tell. This is the tricky part. I don’t know where these new characters come from. I would like to take the credit for creating them. But I don’t. They come to me, fully formed, with personalities of their own. Early in my writing career, I’d try to shape them to suit my needs. They rebel. They squirm and stamp their feet. Under no circumstances will they bend to my will. I’ve learned. Now I’m a silent partner in their journey.
This is what happened with Max Paddington and my novel Into The Light. While I was sitting in the quiet, trying to work out why the characters in my work-in-progress were stumbling, Max popped into my head and introduced himself. The first paragraph of what is now the book came to me. I quickly learned that Max was a ghost and the story belonged to him.
I typed that first paragraph along with a few notes, and filed that with my other random thoughts, ideas, and unfinished projects. Then I tried to get back to my work-in-progress.
Max would have none of that. He simply would not leave me alone. He crowded the other characters out and they stopped speaking. His story needed to come first, whether I wanted it to or not. So I put away the book I’d been writing and began Max’s story.
When I write, I don’t outline. I start with an idea, rarely anything more. I sit and type. I’m often as surprised by what happens as readers are. With Into The Light, I quickly wrote the first few pages. I knew that Max would die right away and that his ghost would be looking for his killer. Since Max was a ghost, I thought it would be best to give the role of main character to Joe Cavelli, the private investigator and only person who could hear Max. I spent a couple of days trying to make that work. Remember what I said about characters refusing to bend to my will? That was Max all the way. In fact, I’ve never had such a stubborn character!
Max insisted on the lead role in this book. He had a lot to say. His character lived only in my head but felt as real as most people I know. I didn’t create him. Not consciously, at least. I didn’t decide what he looked like or what had happened in his life. He told me all of that. He came to me with a name and a purpose. My job was to step out of the way and follow him.
And that brings me back to the question readers ask me: Where did this story idea come from? The easy answer is a dream that my father had. That would be true, in the most basic sense. That dream sparked a cascade of thoughts that somehow created Max. Then again, those thoughts, wherever they were and however they played out, were not on a conscious level. I didn’t set out to write a book about a ghost. At the time, I was writing about a hit man. I was stumped, no more happy with those characters than they were with me. That gave Max room to flourish.
Into The Light is not about a homicide detective. It’s not really even about solving a murder. While those things do live in Max’s story, they are not where his story begins or ends. His story comes from a place I can’t describe. I can go there and visit, though I can’t tell you how to get there.
The best answer I can give as to where any story idea comes from is - everywhere.
Quiet Fury: An Anthology of Suspense by Darcia Helle
Quiet Fury is a state of being that we’ve all experienced; calm on the surface, rage bubbling underneath. For most of us, that is a brief moment. Restraint takes over. We grumble and walk away. Some allow the rage to marinate until they are consumed. They cross the line, seek revenge, retribution. Or is it satisfaction? These stories explore each individual’s breaking point. Which will win, the Quiet or the Fury?
Stories include: Shades of Gray, You Can Call Me Ari, Out For A Good Time, Tiny Dancer, Wilted Brown Eyes, Mad Scientist, The First Kill, Marietta’s Cats, The Sound of Silence, I Didn’t Know His Name, Falling.
Shades of Gray
You Can Call Me Ari (Previously published in the multi-author BestsellerBound Short Story Anthology Vol 1)
Out For A Good Time
Wilted Brown Eyes (Previously published in the multi-author anthology you're dead and i killed you)
The First Kill (Previously released on its own)
The Sound of Silence
I Didn't Know His Name (Previously published in the multi-author BestsellerBound Short Story Anthology Vol 2)
Complete list of works by Darcia Helle:
Enemies and Playmates
The Cutting Edge
Into The Light
You can pick up Darcia's books at:
Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes & Noble, the Author's Website, Smashwords
Links to visit:
Author Website: http://www.quietfurybooks.com/index.html
Author Blog: http://quietfurybooks.com/blog/
Book Trailers: http://www.quietfurybooks.com/trailers.html
Thanks for visiting with us, Darcia!
Hi, Darcia - got to stop meeting like this! :) I fully intend to have a look at your work, just so, so busy and reading has become a luxury (like breathing).
Julie, I totally understand the time factor. I took a look at my to-read list and realized that it will take me approximately six years to read everything on it - and that's if I stop adding stuff! That's why I also have a 'hurry up and read' list for books that really catch my attention and a 'must read/review now' list for my blog and review requests. I think I spend more time making lists than I do anything else!
Though I hope Father Christmas just may leave me a Kindle so that at least the money part of reading may become affordable - and I won't have to find more space for storage. Even though I prefer a 'real' book, I think Kindle maybe the answer.
Time though - now that'll always be a problem.
My first download (if I've been really, really good and FC is in a good mood) I hope will be Into The Light, as it seems 'just up my street' of weird and mysterious.
I hope Father Christmas is received your request! I got my Kindle for Christmas last year and now I don't know what I'd do without it. I agree about print books. I will always prefer them. It might sound weird to some people, but I love to see them on my shelves and I love the feel of holding them. The Kindle has won me over, though. It's almost too easy to buy books now! And, as you said, it is far cheaper. And it's also nicer to the trees. Father Christmas should bring you one because you'd save money and be kind to the environment! :)
I'll send another letter with your recommendation! :)
Love your book cover. So many great stories in one book! I really enjoy reading anthologies.
Thank you, Sue! I'm thrilled with the cover. I had the lightning bolt idea and a friend/graphic designer/author came up with what I think is the perfect cover.
This is the first short story anthology I've put together. I always wrote novel length books in the past. This year has been chaotic (putting it mildly!) and I found writing short stories allowed me to remain creative with my bits and pieces of time. I really enjoyed the switch!
I loved your post above! So great that you let your characters lead the way. You wouldn't let someone else write your life, so why should they let you write theirs, right?
Best of luck always and don't stop listening to those characters in your head.
Absolutely, Martha! As strange as it might sound to some people, my characters are real people in my head. If they don't feel real to us when we write, they certainly won't feel real to readers!
The problem I'm finding at the moment is that I have so many characters that need a voice, I have to stop them arguing!
LOL! I can relate to that, Julie!
Thanks for sharing the great post Darcia! I am always interested in learning about fellow authors and how their characters are formed and where stories come from :)
Into The Light sounds great..along with your anthology!