There’s a sweet spot that we writers strive for, a zone where the real world dissolves around us and nothing exists but our characters and the story. I call it “My own Private Idaho,” after the song by the B-52’s. Like this iconic 80’s band, it’s carefree and more than a little bit whacky. But that freedom gives me all kinds of leeway with my story peeps, to make mistakes and try something with my fiction I haven’t tried before.
Sometimes my “Private Idaho” seems a long way away. Anyone who has done a first draft on a novel can tell you that it is hard work (except for those people whose story flows out of them and maybe someday that will be me, but I’m not holding my breath.) We each have our own methods for finding our story.
We might need a little song or something to remind us that writing should be fun and kind of magical. “My Own Private Idaho” is one of those songs for me. We may need to slog through that grisly beginning to get to the meat of the story; there are times we have to get out of our own way. Is anyone with me here? How do we reach our own Private Idaho, a place where we can write without reservation, inhibition, or insecurity?
I’ve heard it said that marriage counselors tell couples they need to remind themselves why they fell in love in the first place. Likewise for writers, sometimes when we’re in the middle of that book slump, we need to remind ourselves why we fell in love with our characters in the first place. We have to keep that connection.
Here are five ideas for how to renew your writing selves, find the love again, and get to your own private Idaho, or whatever happy place you choose:
- Make a list of your hero/heroine’s good qualities.
- Make a list of their flaws.
- Write from your character’s point of view, his/her thoughts, emotions, dreams. Be your character for a while.
- What kind of music would your character like? Listen to it.
- Put your feet up. Close your eyes. Imagine meeting your character face-to-face. Have a date night with your hero. What would you say? What would he say back? Consider that your characters might want you to be having fun, enjoying the process of making them real to your readers. They would probably say they’re unpredictable, so beware the battle of wills.
I think I’ll close now and see what my hero Ian might have to say about his current plot snarl. Time to tune into ‘My own Private Idaho.” Give a listen–potatoes optional.
She spent her childhood running wild on an Idaho mountainside. Although she’s lived across the U.S., she is still an Idahoan at heart and a notorious potato pusher. She has a degree in Human Services and worked as a roofer, a hoofer, a computer data entry operator and a stay-at-home mom.
Music has ruled Jennifer’s world since birth. She shimmied out of the womb with a bad case of Boogie Fever, but soon fell in love with the lyrics, how the words fit together perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle. Jennifer has dreamt of writing romances since reading Wuthering Heights at the tender age of twelve, and now lives that dream, using music on a daily basis to uplift and inspire her writing. It’s no coincidence that Ian, the hero in Mercy of the Moon, uses music to win heroine Maggie’s heart.
She lives in rural Florida with her husband and Great Dane puppy, and enjoys frequent visits from her three grandchildren and three grown children. She feverishly lobbies for the return of breeches and would really love to see her husband of thirty-five years in a pair. Jennifer can be found online at: JenniferTaylorWrites.com