Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mastering the Muse at Midnight

Alison Chambers
Why do so many good ideas come to you just as you’re about to go to sleep or when you can’t sleep? Maybe because your mind has finally begun to clear itself of the fog that’s built up during the day? At any rate, it’s important not to ignore those ideas. In fact, it’s vital you don’t. Thinking you’ll remember that great new character name in the morning or the solution to that plot point that’s been baffling you just doesn’t work. Like your dreams, these precious nuggets of inspiration are gone like a will-o’-the-wisp in the blink of an eye. That’s why it’s so important never to let any good ideas go, even if it means losing a little sleep over it. You’ll thank yourself for it in the morning. Keep a pen and pad or a tape recorder near your bedside to record any moments of brilliance that occur to you. For example, in my latest novel "The Secret Sentinel" now available from The Wild Rose Press, I wanted the main character, Savannah Rutledge, to work in a museum and have access to a treasure map and search for a treasure. But the motivation seemed weak. It bugged me for days. How could I make this more interesting, but also more true to Savannah’s character? Why would a rather shy person suddenly be daring enough to go off on a cross-country treasure hunt with a mysterious stranger? What would make her do that? Then, suddenly, when I couldn’t sleep one night, it came to me. What if (the two best words for a writer’s imagination) she stole the treasure map, not from the museum, but from her father, who always warned her to leave it alone. And what if, as a result of this hasty action of hers, he was killed? Here was the solution—to atone for her father’s death, Savannah realizes she must seek out the treasure and find her father’s murderer, no matter what dangers she would face. Here I had my motivation and my theme—atonement. When I woke up the next morning, not only did I feel refreshed, but I felt I had a lot better story than I had the day before. So don’t ignore the muse at midnight. It’s waiting for you! P.S. I originally wrote this at 12:30 a.m.

1 comment:

Marian Perera said...

I keep a notebook and pen near my bed so I can jot down names or phrases that occur to me as I'm on the verge of drifting off to sleep. Unfortunately I don't have a lamp nearby and the light switch is on the opposite side of the room.

So on a few occasions I've woken up in the morning, reached for the notebook and tried to make out the scrawls of whatever I've written in the dark. Once I even wrote on top of previous such notes without realizing it.

Maybe I'll just keep a candle nearby. I can pretend I'm living in Victorian times then.