I first got the idea for Emma, the heroine of my novel IF YOU LOVED ME while searching for a heroine for the “other man” in my novel CATALINA’S LOVER. I was fascinated by the story possibilities of Ricardo’s origins as the son of a turbulent multi-cultural marriage and his career as an archeologist. But when I created Emma as his hero, the requisite spark didn’t happen in my brain, and those two characters’ relationship ended before it began. But I’d given birth to Emma, and she wouldn’t leave me alone. Watch the video to see how a brainstorming session sparked the events that sent my heroine into the wilderness searching for her son – and finding love in the last place she’d ever expect.
The original spark for DANCE OF SEDUCTION came from a secondary character I wrote in CATALINA’S LOVER, a novel set in the Andes mountains where the ghosts of the Inca still whisper. After finishing CATALINA, I’d intended my next book to be the story of the archaeologist in charge of the dig site my heroine Cathy was working on, Ricardo Swan.
Ricardo was Cathy’s long term colleague and potential love interest, and I was fascinated by the story possibilities of his origins as the son of a turbulent multi-cultural marriage, and his career as an archeologist.
But when I started searching for a hero for my archeologist, I soon ran into a roadblock, and it wasn’t until a surprise birthday party with other writers that I realized what the problem was.
I dedicated the book to my writer friends at Lynn O’Brian’s fabulous party, where Maria – Ricardo’s heroine – was born.
Welcome to Creating Brilliant Beginnings in Storytelling, where you’ll discover powerful techniques storytellers use to craft their opening sentences and empower your own beginnings.
In this course, you’ll discover the techniques storytellers use to stimulate reader – or listener – engagement, and the power of body language, dialogue, and narration.
Part 1 explores the use of power words and how to set the stage, appeal to the reader’s senses, and evoke curiosity.
Part 2 explores world-building, and the use of magic and mystery.
Part 3 demonstrates revealing the story’s setting in time and place with a single sentence and demonstrates how a narrator’s internal voice can reveal emotion, and build characterization and conflict.
Each part concludes with a skill-building practice exercise.
I designed this course for storytellers who want readers to love their stories, but who struggle with creating a beginning to hook the reader.The only requirement for enrollment is a willingness to learn.
Feel free to take a look through the course description and preview the free lessons.
My novels are often sparked by my own experiences, my research, and interviews with interesting people I meet. Today I’m sharing the spark that prompted my romance novel Catalina’s Lover.
Catalina's Lover - IDEAS, from SPARK to FICTION
I’d written eighteen romance novels for my publisher, Mills and Boon Limited when my editor suggested I write a book set in South America. My husband and I had recently returned from a two-year sailing trip to Mexico, and scraps of Mexican scenery, culture, and characters had crept into my romance novels during that trip.
That’s the closest I’d ever come to South America. I didn’t have a story idea, and I didn’t know anyone I could interview about South America. The year was 1990 and although Tim Berners-Lee had invented the World Wide Web in 1989, the first Internet product wasn’t introduced for homes until 1994. My research would have to be done with books and magazines checked out from the local library.
At that time we were still living aboard the sailboat we’d traveled to Mexico in, moored at a Vancouver Island marina on Canada’s West Coast. I recall our boat’s salon being littered with piles of library books about South America. In the beginning, I considered using Brazil as a setting, but I had zero knowledge of Portuguese and I lost my enthusiasm when I stumbled across several accounts of Brazilian street children being killed.
Peru, however, fascinated me. I loved the research, and my husband Brian got interested as well. Soon we were reading and discussing historic accounts of the legendary Inca and the network of stone roads they’d built in the Andes mountains. I was fascinated by the mythology of Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu, and the history of the Spanish conquistadors.
I’ve been fascinated with archeology ever since my college archeology course, and so much of Peru’s history could still be seen in a rich deposit of archeological sites, and the written records from the Spanish who flooded to the country.
If I set a book here, I’d stay away from the Pacific coast, and cities, and the politics I read about in the news. I would set my story in the mountainous areas that hadn’t been taken over by urban life.
When my friend, author Naomi Horton, showed me a National Geographic picture of a hand-crafted Inca rope bridge spanning the gorge over a roaring river in the Peruvian Andes, my mind filled with the story possibilities in that bridge.
However, before I could write the story, I needed to understand today’s Peru. In what ways were modern Peruvian descendants of the Spanish similar to, and different from, the descendants of Spanish explorersBrian and I had met during our two-years in Mexico? How much of the legends, language, and culture of the Inca remained after their nation was largely decimated by Spanish conquistadores?
My local library didn’t have the answers, but I finally found what I needed in a small Vancouver bookstore, in the form of two amazing books.
Most importantly, I stumbled across archeologist Ronald Wright’s Cut Stones and Crossroads. I can’t do better describing this amazing book than this paragraph from the description I found on Amazon.ca
Travelling through Peru, tracing the history of the Incas from their royal cities of Cusco and Machu Picchu to their mythical origin in Lake Titicaca, Ronald Wright explores a country of contrasts–between Spanish and Indian, past and present, coastal desert and mountainous interior.
In his highly entertaining and perceptive account, Wright brings to life a complex culture, a land of ancient traditions seeking its place in the modern world. Embracing history, politics, anthropology, and literature, Cut Stones and Crossroads is both a fascinating travel memoir and the study of a civilization.
Thanks to this book, I had confidence that I could make my fictional Peru true to the spirit of an expert whose vision I trusted.
The second book I found that day was an extremely useful traveler’ guide to body language, customs and taboos around the world. This book proved to be a fantastic resource for writing dialogue and describing my Peruvian characters’ body language.
I decided that my heroine had grown up traveling with her archeologist father, and went on to become an expert in the artifacts of indigenous North American coastal peoples. My hero, a Peruvian archeologist of Spanish descent, was caught between the culture of his ancestral home in the Andes, and the influences of the international education he’d received as a young Peruvian of Spanish descent.
I loved researching and writing CATALINA’S LOVER and when the book was published, I was thrilled that the publisher’s art department used the Incan rope bridge as the basis for the cover art.
Where do I get my ideas? The idea for this story came as a result of following an editor’s suggestion, was fertilized by Peruvian research and a picture of a frighteningly fragile looking rope bridge.And finally, I couldn’t have written it with confidence if I hadn’t read Ronald Wright’s amazing CUT STONES AND CROSSROADS.
Where do I get my story ideas? Most writers have probably heard that question numerous times, and sometimes it’s difficult to answer. Some of my ideas seem to come out of nowhere, fully-formed, and other times the birth of a story is made up of several factors that are only clear in retrospect.
The creative spark that eventually became Taking Chances was born during an afternoon walk with my friend Jan, while describing a novel I’d been reading. Although the book was well-written, I was on a rant because I would not believe in the romantic premise …
Click on the video to listen to how Taking Chances was born…