My blog birthday celebration continues! Today I welcome author Lisa Aldridge, who has written a wonderful post about recapturing that flow of writing inspiration. She also shares an excerpt from her upcoming New Adult Novel, DANGEROUS IMPRESSIONS (Fire & Ice, 2016), so make sure you scroll down to check it out.
The Dialogue Game
By Lisa Aldridge
Every writer knows that inspiration can make your writing flow so fast that you can’t keep up with it, like a volcanic eruption that sends lava rushing down the mountain and over the villages. The words have been unleashed on the unsuspecting world and all you have to do is ride that red hot tide. But what happens after the lava chills? How do you tap into the boiling chamber again?
When words seem elusive, I steal them straight out of the mouths of other people. I have a journal full of things that I overheard. For example, I was in Newark waiting for my plane when I noticed a rather tall man who had more hair than I’d ever seen in one place in my entire life. He had dreadlocks that had been braided into a single ankle-length braid that was so thick Tarzan could have swung from it. When the man sat down, his hair coiled into a lush pile on the floor next to his chair. I got out my journal and recorded every detail, but it wasn’t until we were on the plane that I heard the words that made the scene perfect.
As the flight attendant was pushing the beverage cart up the aisle, the cart came to an abrupt halt when it encountered the giant hair clog. The flight attendant was obviously flustered but the man with the hair didn’t notice. Finally, she tapped him on the shoulder and politely asked, “Excuse me sir, but could you please move your hair?”
I stole those words. They are forever etched in my writing journal as a source of inspiration. I can now ask the most unexpected questions to get my writing started. “Excuse me, but could you please move your _________?” Humongous diamond, the reflection is blinding me. Chihuahua, it seems to be attracting birds of prey. GPS, I want to get lost in your eyes.
I’ve also stolen words that weren’t there. I hate standing in line at the store, particularly Wal-Mart, so I play the dialogue game. Take any two random people and make them have an imaginary conversation. Sometimes I make them have an imaginary fight, or make them fall in love and plan a rendezvous. The possibilities are endless and once I put them in my journal, I have new characters, settings, and dialogue.
But on those days when the volcano is dormant and I already have characters but they just don’t seem to be giving me anything, I turn to my personal rituals to nudge the muse. I try writing after each step or two until inspiration hits.
- Find a quiet place to pray/meditate.
- Turn on music. Usually film scores that could be considered dark, just a personal preference.
- Read poetry. Imagery is everything. (I’m currently reading: “An Affair of the Stilled Heart” by Bobby Aldridge. Yes, I’m married to a poet and it helps a lot.)
- Read what I wrote yesterday.
- Drink water. I crave Dasani, must be the magnesium they put in it.
- Dark chocolate. I keep it within reach at all times. Not only is it an antioxidant, but it also keeps the dementors away.
- Read a short story. Anything by Jhumpa Lahiri.
- Take a shower.
- Do some stretches.
- Watch a good movie.
- Go for a long drive.
Between any of these, try writing. Repeat #6 as often as necessary.
When I drive, my characters seem to liberate themselves from my subconscious. They keep me entertained by allowing me to watch them interact. Sometimes, after the drive, what I witnessed inside my head is a lot more clear than what my eyes saw while driving. The beautiful scenery as I drove through the National Forest is a blur, but the plot twists and minor details that my characters worked out on their own and shared with me are very clear.
Don’t underestimate the power of writing something else for a change of pace, like a blog post if you’re a fiction writer. I feel inspired already!
Lisa Aldridge is the author of Dangerous Impressions (Contemporary New Adults). Watch for: Fiery Impressions (Book 2), and The Knowing Ones (YA Fantasy). Lisa was a cultural anthropologist who spent too much time in dusty rooms with Native American effigy pots and skeletal remains. She taught Sociology, History, and English college classes. She has an MFA from Lindenwood University and has published short stories, creative nonfiction, poetry, and flash fiction in various literary journals.
DANGEROUS IMPRESSIONS by Lisa Aldridge
When Madison ends up at the local college and meets the attractive, yet mysterious, Nathan Bradley, her world takes a dramatic turn. With his passion for art, especially the Impressionists, and their passion for each other, Nathan is the perfect guy, except for his secret life and dangerous connection to the underground world of art theft. An art thief kidnaps Madison and ransoms her for a stolen painting, but he didn’t expect her to steal it back!
An Excerpt from DANGEROUS IMPRESSIONS:
Great. Another boring syllabus to put in my backpack. It wasn’t bad enough that I’d ended up at the local college for one semester, but to make it worse, I’d enrolled at the last minute and had to take whatever classes were left over. Marriage and Family. Ugh. Under the circumstances, I couldn’t think of anything worse than taking a class that would expound the virtues of marriage. Marriage was definitely the last thing on my relevancy list.
Hesitantly, I looked around the room. I figured, and was right, that there were be “types” in the class. In the front row, there was the young woman with the endless smile, sporting a shiny engagement ring. Of course. On the back row, cuddled into one-and-a-half chairs was The Couple. Wonderful. Next to me, was the really tall guy in work-out clothes, probably on the basketball team. I’d bet anything he needed to raise his GPA and obviously thought this was a blow-off course because he was already asleep. He leaned against the wall and stretched his long, dark chestnut legs under the table, I had to pull my feet back under my chair. Maybe I should wake him up, but I couldn’t think of a good way to do it.
I tried to focus on the instructor’s words, “I’ve been happily married for thirty years….” Could this be worse? Tune it out. Tune it out.
As soon as possible, I would start checking for openings in other classes. Any other class. Surely someone would drop something in the agriculture department. Maybe I could learn to like country music…probably not. Or better yet, I could torture myself with a math class. Biology: I would try to get into a biology class; dissecting a frog right now would be better than this. Frog guts-I would think about that pleasant thought for a moment.
Yuck, I could hear The Couple whispering behind me. They kissed. The girl giggled quietly. Oh my gosh, frog guts, frog guts, frog guts!
I had to get out of here. Grabbing my backpack without looking up, I started for the door.
That’s when fate decided to trip me.
I didn’t even see him coming.
Trying to make a quick break for it, I hurried out the door without looking. He was reading his schedule, late for class. We collided. My books hit the floor and my cell phone fell apart and scattered.
I looked up, ready to blame him for not watching where he was going. He had the most beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen in my life! Wow! No words for that, I just tried to breathe normally. Then he smiled. It was the most incredible smile ever! His smile matched his eyes perfectly.
That’s when I went brain dead. I couldn’t think. The witty sarcasm that usually rolled so easily from my mouth was gone. I think I smiled back, but I’m not sure. We both scrambled around, gathering stuff off the floor. I grabbed my own phone from where it had skidded away.
“So sorry,” he said as he handed me books. “I take full responsibility for this tragedy.” He gestured toward the door to the Marriage and Family class. “Are you in this class too?”
“Um, no, not really. I have to change my schedule,” I half explained, trying to avoid staring too deeply into his eyes that were as beautiful as a stormy summer sky.
“That’s too bad,” he answered wryly. I wasn’t sure how to interpret that. He was probably relieved. “It would be nice to kind of know someone,” he added. “Maybe we’ll bump into one another again?” His voice was dangerously smooth.
“Sure.” That’s all I said: sure. I’m such an idiot! Why didn’t I say something like: I’d love to, or When? It really didn’t matter. I was only going to be here for one semester. I tried to console myself. Totally no point in getting attached, and he probably was all looks and no brains, anyway. No one with eyes like that, a smile like that, and the deliberately almost-messy-but-perfect dark hair could be smart too.
The computer lab was full, so I killed some time in the library. Nothing interesting there. Then I saw some kids from my old high school and ducked behind a row of book-filled shelves before they saw me. I knew that I would eventually have to explain why I was still here in Sedalia, Missouri. Everyone knew that all I ever wanted to do was to get out of here.
But here I am, I thought dismally. The middle of nowhere. Some people go to New York City or Hawaii, not me. I never go anywhere exciting. And I was literally nowhere. I didn’t even know where I would be spending the night. Mom wanted me to stay with her at Grandma’s and Dad wanted me to stay with him, probably so he didn’t have to cook. All of my post-graduation plans had fallen through when my parents separated. It’s not like I hadn’t see it coming, but still…
Even though I tried to live in the moment and not think about family problems, they seemed to fill my mind and suck all the fun out of everything. My day was off to a memorable start. I guess that meant the whole semester was off to a memorable start. I was deep in thought when the phone rang and I jumped so much that I knocked several books off the shelf next to me. I distractedly checked the phone while I collected the books and since the number looked familiar, I answered it.
“Hello,” I whispered, so the librarians wouldn’t freak.
“What are you doing after the class that you’re not taking?” The voice on the other end was smooth with a hint of humor behind it.
“Um, who is this?” It was him! My heart was racing and I very unsuccessfully tried to control my voice. How did he get my number? Was he a stalker? That would make him the best-looking creep in the world, but still creepy.
“Most people call me Nathan, does that work for you?”
“Okay Nathan, how’d you get my number?” I demanded firmly.
“Obviously you did or you couldn’t have called me just now.” My voice rose a little, so I walked toward the library exit.
“Actually, I didn’t call you because you haven’t given me your number yet,” he replied calmly.
“Try to make some sense, Nathan. I have too much on my mind for a brain teaser.”
“First tell me your name.” He was having fun at my expense.
“Most people call me Madison; that will have to work for you, because that’s all I’m going to tell you.”
“Nice to meet you, Madison. Technically, I called myself,” the velvety voice chuckled softly.
“What?” I looked more closely at the phone I was holding. It looked a lot less scruffy than mine, but in all the chaos, I hadn’t noticed. “Oh!” Our phones had gotten switched when we collided in the hall. “Do you want to meet someplace so we can switch back?”
“That works for me.” His voice was suddenly non-stalker-like again, now that I understood the situation.
“When and where?” I asked, happy to think that I had a second chance to make a better impression on this extremely good-looking guy. He also sounded intelligent. Looks and smarts.
“How about class on Wednesday?”
“What? That’s in two days! Are you crazy? I need my phone!”
“I promise I’ll take good care of it,” he said. Then he hung up! Just like that!
Over the next several hours, all I got was my own voice mail. The more I tried to call him, knowing that he had my phone and that he just refused to answer it, the angrier I got. Nathan was definitely a frustrating person…if that was really his name.