Time and again, I’ve noticed that when I open my mind to a new idea and begin to propose, plot, or write a new book, I start getting what I call “affirmations”(others might call them coincidences) that I’m on the right track with my story and character decisions.
This began in my Silhouette Romance days and three particularly useful affirmations associated with a proposal I was working up. I wanted my hero to be conflicted about illegal immigration from Mexico into Texas, which made doing his border patrol job very difficult. I realized I didn’t know what branch of the government controlled that. At the time, the internet wasn’t available, so the world wasn’t at my fingertips as it is now. Before I had a chance to go to a library to research my question, I ran into a man who had Border Patrol on his cap. We were both donating blood, which meant neither of us could go anywhere, so I was able to ask him a lot of questions that he graciously answered.
A second affirmation involved my need for a believably lonely stretch of highway. I wanted my heroine to stop and change a flat tire for the hero, whose entire arm was in a cast. If there was a lot of traffic on the road, someone else would have done the job already. She had to think that she was his only hope. I found the answer to my dilemma when the woman who sells me make-up stopped by my house and began talking about her recent vacation. Out of the blue, she said that she’d driven down a road for over an hour without seeing another car. I got out an atlas. She pointed out the road, which was—you guessed it–in southern Texas.
The biggest affirmation of all was release of Dan Seals’ incredible song “Bordertown,” which sealed my determination and captured the exact mood I wanted. These affirmations gave me a boost, and I moved on with a little more confidence.
Stormswept, first published by Wild Horse Press, was an early YA paranormal romance resulting in so many affirmations that I listed them. In that book, a character that is in the military is called up to help repair damage from a hurricane that I randomly named Farrah. My affirmation? Right after I chose that name, a woman popped into my day-job office wearing a name tag that said “Farrah.” Coincidence? Maybe, but also an affirmation because she was actually looking for another office, and I could easily have been away from my desk the moment she showed up.
A second example from that book was my decision to have my heroine enrolled in classes at a culinary institute. I immediately received two affirmations. First, I started seeing ads for a culinary institute while watching “Ghost Hunters” on the SyFy channel. Second, I heard one of my coworkers on the phone talking about her cousin actually enrolling in one. If I hadn’t already made that choice for my character, I’d think that hearing about the institute subconsciously made me choose it. But it just didn’t happen that way.
More affirmations popped up after I decided that my heroine would be cooking breakfasts at her sister’s B&B. I not only got a random e-mail from Kraft foods full of breakfast recipes, one of the characters on “Big Bang Theory” talked about a B&B.
A final example is my choice of “mermaid” as a nickname the hero gives the heroine. After I decided on that, I immediately received three affirmations. First, the movie Mermaids starring Cher came on television. Second, there was a story on the news about a prosthetic mermaid tail created for a woman who didn’t have legs so she could swim. Third, I overheard a coworker saying her husband called her that.
By far, the book that has resulted in the most affirmations is Titanium, my latest release from Uncial Press. I received so many that I can’t even remember them all, but a couple stand out that aren’t spoilers. My book is about a US Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom. The first glimmer of a plot resulted from a song I heard in the movie Pitch Perfect: “Titanium” by David Guetta featuring Sia. That led to the word titanium popping up everywhere in one form or another.
I’d just decided a graphic novel series would play an integral part in the story when my nephew brought over his Batman collection. I’ll admit right here that modern graphic novels stump me because I can’t figure out who’s saying what. (Oh how I miss the Archie and Dennis the Menace comics my daddy used to bring home.) So while I didn’t necessarily “get” Batman, I did get an affirmation that I was headed in the right direction.
The hero of my story has an injury resulting from his time in Afghanistan, with some PTSD to further complicate him. Right after that plot decision, a “Sixty Minutes” episode dealt with new treatments for PTSD. Even better, the treatments were only being offered at the Little Rock VA Medical Center, which is about thirty miles south of me.
Sharing some of the other affirmations would give away my plot, but I got enough of them to assure me that I’d done the right thing in writing this book of the heart.
Now I know it could be argued that I’m more aware of these affirmations because I’m immersed in my novel (sort of like when you learn a new word and then you suddenly see it everywhere), but it feels like so much more. Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight saga says she got her idea from a dream. Well, no dreams for me so far, but I do get affirmations straight from my personal muse, and her thumbs-up never fails to encourage and inspire me.
Bio: Linda Palmer has been writing for pleasure since the third grade and has letters from her teachers predicting she’d be an author. Though becoming a writer was never actually a dream, it was something she did naturally and eventually with intent. Silhouette Books published Linda’s first novel in l989 and the next twenty over a ten year period (writing as Linda Varner). In 1999 she took a break to take care of her family. She learned that she couldn’t not write, however, and began again, changing her genre to young adult paranormal romance. She has twelve full-length novels out as e-reads and in print and there are always more in the works. She also has many novellas and short stories available. Linda has been a Romance Writers of America finalist twice and won the 2011 and 2012 EPIC eBook awards in the Young Adult category. She married her junior high school sweetheart many years ago and lives in Arkansas, USA with her family.
Link to Titanium: http://tinyurl.com/nj66kok
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