Tuning In

Jessie: In book jail on the coast of Maine.

WHISPERSHIRESI have a confession. After having written five books I still don’t know where the stories come from. I don’t really mean the little snippets and nuggets of ideas that you tuck away and think “Oh, wouldn’t that be interesting to use in a book someday”. I mean the whole complex thing of starting with almost nothing and ending up with a whole world complete with complex people, vibrant settings and intriguing conflicts.

I wish I could say it had something to do with me but I am not really sure that it does. As I work I find myself wondering if my role is that of a conduit through which an existing story flows. I often have a sneaking suspicion that rather than making my books up I somehow happened to tune into a sort of radio frequency and I simply hear them and then write them down.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately as I’ve been doing time in book jail, putting the finishing touches on my second Change of Fortune mystery. The main character, Ruby Proulx, is clairaudient. She has the benefit of a voice she hears from time to that gives her advice. Throughout the course of the first book in the series, Whispers Beyond the Veil, with effort, she manages to hear the voice more clearly and to tap into it at will rather than by chance.

I find myself hoping that life will imitate art and that my own ability to tune in will improve as much as Ruby’s. Is it possible to get a clearer signal? Is there some way to make the rest of life quieter so the story is more easily heard? Is that all wishful thinking?

In the end it probably doesn’t matter where the stories come from as long as they manage to get told. As long as the voices come out through the fingertips and onto the page, and readers enjoy the results, it really makes no difference if I thought of it all, or none of it at all. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Readers, do you have any suggestions for quieting the outside world? Writers, where do you think the stories come from?


30 Thoughts

  1. I agree, Jessie, that sometimes it feels like somebody/something else is creating my stories. How else do we understand those times when we type something we did not know was going to happen, then sit back and say, “Wow! Why did she fall off her chair? Was she poisoned? Did she have a heart attack? Was she pushed? Is she going to survive?” And then I have to keep typing to find out what happens next.

    I truly love those moments. It’s not all of the writing all of the time, but it happens enough of the time to really make me wonder.

  2. I need to quiet the outside world or I cannot make art. It’s that simple. I was dismayed when Maine Public Radio said they’d be changing format – it’s talking heads and way too much politics almost all day now. The deal is that they have a companion “Classical” station (plays jazz and other stuff too, but at least it’s music). I bought me a tiny HD2 radio and play it when I’m in the studio. No news from the increasingly dismaying outside world. Just one trick, but it helps a bit

  3. Where I work it’s pretty quiet (despite the fact we live only a few blocks from both the fire station and the police station in our town, and there seem to be a lot of siren-provoking crises these days), but those ideas? They can pop up any time, anywhere. I’ll see something random at a flea market or walking down the street, and suddenly it sparks an “aha!” moment and I can see the framework for an entire plot. It’s an exhilarating feeling. (But it doesn’t always happen that way!)

    1. Exhilirating is exactly the word for it, Sheila! The popping up anywhere part is why I always have a supply of pens and notebooks everywhere I go. I think all writers do!

  4. Great post, Jessie! I have a sneaking suspicion that the characters in m Baby Boomer mysteries are living in a parallel universe. And if I’m a good girl, they let me in on what they’re up to.

  5. Sarah Winston came to me pretty much fully developed and I’ve always wondered from where. But don’t discount the hard work you put in, making those worlds/characters/voices so appealing to readers. I don’t think any of us every really understand the process which is probably a good thing.

  6. Here’s another thought — I’ve always felt everyone has a story in them — probably more than one but not everyone can tap in or figure out how to tell that story. What is that about?

  7. Perhaps the ideas slip in from visiting friends with brilliant minds that use osmosis to subliminally put these ideas into your raw, open mind. Just a thought…Lauri

  8. I love it when a story or character takes hold of you and won’t let go. You do wonder, did I think this up, or was it sent to me? Not sure it matters either way!

  9. I connect to this post so much, and I’ve been thinking about similar subjects lately. Meditation seems to work for many people, and praying before I write makes me feel much more “open” to whatever will be best for readers. It also gives me peace as I approach that blank page with my usual insecurities. Thanks for opening another great discussion! P.S. I am typing on a frustrating phone, so I apologize for any typos!

    1. I keep meaning to make meditation a priority. I know it is a great idea but it always gets shuffled to the bottom of the To Do list. Thanks for inspiring me to slide it to the top!

  10. So recently there’s been a lot of talk about the quantum physics many worlds theory–that every possibility exists all the time. This theory has always held that the worlds are parallel, but now some scientists theorize that there is a subworld where they interact. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-poirier/quantum-weirdness-and-many-interacting-worlds_b_6143042.html. So perhaps making stuff up is a window into this subworld or these other possibilities? Maybe that’s why children are so good at it.

    I don’t know. I’ve rarely, if ever, had that “it poured out of me” feeling. I figure if I keep at it, maybe someday. But I have had the feeling of reading something I wrote much, much later and going, “Were in the heck did that come from?”

    1. Fascinating article, Barb! I know what you mean about wondering where twhat is written came from. I often have that happen when I go back and look at early drafts.

  11. I know I need as few distractions as possible to read sometimes. I can’t read in the breakroom at work, for example, if the TV is on too loud or there are people talking. I’ve taken breaks on the stairs to the third floor. I can only imagine how hard it would be to write with distractions going on.

    1. It is challenging, Mark. I have some binaural beat tracks that I listen to whilst working to help block out the background noise and to help me focus. Usually that helps a lot!

  12. Somehow I always imagined that is how authors got the stories they told, lol. I just figured a voice played the story (or basics) out in their heads. I hope you find a way to hear it clearer because I love your books. I have to know if there will be a new one in the Sugar Grove Mystery series??

  13. Hi Jessie, maybe we’re all clairaudient like Ruby? A friend gave me a candle and instructions to light it, look at it, and just breathe…usually works to quiet my mind and help the writing (or channeling, or listening or whatever on earth it is) start. I haven’t thought too much about how the writing process works. I am working on just trusting the process to work.

  14. My favorite part of this post is “putting the finishing touches on my second Change of Fortune mystery”. Whispers Beyond the Veil is fantastic!!! I can’t wait to read the second and third and fourth! Ruby is such a great character. Her story intertwines with a police officer with a very interesting background. This book leaves you wanting more! Not to mention the fact that the setting is so neat and the dialogue is perfect. This isn’t meant as a book review so I will stop now but it’s definitely a must read!

Comments are closed.