Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Digging for Gems

 New Idea -- New Treasure

And so it begins. A new idea tickles my brain and fans the embers of my imagination. A book title floats to the surface of my mind unexpectedly while watching TV one night or right before I fall asleep or even when I'm cleaning house! And I am off and running.

I am suddenly alive with the possibility of another tale. Another story set in in the Texas or Kansas or even Indian Territory. For example, I heard a news report on Guthrie, Oklahoma. I'd visited there before and recalled its interesting history. After the Land Run, Guthrie was a place for those starting anew. Saloons sat next to opera halls, cattle mingled in the street with fancy buggies. And scores of lawyers obtained divorces for people who traveled far and wide to be shed of a bad marriage. Now that's a place where a great story could be located! So, I began piecing one together, which eventually became my novel "To Seduce and Defend."

I love it when a story crooks a finger at me, bidding me to come closer. It's like a treasure hunt. You know the location of the buried treasure and now all you have to do is dig, dig, dig -- plot, plot, plot until you locate the gleaming crown jewel  -- the crucible -- and the golden chain or red thread that binds all of your characters and scenes together. The crucible is extremely important, especially in a romance. It is the reason why the main characters can't escape their current situation. Without a believable crucible, the readers will think to themselves, why doesn't he/she just leave or give up? That's why some romances seem silly -- the characters argue and fuss and there isn't a good enough reason for them to continue to stay together. There has to be a life or death reason -- an all or nothing circumstance to keep the main characters in the same orbit.

In "To Seduce and Defend" ownership of a ranch is the crucible and the red thread is the tangled web woven by deceit. The "red thread" comes from tapestry or rug making when the weaver would include a crimson thread as a flaw because only the Almighty can create perfection. It runs in the background throughout the story and usually is the "lesson learned" by the characters. 

In fleshing out characters for that book I uncovered the gems of the crucible and red thread. Plotting can be tedious and/or exciting, depending on your progress. However, once the book is plotted I always celebrate because the hard part is over. Now all I have to do is write. Oh, sure, writing is difficult, but it is the creative part of the process. Plotting is the business of it. Plotting is finding the right place to dig and then putting your back into it. Writing is after you find the treasure chest, pry open the lid, and begin to polish the beautiful jewels inside.

Since that book was published, I've had several people ask me if it was true that people traveled to Guthrie for a divorce. And it is true! Back then, Guthrie was sort of like Nevada. You could divorce someone without him/her even knowing about it. Mainly, you could divorce quickly and that's why people traveled from far and wide to Guthrie to end their marriages. Women, especially. Women had a difficult time obtaining a divorce and rarely were granted one. In Guthrie, women could live there for ninety days and file for divorce. They only had to list abandonment or cruelty as a reason for the ending of their marriage and their husband did not have to be present. In other states, they had to obtain permission from the husband to divorce, which was impossible if the husband had disappeared! And, naturally, they never won on cruelty.

Some places like Guthrie fairly overflow with good ideas for novels. I might head back there and write another western because that town is chock full of gems! Hey, that gives me an idea . . .

It's back to the shovel for me. Blisters are forming on my brain and my back is killing me!


Julie Lence said...

Great way to describe the difference between plotting and writing. Thank you, Deb!

Melissa said...

Interesting analogy and about Guthrie. I did not know that.

Deborah said...

Guthrie is full of surprises. Like Tombstone, it has a colorful history. At one time there were as many lawyers in Guthrie as there were citizens! Divorce was a lucrative business there because they pretty much had the market cornered. :-)