Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Shower Scenes

No... not that kind of shower scene. I mean the kind that pop into your head while, still half-asleep, you're lathering shampoo into your hair. Or maybe you're vacuuming the long-neglected carpets, or cruising the aisles of the local market, or somewhere else going about your day, unaware that your subconscious is about to spring a full-blown exchange of character dialogue on your unsuspecting conscious mind.

Like this snippet from a recently completed chapter of WILLA, in which my canine character apparently decided I'd kept him out of the spotlight a little too long:

Neil rose and went to the door, opening it to the smell of the night. He’d heard no thunder for some time now and could hear the rain falling in a gentler patter, no longer battering the ground. Feeling a nudge at his knee, cold and wet, he looked down to see that Cap had risen silently and padded after him to the cabin door.
“Ye dinna want to go out there," he told the collie. 

Cap whined and scratched the door.
"I'll no' be letting ye back in, an ye get yourself all-over mud," he warned. "Ye’ll stay on the porch ’til ye've dried.”
The amber eyes fixed on his, in what he'd taken to calling the bad sheep stare.
“'Tis on your own heid then.” He let the dog out into the night. “And dinna pester the hens,” he called after. When he glanced back at the hearth, Willa was bent over her sewing, not quite hiding a smile. “Did I say something funny?”
“It is good, how you are with that dog.”

“Aye, well. I dinna ken quite when it happened, but he’s come to be like a child to me. Though there’s times when I think he thinks ’tis the other way ’round.” He peered out at the night, but Cap had disappeared into the dark. Neil shivered slightly, having no such desire to venture out even to check on the mule or the goats.

That exchange of dialogue had me scrambling for the notepad and pen I keep in the bathroom. Don't you keep a notepad and pen in the bathroom... you know, just in case?

While the majority of a novel gets written right here at the computer during the hours of 9am to noon, Mon-Thurs (sometimes Sat), and sometimes it's all I can do to make myself stay in the chair for those hours and wrench words onto the screen, there's a special sort of inspiration that likes to pounce when I least expect it. I've had snippets of scenes blind-side me while driving, poke me awake on the edge of falling asleep, visit me in dreams, intrude while I'm reading or listening to good fiction, or tag along while I'm hiking up and down mountains. They've even insinuated themselves into my thoughts while I'm sitting in church listening to my pastor teach (thankfully he encourages us to take notes!).

Where are some of the places inspiration has ambushed you?
photo by Martin James (Flickr)


  1. Anonymous1:38 PM

    My mind usually ambushes me late at night when I can't sleep but don't want to get out of bed to write down my thoughts. I enjoy your blog and have been following it for awhile!

  2. Sarah, thanks for following and posting!

    It used to be that I'd forget those inspirations that hit as I was about to fall asleep, if I didn't jump up and write them down. Over time I've developed the ability to sort of order myself to remember. I'll think of a couple key words or images or bits of dialogue and play that part over and over and tell myself, "Now remember it!" Most times it works. Sometime the next day those words will pop back into my head and I can get the rest of it down. Nothing's foolproof, and the best thing would be to get up at once and write it down. The spirit is willing but sometimes the flesh is weak. :)

  3. As you say, Lori, these bits of dialogue can ambush us anywhere. I have a collection of notepads scattered around the house (and my car) for just such occasions. In fact, the notepad in the kitchen is rather soggy due to a stream of dialogue that struck while I was washing dishes. Who has time to dry their hands when there is a conversation to capture? :)

  4. Sallie, that's a place I've never been inspired... washing dishes! But I'm ready just in case.