You have to grab good ideas when they find you, or they’ll pass you by and someone else will get them.
Someone, I think a musician, said something along these lines, and the idea stuck with me. You never know when you’ll be struck with inspiration, and you need to be able to capture it or it will fly away.
For several months, since December or January, I’ve been struggling with a major plot point in the novel I began for NaNoWriMo. As I edited the novel, the hole became more and more glaring, and no matter how I tried to fix it, nothing felt right. Night after night I tried to come up with a solution, writing lots of bits I later cut, and redoing the previous chapters to try to make something work. All these attempts, however, were failures. Nothing clicked.
It got so discouraging that I had a hard time staying motivated to finish the project, and caught myself dragging my feet when it was supposed to be writing time.
This week, I gave myself permission to set that struggle aside for a month. With Camp NaNoWriMo beginning on Tuesday, I decided to write backstory about my characters, inventing scenes with them that happen before the main story of the novel itself. It’s been an interesting and somewhat fruitful exercise in general, but over the past few days, I haven’t produced anything particularly noteworthy.
Today was opening day for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and I was lucky enough to get to see it this afternoon. As I was watching the pre-show, my mind wandered, in that idle meandering way of a writer. Because I had written about him last night, my thoughts turned to my protagonist, about whom I had learned some intriguing tidbits. Thinking I might want to keep writing about him tonight, I asked myself, would he like going to see movies? How would he feel if he found himself sitting next to a perfect stranger, as I was doing?
All of a sudden, my synapses started firing. And then… there it was. The epiphany I had sought for all these months, the golden lightbulb moment. I suddenly knew exactly how to fill in this missing section and get my character from point A to point B, all while tying together other important plot elements.
The amazing thing about it was, none of this happened during the movie itself. It all took place in a matter of seconds as the previews ended, during the brief warnings to turn off your cell phone and not talk during the movie.
So it just goes to show… you never know where or when inspiration will happen, and never really productive to try to force it.
Postscript: Captain America:TWS was a fun movie. Lots of action and good looking men and women, but remarkably, there was actually a decent, logical (well, mostly) plot, which is becoming a rarity for action movies in the 21st century.