October 30th, 2012
I used to have an apartment within a ten minute walk from my mom’s house. At the end of her street was the local cemetery. Every time I walked past it, I would look in, and I started noticing little details about the place. In fact, every cemetery I’ve ever set foot in seems to follow a sort of universal layout — so very much like a small city. And if you go in, you’ll see it too. There’s the section that is full of the mausoleums and statues that reminded me of downtown Anywhere, with its City Hall, municipal buildings, and the business setting. Then, you have the suburban areas and all of the headstones would be laid out that way. One area will be the affluent section of town, another will be the middle class section, and of course, one section will be the poorer section. And the roadways that run through each.
I thought, what a great place to set a story. In a cemetery that’s really a “neighborhood” for the spirits that dwell within. I found my erstwhile hero in Robert Isaac Porter, nicknamed Rip, and started finding all manner of incidents and accidents to put him in the middle of, and turn them upside down. I wanted to find every phrase or comment that we make that included the words of “death” or “dying” and flip them on their ear. So instead of someone asleep being “dead to the world,” they became “alive to the world.” No one died; they “birthed.” Because if you think of it, death to us is a birth on the other side. They die here on this plane, they birth in Heaven (or wherever your beliefs take you after this life). I have a character who literally loses his head when he’s upset; and his wife quite literally falls to pieces when she’s upset. I have a character who has a severe crush on another, who doesn’t even know he’s dead…so to speak.
And once I had my jokes and settings, I sat down to write.
Finding your plot can be just as easy as taking a routine thing and asking yourself, “what can I do to shake that up?” What can you do with a simple “guy meets girl” story by adding a twist to it and turning it on its ear? It doesn’t have to be horror or fantasy or science fiction; it can be a romance between two characters but with that twist. It can be a crime “whodunit” story. If you look at every novel on the best seller list, you’ll find the plots start with something mundane and normal and then get that twist of the bizarre, the different, the strange. As a writer, we’re always looking for something that will set our work apart, will catch the eye of the reader. And the best way to do that is to find something that’s universal and add that twist.
Give a try and see if that doesn’t help your plot. I’m betting it will. I’m even betting that I’ll be reading your work someday.
Jesse V Coffey lives and writes in Lexington, KY. She is the author of Salt of the Earth, which is being offered as a free read to celebrate Halloween — 10/30/12 to 10/31/12. She is also the author of A Wager of Blood, a paranormal thriller written as J. W. Coffey. A cross genre, indie author, she writes under both names, with a total of four books released so far. Ms. Coffey has three columns for an online newsite, Examiner.com, writing as the Lexington Literature Examiner, Lexington Writing Examiner, and National Indie Romance Novel Examiner. She is also the on air hostess for the radio show Edin Road Radio, which broadcasts live on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 PM Eastern, and is available in podcast format through iTunes and Stitcher Radio.
Ms. Coffey will be releasing her fifth novel, The Savior, in December of 2012. A sixth, Wilde Mountain Time, is due to be released in 2013 by Ravenheart Press.