When discussing all things unnerving, it occurred to me there are many things ‘scary’ about writing. One of those is the fear there will come a day when someone devours all the plot bunnies. Often the writer struggles to kick the furry little blighters back because they’re rampaging and demanding attention as much as any zombie on the march for brains. I’m sure my bunnies have nasty sharp teeth and claws — they sure enjoy nipping at my ankles — but many ask: where do they come from? So let’s concentrate on the scary ‘how’ and ‘howl’ of plots. How does one make the magic happen?
I doubt there’s a writer in existence who won’t one day be asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” There is no spell book. No magic shop one can go to. Authors wish there were, but in some ways we conjure ideas up out of thin air. A writer is someone who can connect two or more seemingly dissociated events, can play the ‘what if’ game, and perhaps add an extra twist.
Here is a brief example. I wove my short story Bitter and Intoxicating for the anthology Red Velvet and Absinthe (editor Mitzi Szereto; foreword by Kelley Armstrong) in answer to a submission call for gothic erotic romance. Although the call provided a list of example work, I had nothing written that fitted, and worse, I had no ideas. I went online and began running searches for red, velvet, and for absinthe.
Although the stories didn’t need to have anything to do with these items, I needed a place from which to start. I certainly didn’t expect to write anything on those topics. I was just searching for a spark.
I came across a painting by Albert Maignan, La Muse Verte, which seemed a good portrayal of what the effects of absinthe supposedly had on the artistic mind. Inspiration! What if a distraught painter came across a seductive woman in a bar, one with flaming red hair clad in a diaphanous green gown, and she was to take him home to try absinthe, promising that it would be the answer to all his woes?
The resulting story is part BDSM, part gothic horror, part sensuous seduction ‘painted’ with words — something fitting to read on a dark October night in front of the fire with the wind blowing outside.