~~ "She has so many aliases, you'd think she was a spy!" ~~

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Ideas and inspiration

“Where do you get your ideas?”

It’s the question every writer hates. (Well, I kind of hate “Have I read anything you’ve written” even more, because how stupid a question is that? Do I look like a mind reader?!)

The fact is, it’s hard to pinpoint where an idea came from. It can be as vague and fleeting as a song lyric or an offhand comment or a painting or even something I’ve read. Not in the sense of plagiarizing, of course—in the sense of sparking a completely different idea. ::cue brain whooshing sideways::

Themed anthologies are always a challenge. A fun challenge, but a challenge nonetheless. Kate Wilhelm said that you should throw out the first three ideas you come up with, because those are what everyone else will think of. At the same time, though, you can’t go too far off from the theme, or your story won’t fit the anthology.

For example…
  • Where the Girls Are: Urban Lesbian Erotica: I figured everyone was going to pick New York, Los Angeles, London, or Paris. I grabbed Montreal. Go me!
  • Rubber Sex: I wrote about a retro bathing cap, rather than rubber suits or rubber underwear, or, well, you know.
  • Sex on the Move: my coauthor* and I threw out planes, trains, and automobiles, and set our story in the back of a Brinks truck. Seriously.
So when it came to brainstorming for Lesbian Cops: Erotic Investigations, I immediately nixed the idea of a character getting pulled over for speeding…or, for that matter, anything involving a character getting arrested (whether for real or pretend).  I pondered for a while without having any idea spark for me, although I did cross the street in front of a police car and spent far too long ogling the pretty Hispanic female officer at the wheel.

The question really came down to, how do the cop and her (sexual) partner know each other?

That’s when a I remembered a real-life, inspiring story.

A few years ago, my best friend’s daughter heard about police dogs who needed special harnesses. With the help of her mom, her teacher, and the other girls in her fifth-grade class, they raised money to pay for the equipment.

Dudes. Dudes. How awesome is that? My friend is raising her daughter so well.

Obviously I tweaked some details (I changed the daughter’s name to Ashley, plus my best friend is not a single-mom lesbian—I imagine her husband would be surprised if she were—and I upped the ante by having the fundraiser be for bullet-proof vests for the police dogs), but the sentiment was the same: Kids can surprise you and rock your world with their generous hearts. At the same time, it’s hard to navigate any new relationship when you have a child…something my characters had to figure out.

Oh, and the real-life Ashley? She’s now a GBLT activist at her high school.

Awesome.

*My frequent coauthor is Teresa Noelle Roberts, who also has a story in Lesbian Cops: Erotic Investigations!

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Here’s a completely safe for work excerpt from my story, “Charity and Splendor”:

We enlisted the help of Ashley’s teacher, Mr. Schindling, and the other dog-crazy girls in her class. The girls brainstormed ways to make money, came up with a logo, brought the enthusiasm. I agreed to handle the aspects the girls couldn’t: opening a Paypal account, for example, and sending a press release to the local paper.

But all that was after I called the police department and set up an appointment for Ashley and I to meet with the head of the K-9 unit.

“Rosa Mendez,” she said, holding out her hand.

“Monica Westberg.”

We shook briefly, and then she led us to a small office.

She had that cop demeanor, not quite militaristic, but still with squared shoulders, no-nonsense expression, and clipped speech. It’s not that she was unfriendly—hey, even the cops that had pulled me over once (okay, maybe twice) for speeding had been polite when they’d handed me my ticket—but she was businesslike to the extreme. Just a quick smile for Ashley.

Everything changed, though, when I let Ashley explain why we were there.

It was the smile that did me in. The astonished grin that blossomed across her face, the dimple on the left side, the flash of light in her dark eyes. “Are you serious?” she said.

“Absolutely,” I said. “Of course, we won’t do anything without the full support of the department.”

“We’d be insane not to,” Rosa said. “Ashley, you are an extraordinary young woman.”

Ashley blushed and ducked her head, and I liked Rosa even more.

We talked about getting some information and materials from her about the K-9 program, and then she asked if we’d like to meet Duke, the dog who’d been shot.

I thought Ashley was going to vibrate out of her anime hoodie at the very prospect.

Duke was hanging out with the other dogs that weren’t out on patrol with their handlers, although he had a private enclosure since he was recovering. His tail started wagging as soon as he saw Rosa, and if she’d had a tail, it would’ve wagged, too.

She talked about Duke with deep affection, and I heard her voice quaver once before she cleared her throat and mentioned the surgery he’d gone through. She kept the details fuzzy for Ashley’s sake.

And all the while I was thinking, Dammit, I have the worst timing when it comes to crushes.

Well, this was going to be awkward.

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Want more insights into the stories that appear in Lesbian Cops: Erotic Investigations? The contributors are blogging for the first half of April about their stories, about hot policewoman, about uniforms…you name it, we’re talking about it!

For a full list and links to each entry, check out editor Sacchi Green’s blog. Enjoy!

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great article, Dayle. And you're so right about the whole idea thing. For me that's one of the hardest parts of writing. Well, that and plotting. And POV. And... etc. Coming up with an idea. My current romance is based on something I saw on Biography. Sheesh! Either that or else I'd still be thinking about it. Thanks! Cheers, Laura.

D. L. King said...

Great blog and I completely agree. I've no idea where my ideas come from, they just do--if I'm lucky. The current one came from my wanting to find girl scout cookies. Don't ask.

You excerpt is wonderful, but then, I always love your stuff! Looking forward to the book.

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Hey Laura! I'm sorry ideas are the hardest part for you. That's never my problem...it's figuring out what to do with the ideas that hangs me up!

But you're a great writer - you're obviously doing something right! :-)

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Thanks, DL! (I'm blushing!)

I've had an idea in my files for years, based on my not being able to find proper chocolate chips for chocolate chip cookies when I lived in Wales. Someday it'll make its way into a story.... I hate that Girl Scouts don't come door-to-door anymore, don't you?!

Stevie Carroll said...

I like the sound of the story, and the story behind the story. Thanks for sharing that one.

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Hi, Stevie! Thanks for stopping by! Isn't my friend's daughter amazing? I love being inspired by such positive acts. :-)

mixe said...

I love reading the story behind stories, and your inspriation has made me even more excited to read your story.
This anthology can not come out fast enough! :)

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Thanks, Mixe! I love reading about how stories were inspired, too. :-)

The anthology is already available; you can order it from Amazon or your favorite store.

Enjoy!