Monday, April 10, 2006

JSB: The Yo-Yo and You

"A good idea is like a yo-yo -- it may go to the end of its string, but it doesn't die there; it only sleeps. Eventually in rolls back up into your palm." – Stephen King, on getting the idea for "It" 3 1/2 years before he wrote it. The idea kept coming back to his palm.

One night he was sitting on his front porch, in Bangor, smoking, thinking about the idea that would not go away, and asked himself if he was getting too old to TRY such a project, afraid to just "jump in and drive fast."

So he got up off the porch, went into his study, cranked up some rock and roll, and started to write. The first line goes like this:

"The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years--if it ever did
end--began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of
newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain."

Does that not make you want to read on?

First lines, BTW, are fun to write. Dean Koontz used to do that all the time, to prime his writing pump. One day he wrote:

"You ever killed anything?" Roy asked.

Koontz had no idea what these words meant. But the yo-yo came back to his palm. He wrote furiously for another ten minutes, and got down two pages of story, which became the book, The Voice of the Night.

Give yourself time to play with the yo-yo. Keep a list of ideas as they come to you. I expand my own list all the time, one or two lines. Then, when I find that some keep coming back, I put them onto my "front burner." Eventually, I select one to write.

Then it's: Jump in. Drive fast.

James Scott Bell is the author of Presumed Guilty (Zondervan) and Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure (Writers Digest Books) "The Suspense Never Rests"™


At 1:42 PM, Blogger Southern-fried Fiction said...

YES! I'm SO glad to hear you say this! I have a file full of ideas and one-liners I plan to develop when I finish the WIP on which I'm currently working. Neat to know I'm in such good company. Thanks, Jim.


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