Can a good idea become a novel?

November 5, 2016

Most people have heard the line: everybody has a book in them. What I had was an idea, not a beginning-to-end story with all the action and twists woven into it. And surely not a 90,000 plus word count for a novel. So how does an idea become a written story? For me, I did it kicking and resisting till somebody called my bluff.

I had edited five novels for my husband, Chuck Barrett who writes awesome thrillers. And in every one of the manuscripts I edited, it sparked additional ideas for his story line. Ideas. That is how I see myself. An idea person. Ideas come to me and if I, or Chuck, don't write them down right away, I won't remember that idea later because I already have another idea shoving it out of my small memory bank.

 

Let's go back to about a year before I actually started writing my first novel. I was editing one of my husband's manuscript and bam, an idea. I was excited to share it with him. It went something not quite like this:

"Most of the thrillers we read have a male protagonist who physically is tough and has special skills, some military. They can be lethal killers to protect the innocent. Like Jack Reacher in Lee Child's novels or John Puller and Will Robie in David Baldacci's novels." At this point, my husband tries to look interested. He is trying to work on another manuscript. So I continue, "I think you should have a character who is a combat veteran with all those skills except, he has a prosthetic leg. He would have incredible upper body strength, able to kill with his bare hands and do everything he did in special forces except for running."

Now, my husband smiles and says, "I think you are right. Great idea. Write the story yourself."

 

I protest, reminding him I am an idea person. I don't write novels, he does. Yet, he continues to tell me it is a good idea and a story I should write.

I toy with the idea of trying to write the story and what would be my story line and who would be the characters. The five "Ws" of something I vaguely remembered from high school as the fundamentals of writing. Who, what, where, when, why and how. Wait, how doesn't start with w, but it sticks in my head as a necessary part of the writing process.

Over this next year, my husband keeps reminding me to get started on my story. My excuse is I am not like him, I have to meet this character I envisioned and understand his life coping with having lost his leg in the military. Looking back, I know this was just another excuse not to write the story. Lack of confidence, lazy, always being interrupted by life events or anything that kept that idea from materializing on paper. The ironic part is this idea never left my small memory brain storage.

 

Then, without warning, it happened.

 

Chuck was doing a book signing in Brunswick, Georgia at Hattie's Book Store. Really great bookstore. (Now closed) I was there to support my husband on his latest release. We always have so much fun and meet the most interesting people when he does these events. I wandered to the back of the store where there was food and drinks and was enjoying talking to the ladies who had provided these delicious goodies. I struck up a conversation with Kathy Bowman. She asked me if I had ever written a book. I told her no, I'm just an idea person. She asked if I had an idea for a book. Then I opened my big mouth and told her my idea about a strong military vet who could kick ass but had a prosthetic leg. But I was waiting till I could meet my character before I could actually write the story. And then she says the craziest thing, "I know a young man you just described." She pulls out her cell phone and shows me a picture of this handsome dark haired young man who was a body builder. He was on a foot patrol in Afghanistan to open a school for Afghan children when he was ambushed and stepped on an IED.

My jaw dropped. There he was, right before my eyes. Kathy offered to introduce him. He lived in Michigan and was opening a gym. My bluff had been called so I gave her my email address and phone number and asked her to see if he would talk to me.

 

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