I know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I’m so drawn to this one for Time After Time by Hannah McKinnon that I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations. Time After Time was published in e-book on 2nd June 2016 and is available for purchase here.
As an aspiring writer I’m thrilled to be hosting a guest post from Hannah McKinnon with fantastic tips for when a writer gets stuck.
Time After Time
Hayley Cooper, a powerful but now struggling lawyer, fantasizes about what her life would be like if only if she’d made different choices. It’s understandable; the past two years have been hell. She barely sees her kids, her boss is trying to sabotage her, and her marriage is falling apart.
Burnt out, Hayley goes to sleep wishing for a different life. When she wakes up married to her first boyfriend, one she has not seen in over twenty years, she realizes there might be some truth in the saying “be careful what you wish for”. Over a single weekend, like Ebenezer Scrooge, Hayley gets to see her life on other side of the white picket fence – not just with her first ex, but with each of her past loves. But is the grass always greener, and will she ever want to go home?
MUSE GONE AWOL? Use The Matrix!
A Guest Post by Hannah McKinnon
Writers are frequently asked where they get their ideas from. It’s almost embarrassing to admit that, often, we don’t have a clue. Although concepts appear in our hearts and minds at sporadic intervals, the exact source usually remains frustratingly obscure.
Most writers will have an exception or two. Take my debut novel, Time After Time, as an example. The idea came to me one morning, seemingly out of nowhere. In hindsight I can trace it back to the fact I’d been living in Canada for a year, was homesick, and going through a ‘What if I’d made different choices?’ phase. That thinking led to the creation of my protagonist, Hayley, who asked herself the same questions, and the story was born.
It’s fabulous when inspiration strikes, but what if you can’t come up with a single, well, ‘What if’?
Enter The Matrix (Keanu Reeves welcome, but unfortunately not required), a nifty technique my writing teacher, Brian Henry from Quick Brown Fox introduced me to. It’s a tool you can build extensively, cross-reference and use to kick-start the most stubborn of minds.
And best of all? You don’t have to come up with the content alone. Here’s how it works:
Gather input from movies or television shows (reality TV seems to work particularly well for unique characters), people watch at a coffee shop, doctor’s office, bar or supermarket, and ask your family, friends and colleagues to name one or more of the following:
|Different and unique characters, for example:||Lines of dialogue, for example:||Peculiar situations, for example:||Interesting objects, for example:|
Yoga master in a thong
“I’m not that kind of person.”
A blind date on Friday the 13th
Shattered fish tank
|Cook who has lice||
“I’m the kind of woman you’d want to sit next to.”
|Premature burial||Overturned kayak|
|Granny on a skateboard||“Don’t leave a single one alive.”||Wing-walking||Bloodstained envelope|
|Promiscuous nun||“I should have been cremated.”||Being summoned to the cockpit by the pilot||Small, dusty walnut box|
|Ragged child in the street||“This will be your first of many.”||Christmas in June||Advert for baby shoes that have never been worn|
Pick two or more items from the same or different columns to build your ‘What if?’ question. For example; what if a cook had lice, and thought he should have been cremated after he died while catering for a Christmas party in June?
Sounds strange? Sure! Is there potential for a funny ghost story? Absolutely. You can run with the first idea or continue until you find something that inspires you more. And if you’re still struggling, keep adding to your list of possibilities.
Write. Brian recommends setting a timer for 20-30 minutes during which editing isn’t allowed. Silencing the inner critic lets the ideas take shape without negativity. You can always go back and change things later.
While you may feel the piece doesn’t have the makings of a novel to begin with, the idea could quickly transform into a short story, and also banish writer’s block by allowing the mind to focus on something else – however weird and whacky.
I wrote A Walnut Box during one of Brian’s writing workshop in which we used The Matrix technique. The items I chose were the blood-stained envelope, a walnut box (which also gave me the title), and the line “First of many.” Within the 30 minute timeframe I had the bones of a short story. I worked on it some more, and it was subsequently published online.
So if you’re still waiting your much-missed muse to return, give it up already! Build The Matrix and write something. And who knows? You might always be able to say exactly where you got your inspiration from…