by Robert Lopresti
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned in this very spot that I had an idea for a story about blackmail, but the idea refused to resolve itself into a plot. I spent many hours riding around on my bike, the PlotCycle (TM), pondering the little seed but it has still refused to germinate into a full-blown story. It was like I had a pile of flesh and no skeleton to hang it on.
But something peculiar happened last week.
I was reading someone else's story -- in fact, it was "The General," by our own Janice Law in Mystery Writers of America Presents Vengeance. A fine story it is, by the way, and I recommend it.
But my point is that a few pages in I suspected I knew how the story was going to turn out. And, of course, I was completely wrong. Which is fine; I like surprises.
However, by the time Janice had finished unwinding her story, I had unwound mine. I had the entire plot for a story in my head. Usually when I get an idea for a story I just jot it down in my pocket notebook, but I felt so strongly about this one that I hurried over to my computer, poked the hamster to start spinning the hard drive, and wrote an outline. I even wrote the gutwrenching last paragraphs (oh, you'll weep. Trust me.) Now all I need is time to write the damned thing.
From original concept to fully developed plot: less than an hour.
Meanwhile, remember my blackmail story?
From original concept to fully developed plot: more than a month and still an unfinished mess.
Which leads me to my thesis statement: The human mind is one peculiar vegetable.