Saturday, May 28, 2005

How WILD CARD Came Into the World

As promised, here's installment four of "How did Paula get her ideas?"

WILD CARD was one of those rare, amazing stories that wrote itself. Seriously. From the first germ of an idea to the working synopsis took about four days. From working synopsis to first draft took eight weeks, two of which included no writing whatsoever, thanks to the presidential election of 2004. (I'm a bit of a political junkie). And when I sat down to revise and polish for the editor who asked to see it, I discovered that there wasn't a whole lot I wanted to change about it. Bits and pieces here and there, but overall, I thought it was pretty solid. (We'll see what the editor says).

I'm a little worried that WILD CARD spoiled me. Let's just say my other three manuscripts weren't quite so easy to give birth to!

Now, for the idea behind it. I had decided around the middle of October that I wanted to write and finish a book by the end of the year because I needed to enter something new in some writing contests. All three of my other books had finaled in contests by that time, and I didn't want to keep sending the same three manuscripts out. During the time I was ruminating about what I wanted to write next, I caught a news segment about a bus crash somewhere out west, I think. The bus had rolled off the interstate and split open, injuring and killing dozens.

The news segment showed the bus; it looked like a watermelon split open, an image that apparently stuck in my head, because as I was driving to work, thinking about that wrecked bus, I thought, "I wonder what it was like to be a survivor of that crash, with bodies spilling out onto the shoulder of the highway around you?" Next I thought, if the bus crashed into a river, with bodies swept out and downstream, a person on the bus could easily fake their death. People would just assume they'd show up sooner or later downriver, and that would give a person a lot of time to get away if they wanted to.

Perfect, said my writer's brain. You could have a woman on the run from something or someone. Maybe she witnessed a crime and the F.B.I. wants her to testify, but she's afraid for her life, so she runs from both the bad guy AND the F.B.I. And she hops the bus to get out of town--a casino bus, up in Atlantic City. Being the gregarious type, she meets a nice boy from Georgia who keeps her company on their way out of New Jersey, telling her his life story. And then the bus crashes, tumbling down the side of hill and into the river below. The woman lives, but her busmate dies--but not before he gives her something to take to his estranged family in Georgia. Yeah!

Look at all the hooks! Fish out of water--a Jersey Girl in smalltown Georgia! She's a woman in jeopardy, and she's hiding her identity! And she meets a sexy Southern lawman who thinks she's hot but doesn't trust her as far as he can throw her! And there's even a ticking clock--how long can hang around the little Georgia town and the hunky southern cop before the men who are after her finally track her down?

I wrote 75 pages in the first six days, skipped a couple of weeks, and wrote 245 more pages over the next five weeks, by far my most prolific performance to date.

To paraphrase Dionne Warwick, I know I'll never write this way again. ::sigh::

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