No matter what you're writing—story, novel, poem, essay—the first thing you're going to need is an idea. Don't make this the intimidating part. Ideas are everywhere.Lift up a big rock and look under it, stare into the window of a house you drive past and dream about what's going on inside. Read the newspaper, ask your father about his sister, think of something that happened to you or someone you know and then think about it turning out an entirely different way. Make up two characters and put them in a room together and see what happens.Sometimes it starts with a person, a place, a voice, an event. For some writers it's always the same point of entry; for me it's never the same. If I'm really stuck, nothing helps like looking through a book of photography. Open it up, look at a picture, make up a story.If you decide to work completely from your imagination, you will find yourself shocked by all the autobiographical elements that make their way into the text. If, on the other hand, you go the path of the roman à clef, you'll wind up changing the details of your life that are dull. You will take bits from books you've read and movies you've seen and conversations you've had and stories friends have told you, and half the time you won't even realize you're doing it.I am a compost heap, and everything I interact with, every experience I've had, gets shoveled onto the heap where it eventually mulches down, is digested and excreted by worms, and rots. It's from that rich, dark humus, the combination of what you encountered, what you know, and what you've forgotten, that ideas start to grow.When I was putting my first novel together in my head, I didn't take notes. I figured that if I came up with something that was worth remembering I would remember it, and I would forget about the rest.I don't think that my theory on memory is necessarily true—I'm sure I've forgotten plenty of things that would seem good to me now—but not writing things down, especially in the early stages of thinking them through, does cause me to concentrate more deeply and not become overly committed to anything that isn't firmly in place."The Patron Saint of Liars," the novel that I largely assembled while working as a waitress at a now defunct T.G.I. Friday's in Nashville, Tenn., started like this: There's a girl in a Catholic home for unwed mothers, and she goes into labor. The home is far out in the country, maybe 45 minutes from the hospital, and the girl decides she's not going to tell anyone what's going on. She's not going to cry out, because she wants to ride in the ambulance with her baby.So here's this girl giving birth in the middle of the night, and there are other girls in the room, girls who live on her hall and have come to help her. I looked at each one of them. I spent days thinking of their stories while I bused tables and ran the dishwasher.I thought the novel was going to be about the girl giving birth, but there was another girl in the room named Rose, and she had come all the way to Kentucky from California in her own car, and she had a secret. This girl had a husband.From there I started to stretch the story in every direction. What happened to Rose in California? Who were her parents and who was this husband and why did she marry him in the first place? Whom does she meet and whom will she marry later and where did he come from?I puzzled it out, went down dead ends and circled back, made connections and plot twists I never saw coming. All in my head.
SYNOPSIS OF THE NOVEL I'M WRITING
LEVI McPHERSON, a graduate student of analytical chemistry at the University of North Central Florida, is approached by agents of the Homeland Security’s Counter-terrorism Unit. The agency is recruiting Lee to study and expose the loopholes of screening instruments in airports. Struggling financially, he accepted the offer, making him a paid, benevolent hacker of the nation’s gateway. Yet Levi is horrified when an Airbus from Los Angeles disintegrated in mid-air.
At 40, when everybody’s career trajectory is going up, Levi’s still a poor graduate student, struggling financially. His research projects however, are worth million dollars. Researching the highly classified and heavily guarded secrets of detecting traces of explosives, what Lee know was a goldmine. The agency's offer is his financial break . So Levi tackles the problem like a scientist, detailing the loopholes of the aviation security and turning what he knew into a big time money machine.
JIM and JONATHAN of the counter-terrorism unit, where nowhere to be found after Charlotte International Airport, a hub of Delta Airlines closed abruptly because of instrument malfunctions in their security lines. And in a post-Osama Bin Laden’s era, the biggest blow to the United Stated after the 9/11 disaster comes unexpectedly when a passenger plane blew up in the skies of Washington D.C., in the heart of the nation.
Levi knew it was only the start of more troubles, so he recruits his fellow graduate students to counter the future attacks. They have to think like criminals—and scientists too. With the help of FBI counter-terrorism experts, Homeland Security and Transportation Security Agency, the team races to close and plug the loopholes Lee identified.