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Guest blogger: Michelle Somers

10 September 2017

Curveballs and creativity

I’m curled up on my couch, rain pelting outside, searching for something to share with you today. All as I type one-handed.

Life tossed me a curveball recently and—long story short—I have little to no use of my right thumb for the next four weeks. Such a small appendage, yet when it’s not available, you suddenly realise how intrinsic it is to day-to-day tasks.

With that—the idea of curveballs—in mind, I’ve found my topic. And of course it has a writerly bent 

How do writers so seamlessly toss in those curveballs? The twists and turns that throw the reader and keep throwing them so they never quite know what’ll happen next.

Ever wondered?

Well, I have a theory.

Yes, imagination is a must, yet so is an open mind. How so? You’re about to find out.

I remember when I first started writing, well before I was anywhere near publication. And well before I found my true passion—romantic suspense.

I was working on a contemporary romance, and as I wrote, something strange began to happen. Here’s how it all started …

First, about my story. When senior advertising exec, Shazz Rice, realises her creative director has gone AWOL a day before a big presentation, she’s forced to engage the skills of Liam Mason, top in his field and her nemesis. Liam’s stipulation? They meet at his place after work so they can pull an all-nighter. Not ideal, but Shazz is in a bind with nowhere else to turn. So, she drives up and sits outside in the car, dredging up the courage to go inside.

Here’s how the scene unfolds:

She yanked the key from the ignition and uncurled her shaking fingers from around the steering wheel. Breathe. Get this weekend over and move on. Then she could return to solid ground. Safety. With no one to push buttons she wasn’t ready to be pushed again.

Night air tipped with the frosty stroke of spring sliced through her thin tee and hoodie. Hunched against the wind, she headed for the back of the car, not nearly ready enough to see Liam again, but honest enough to admit that any additional delay would be a waste.

A flash of white skittered through her legs. She jumped, eyes darting left, right. Heart trying its darnedest to leap out of her chest.

Then she spotted it. A cat.

Breath whooshed through her lips, her laugh shaky. Forced. A mere cat and she’d reacted as if this was the second act of Psycho. What next? Her shoulders were one gigantic mass of angst, her nerves reduced to quivering by a man who was burrowing under skin she’d considered elephant-hide thick.

The cat raced through Liam’s gates and disappeared into the shadows.

Tossing her head, her nerves, at seeing the man within the tan brick building, she squinted into the dark. Liam Mason didn’t seem like a cat kind of guy. Mind you, what did she know about the man, other than he infuriated the hell out of her, was the best in his field, and she craved him like crazy?

She couldn’t stem the sigh, or the wish things could be different. The sooner they started, the sooner she could leave and never cross paths with him again.

The sooner she’d stop wishing for things that could never be.

She grabbed the leather strap of her small bag, braced, blanked her mind to the next twelve hours and turned.

A cannon ball force rammed her stomach. Her body slammed backwards, sucking the air from her lungs. The world swirled, a cocktail of stale cigarettes and beer smacking her nostrils. The leather strap slipped from her fingers.

She gasped. Swung her arm, hoping for contact, hoping to neutralise the bastard intent on stealing her power. She hit steel—pure reinforced muscular steel—then meaty fingers wrapped around her wrist and yanked. The ground slipped out from under her heels. She lifted her head and stumbled, a familiar dark gaze dragging bile to her throat as his fist smashed her jaw. Wet metal rolled over her tongue. Blood. Hers. Before she could process, to question how and why and haul mind and body back into action, knuckles she’d sworn to never see again delivered a blow that turned what little light filled her world into black.

Surprised? I was.

Did I plan this? Absolutely not. I’d never thought to write anything even remotely ‘suspensey’. After all, romance was hard enough to craft well. How could I possibly write a mixed genre and do each portion justice?

Yet, suspense nudged its way in, regardless. And I hadn’t a clue until the stench of cigarettes filled the air and a blow slammed Shazz backwards against the car.

My characters had a life of their own. And they had plans of their own—never mind what I had planned for them.

How?

The subconscious is a wild and wonderful place. Give it an idea, and it’ll give back ten-fold.

Have you ever searched for a word, or tried to remember something that seems determined to elude you?

I have. More times than I’d like these days (no comments about age, grey hairs and those ageing grey brain cells).

Next time it happens, try this. Ask your subconscious a question. What’s the name of Aunt Beatrice’s uncle’s sister’s first husband? Or what’s that secret cake ingredient Grandma Emily shared but wouldn’t let you write down? Or where did you last leave your keys?

Ask your subconscious, then stop trying to remember. Go about your day, do all the things that are normal—or abnormal, depending on how your life’s panning—and leave your brain free to do the work. You’ll be surprised how many times your subconscious will come through. Suddenly, when you’re shopping or skydiving or flying a kite, the answer will spring forth, seemingly from nowhere.

Such is the untapped power of the subconscious mind.

So, how do writers craft those twists and turns? Throw curveballs that surprise and delight the reader?

They ask their subconscious to do it for them.

Michelle Somers is a professional killer and matchmaker, a storyteller and a romantic. Words are her power and her passion. Her heroes and heroines always get their happy ever after, but she’ll put them through one hell of a journey to get there.

Michelle lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her real-life hero and three little heroes in the making. And Emmie, a furry black feline who thinks she’s a dog. Her debut novel, Lethal in Love, won the Romance Writers of Australia’s 2016 Romantic Book of the Year (RuBY). Her second novel, Murder Most Unusual, was released early this year.

Find out all about Michelle, her adventures and her books at www.michelle-somers.com

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. 10 September 2017 4:55 pm

    Great post, Michelle. I’ve lost count of the times my characters have thrown something unexpected into the story mix – a dog, perhaps, or a sibling I didn’t know they had. These days I leave the element in place, since my subconscious was kind enough to deliver it. Later in the book I’ll discover that the dog or the sister will be exactly what the plot requires. And if it isn’t, I can always go back and hit delete.

    • 11 September 2017 1:35 pm

      Thank you, Valerie.
      Isn’t it fabulous when our characters throw us those surprises? Especially when we discover they have an importance later on in our story.
      I just love it! And rather than ignoring what I once viewed as an intrusion into my writing, I welcome these little tidbits with open arms 🙂
      Who knew there’d be times when the plot direction curves and the author would be the last one to know 🙂
      Thanks so much for popping by and sharing your take on this.
      Michelle xxx

  2. 10 September 2017 12:24 pm

    Love them curveballs as a reader and writer . And I loved that extract, Michelle. I am now searching for the title. I need a Sunday read.

    • 11 September 2017 1:38 pm

      Thanks so much for that, Laura.
      Sadly, that extract belongs to a story I wrote many years ago and it’s not yet published.
      However, my latest release, Murder Most Unusual, is out in the big blue yonder and available to readers. And it’s just as much, if not more, fun 🙂
      Thanks so much for stopping by!
      Michelle xxx

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