Tuesday, February 22, 2011

On Writing CLARITY

First off, CLARITY comes out one week from today! ZOMG, freak out, happy dance!

Now that that’s out of the way…back to the post.

Last month I talked about The Idea Factory and how writers can find inspiration almost anywhere. Today, I’m going to specifically detail how CLARITY came to be! (Note: there are details below, but no real spoilers. Nothing you wouldn’t learn from the book’s summary and the first two chapters.)

Some ideas come to you fully formed. In one flash of inspiration you have the characters, setting, plot, everything.

CLARITY was not one of these ideas.

No, CLARITY came from me playing my favorite game: come up with characters you love and adore, and then figure out the most fitting ways to torture them.

But let me first step back to the initial moment of inspiration. It was one line.* It came to me out of blue in a sort of snarky, sarcastic voice. (And, no, I wasn’t talking to myself! Jeez! Me? Snarky and sarcastic? Never!) I started wondering who would say something like that and why. And I came up with this teenage girl and her family of “freaks.”

I immediately knew I wanted to set the book in a tourist town where the psychics ran a family business out of their home. This was inspired by…seeing psychic family businesses run out of homes in tourist towns. Brilliant! Anyway, I also quickly decided to set the story on Cape Cod. (Mainly because of all the time I’ve spent there, but I’m going to go further into the how and why in a future blog post on settings.)

So I filled the characters out and gave them some complexity, strengths, and flaws.

Clare is tough, defensive and uses words like bullets. After years of being the bullied outcast “freak girl” in town, her hard outer layer is the shield she uses to protect herself. But underneath she wants the same things any girl wants. And she loves her mother and brother LIKE WHOA. Even when they bicker.

Starla, the matriarch of the clan, looks like a free-spirited hippie on the outside, but she takes the family business very seriously. She may not be the strongest person at times, but she loves her children more than anything on earth.

Perry, Clare’s brother, is a lovable man-whore. He goes through tourist girls like disposable paper cups, but he is a loyal best friend, would do anything to protect his little sister, and steps up to the plate as man of the house when he’s needed.

Okay, I love these characters. Time to torture them.

I threw a dead body in because that’s how I roll. And then I had Clare pulled into the murder investigation, forced to use her gift and to interact with the ex-boyfriend she wants to hate and a new guy with a built-in conflict of his own.

Then, what’s the worst thing that could happen?

Her brother becomes the main suspect.

The rest of the plot grew from that. At each twist and turn I asked myself, what’s the worst thing that could happen now? And then I did it. Oh, those poor characters. I torture because I love.

And that’s how CLARITY was conceived, grew, and is now one week from being released into the wild!

*The one line that started it all is now the last line of chapter two. Also, this was my original title of the novel. I thought it was fresh, snarky and BRILLIANT. Then my editor said it kind of reminded her of the circus and I was like…crap on a stick, she’s right. That’s one of the many reasons editors rule. They stop you from giving your un-circus books circus-y titles.


  1. Yay for Clarity coming out in a week's time :)Am now even more curious to read it!
    -Rachel Star

  2. Don't you love it when a story just comes together? Can't wait to read this! :)

  3. Thanks Rachel & Pam! :D

  4. Yea for your upcoming release date. Thanks for sharing how you thought of your story and characters. It's so interesting that it came from something small and then fell together.

  5. four more days--whoo hoo! its so interesting, isn't it, to see how stories slowly develop in the mind of the author? it always amazes me :)

  6. Welcome to the freak show!!!

    Great book!