What Do You Mean Indiana Jones Isn’t A Career Choice?!

26 Sep

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. But I also wanted to pursue a career as Indiana Jones or Perry Mason. I gave up my Indiana Jones dream after a two month archaelogical field school the summer before my senior year of college where I finally realized, on a visceral level, how much dirt was involved. (Hint: so much dirt. So. Much. Dirt.) Law school cured me of my Perry Mason ambitions and the less said about that, the better.

Once those two dream jobs had lost their luster, the only fantasy left was writing. But something very basic kept me from pursuing it. What stopped me wasn’t a lack of time, or fear, or any of the hundreds of other excuses writers have for not writing. (Full disclosure: those things all play a huge part in my writing life now.) What stopped me from writing was a genuine lack of imagination. I could not, for the life of me, think of a single plot worth writing down. And it’s not like all I could come up with were bad plots; I couldn’t come up with any plots. Every time I tried to exercise my my feeble imagination it gave me something that bore an eerie resemblance to (read: was a complete knockoff of) the plot of whatever book I was currently reading.

And then something happened. I don’t know what prompted it, but I had an idea! (And yes, I’m going to use an exclamation point because that first idea was just that exciting.) I’m not going to say it was a brilliant idea, because it wasn’t. I’m also not going to say it’s a unique idea, because are there any of those? I also can’t say it wasn’t inspired by books I’d read, because … duh. But it was still my idea, one that arose out of a genuine creative spark in my brain and that felt revolutionary. Maybe, just maybe, I could actually write a book.

Something switched on in my brain with that first idea and they’ve kept showing up. A lot of writers like to talk about their plot bunnies – plot ideas that hop around in their head and multiply like rabbits. Often when writers talk about plot bunnies, they’re complaining about them as a distraction from their current work in progress. I doubt that will ever be me. I don’t get plot bunnies. My ideas are more like plot mice – small, furtive, hard to catch, and heart-breakingly fragile. I still adore each little plot mouse that shows its beady little eyes because  part of me is afraid I’ll never see one again.

So what was your path to writing? Are you one of those people who have been writing down stories since you could pick up a crayon? Or are you someone who came to this particular creative endeavor after years and years of reading other people’s work? Do you get plot bunnies, plot mice, or are your ideas better likened to some other creature altogether? As fond as I am of my mice, someday I’d really love to get a plot pony under the Christmas tree. Wouldn’t we all love an idea that comes to us in a form that’s sturdy and capable and ready to carry us all the way to “The End”?


Posted by on September 26, 2012 in imagination, plotting, writers, writing


15 responses to “What Do You Mean Indiana Jones Isn’t A Career Choice?!

  1. Clarissa Southwick

    September 26, 2012 at 6:38 AM

    Great post, Corina. I tend to go through phases. When I’m writing up a storm, there are plot bunnies to distract me. But when I’m not writing regularly, they’re more like your mice:)

    • Corina Mallory

      September 26, 2012 at 8:37 AM

      Clarissa, I think it’s really significant that your ideas are more intrusive and frequent when you’re already being creative, and smaller and scarcer when you’re not. Creativity really breeds creativity. (That or writers’ brains will come up with anything to avoid writing, even hatch other distracting plots.)

  2. ramblingsfromtheleft

    September 26, 2012 at 6:48 AM

    Thanks Corina. Loved this post. No bunnies or mice multiplying in my head. Crammed since I started driving my mom crazy telling “tall tales,” my head prefers to soar. I give you the image of the eagle … regal, free flying (also endangered) and to mix metaphors … able to leap capital T with a single bound 🙂

    • Corina Mallory

      September 26, 2012 at 8:40 AM

      See, you’re one of those people I used to envy like crazy back before I had any mice in my attic! Now that I’ve got them, I can just look on in awe at your eagles (and keep my little mice safe from your raptors).

  3. Liz Fredericks

    September 26, 2012 at 7:38 AM

    I love the notion of ‘plot mice’ – well said and on point. As Florence points out, those dang things multiple and pretty soon there’s no room for scampering until you put some of them on paper. Enjoyed your post!

    • Corina Mallory

      September 26, 2012 at 8:43 AM

      Yep, all I can do is keep putting my ideas on paper and hope my little mice start building nests for babies. (Ok, this metaphor MIGHT be starting to gross me out a little now.)

  4. Amberly Smith

    September 26, 2012 at 8:32 AM

    Great post Corina. I usually get characters in my head, yammering thoughts at me, and then have to figure out a plot for them to grow in. What is going to make their lives miserable? Then let’s reward them for overcoming all these trials with a Happily Ever After.

    • Corina Mallory

      September 26, 2012 at 8:52 AM

      Aw, a character first type. Lovely! My ideas seem to come to me as situations. What would happen if a person with characteristic (or background) x, found himself or herself in situation y? Then I build out the character as the situation evolves. I really do find it fascinating the different ways writers brains work. That initial spark is like magic, but there often seems to be a consistency and logic to it.

  5. Janis McCurry

    September 26, 2012 at 9:17 AM

    I, too, think of situations for characters first. What if…? It has to be uncomfortable and out of the ordinary life. I think how would this h/h handle it when all they’d ever known was the opposite. Hence, the reserved librarian forcing herself to become an exotic dancer in order to save her sister.

    • Corina Mallory

      September 26, 2012 at 9:27 AM

      Yep, that’s exactly how it works for me Janis! My first idea: how would someone depressed to the point of contemplating suicide react if she were kidnapped? If she wasn’t afraid to die, if she was kind of hoping to anyway, what would scare her about that situation and what could prompt her to fight to stay alive, even for just a little longer? See, there’s very little “idea” in my idea: suicidal person kidnapped. It’s mostly just a prompt for questions, and everything builds from there.

  6. Stephanie Berget

    September 26, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    My characters just show up at my door (literally, in the case of Lola the cross dresser). But that’s another story. I’d love to have a situation show up, but for now, I’ll be thankful for the amazing people my brain introduces me to. Great post.

  7. Meredith Allen Conner

    September 26, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    I have a notebook that I carry around at all times (or else I’m reduced to napkins) and I will write down my plot ideas there. Sometimes I find it easier to get them down on paper and out of my head so they are not intruding so much.

  8. Judith Keim

    September 26, 2012 at 2:12 PM

    Put me in the middle of a crowd and I come up with a ton of story ideas, basing them on the unsuspecting people I watch. But to write a novel, I come up with a specific idea, the main couple of characters, a title, names for characters and an ending and begin to go to work. I tend to get something down and then build layers…It’s so fun to come up with the idea and so hard to make it all come out right.

  9. maryvine

    September 26, 2012 at 8:18 PM

    Good post! I tend to find a place – area – figure out careers and then go from there. When I’m working on a project, I don’t usually think about the next project. It may be because I know I don’t have time to get something new going. So, somehow I can knock those little mice out of there until I’m ready for them.

  10. Peggy Staggs

    September 27, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    Those Plot Bunnies that plague Gail are scattered all over my house, yard, they follow me everywhere even to work. There are so many shoppers who will someday end up as dead bodies in my books. My problem is I have too many ideas and they keep intruding on my WIP. I’m glad you found your muse.


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