Monday, December 28, 2009

First Things First: Part II by Patti Lacy

This Manuscript Monday, we're pleased to welcome back Patti Lacy as she continues her series.

Love at First Sight—
A Captivating Idea Becomes Your Next WIP
by Patti Lacy

A woman carrying a fringed shawl and a notebook approaches my book-signing table. I smile, knowing who stands before me. A writer-in-progress.

“Hi.” We shake hands. “So you’ve written two books?”


“That’s what I want to do.”

I know.

“So…how do you get started?”

I bite back, “Do you have all day?” and schedule coffee. You can’t explain love at first sight in two minutes.

We meet at Coffee Hound in Normal. Latte steam curls into the air. Gorgeous!

“How do you get started?” she repeats before I take my first sip.

You are hooked, aren’t you?

How to start? Images, quotes, predicaments, grab me and won’t let go. I’d startle awake at 2:00 a.m. to see Mary, a barefoot child wearing a torn shift. “The little eejit’s got to go!” echoes off the walls of a dilapidated County Clare cottage. Tea sloshes in cracked cups.

Mary’s first memory, being given away.

That sad freckle face haunted me when Celtic music played. When I graded papers. When I watched a sitcom.

I fell in love with memories’ coloring life and God’s Romans 8:28 promise of working for good in ALL things. Even a five-year-old being “sold.”

I HAD to write Mary’s story: An Irishwoman’s Tale.

“But I’m a __________ (housewife, teacher, accountant). Where on earth can I find these stories?”

Where on earth?

The newspaper. (My Name is Sheba.)

Your past. We all have incidents ready to blossom into a compelling read. A mother with Alzheimer’s. A dead child. A miraculous cure.

Flip through albums. Storytell at reunions.

“One little story can’t possibly be enough.”

You may be right.

When I fall in love, the first puzzle piece is input in a computer file. Yeah, it’s a border piece! I pray and wait for interlocking pieces. A picture begins to emerge . . .

In What the Bayou Saw, a woman shared her story of separation from a neighbor because of segregation and a chain link fence. I imagined . . . two hands desperate to reach through steel gaps and a prejudiced society. But I needed more characters. Conflict. What’s a writer to do?

Time-travel to my Louisiana upbringing via old annuals and locked-away memories. More puzzle pieces emerged. Two former students grew the cast list. Pieces locked into place. A plot materialized, on my mind’s card table!

“But aren’t you messing with nonfiction? Real people’s lives?”

“There’s nothing new under the sun,” said Ecclesiastical Solomon. Authorities concur. Basic plots resonate in works penned and to be penned. We add passion and twists to intensify our work.

Mix and match stories to personalize your love at first sight. Nurture it until it stands proud on library and bookstore shelves!

You’ve fallen hard. What next?

Plot your usual way (SOP or outlining.) Develop characters. Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel book/workbook will help, as will Ingermanson’s snowflake method (,

Fall in love, then blossom that love into a lifelong affair, with your stories AND the writing process!

Patti Lacy thanks her parents for planting the love of stories in her heart and for laying a foundation for a career in teaching. At age 50, she entered the world of writing and has published two novels, An Irishwoman’s Tale and What the Bayou Saw. Patti and her husband live in Normal, Illinois and love to take long walks with their dog named Laura.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful post, Patti!

    We need to fall in love with our stories in order to pour into them what's needed for our readers to love them, too. ;-D

    My husband has asked me more than once - "How do you come up with all that stuff in your stories?"

    Well - like other writers, I've been blessed with an imagination. But, you're right - we only have to look around us for story ideas. As the saying goes, "Real life is stranger than fiction."

    Thanks for giving us this series. :-D


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