I hate to throw out anything. Random buttons, rubber bands, old telephones, battered purses – you’ll find all those items and more lurking in the backs of drawers or corners of cabinets. You won’t see me on Hoarders any time soon, but I have trouble getting rid of anything I imagine I’ll need again one day, no matter how remote the chances.
The same rule applies to discarded ideas. For each book I write, I keep a corresponding notebook where I jot down ideas that I want to include at some point in the story. I refer to the notebook throughout the writing process, but usually, I find I can’t squeeze in everything. Oftentimes, the perfect situation didn’t arise. Sometimes I’d have to manipulate the story too much to make the idea work. Still other times, I’ve kept a running list along one particular vein, such as suggestions for super healthy but unappealing foods, and I find I simply don’t need them all.
Still, I save any idea I don’t use. Just because I didn’t include it in one particular book doesn’t mean I might not need it in another. I’ve had one idea in mind for the last two books and still haven’t found a place to use it, but I like the idea too much to give up.
It involves Zennia, the health-conscious cook at the O’Connell Organic Farm and Spa, where my main character, Dana, works. Dana loves fast food, gooey desserts, and anything with cheese. Zennia is always lecturing her on how she’s ruining her body and needs to eat wholesome, unprocessed, organic foods instead. I would love for Dana to walk into the kitchen at work one day
and find Zennia eating a Twinkie. I think it would be a fun shock for both Dana and the readers. It would only take a few paragraphs for the scene to unfold, but I haven’t managed to find the right place in a book yet (plus I may need to find another food besides a Twinkie in case those Hostess delights are really gone forever). So I lug my Twinkie idea from one notebook to the next, sure
I’ll find a home for it someday.
That’s true for most ideas. They may not work in a book, or maybe the idea was terrible to start with, but I cling to them all, just in case one day I find the perfect place for them. Ideas don’t take up much room, and I’d hate to toss one that I’ll eventually need. It might be the difference between a good story and a great story.
Do you have a notebook full of unused ideas?