I feel* -- at times -- like the ancient mariner in search of a wedding guest to hold with my glittering eye. You see this is the crucial phase and stage in ANY good writer's process: to see if they can take the reluctant reader away from the feasting and merry minstrelsy** and bind them to their tale, that, willy-nilly they must read. Must finish, somehow.
Now, of course, if the reader is not reluctant, and you are a name they recognise and trust to give them an entertaining read, they'll sit down on the stone and be hypnotised, even if you take your own sweet time about it, and tell them all about the setting and the weather first. For the rest of us, you have an 'elevator pitch' - a paragraph, maybe a page or two if you've been fortunate enough to be granted a good cover, and a bored wedding guest.
However, seeing as I am back on the amatuerish side of ancient marinering, I've found the need to hypnotise wedding guests starts long before the book is on the shelf. It actually starts before there is a book. You see, I have a head with serious decay issues. Ideas ferment up in it like - well, like a fermenting brain. Yes, that was an image you didn't need. It produces WAY too many ideas, and many are best left alone. And the trouble with a lot of these strange ideas is that that 1)I don't really understand them or the story implication behind them myself. 2)Many of them seriously lack the glittering eye to hold an audience, but are more like the glistening something else. So I need a winnowing system - a reluctant audience. It's a worth trying process: if an idea appeals to me, I find an unsuspecting soul(and preferably hoping to rush off elsewhere, poor victim) and I try to explain it to them. If they hit me with sharp objects it was a rotten idea. If they are late for wherever they're going and still keep asking me questions... it's a winner.
I can sell that Albatross.
To put this in slightly less artistic terms, what actually talking the idea through with another person (one who does not know what you am talking about) does for you is to force you into the situation you will be when giving the concept to your agent, publisher, and most importantly to your reader. It forces one to actually formalise and condense the vague, grand concept in your head. Finally it does something that all too few writers do: forces you (well, me anyway)to build a far far broader background to the story in your head, because, inevitably the wedding guest starts asking questions (and not just 'when can I get out here?'). For each of us, of course, the process varies, but this is where I get a real handle on a story.
So what works for you? Do your ideas stay a dark secret in your head until you write them? Do you write them out? Formalise them?
Or have I merely given you a reason to run a mile when you see me on the horison?
Here is my current one:
"I can't cope any more!"
My mother said that about twice a day.
Usually about me.
Huh. I couldn't cope with me either, and I've got no escape. I didn't fit, and I didn't belong and I didn't like it.
But this time she was shouting it down the ‘phone line to my father in Oman. And she normally won't even speak to him. Keeps it to snarky e-mails about money. I know, I looked. Her password is so lame.
"He's a changeling, Tom! He's not normal."
I couldn't hear my Dad's answer to that. But I bet my mother didn't even know what a changeling was. I kinda wished I was one. It had to beat ‘loser'. Maybe Faerie glamor let you look taller, cooler, like you had an I-phone. Maybe it let you get away with shoplifting without getting busted.
"That won't work. The school has asked me to remove him. I don't know what do, Tom!"
*I might feel like one, but it is a tactile illusion, created by the smell. Please stop touching me. It's so embarrassing.
**It is SO a real word. If it was good enough for Coleridge, it is good enough for thee.