There’s been a lot of buzz lately about my recently published novel, Foreign Identity. I’ve talked about the genre and how it’s not quite conventional. I’ve had a couple of giveaways. (If you didn’t win, then keep reading. You’re about to get another chance to enter.)
The idea for the book started in a very simple, very ordinary way.
At the time I was participating in a writing blog called The Creative Copy Challenge. The sole purpose of the blog is to provide ten words (twice a week) as a writing prompt, daring writers to come up with a short story or poem using all of the words.
Foreign Identity started with ten little words in a post on April 20th, 2010. After the initial post, I continued writing the story on the CCC, adding to it twice a week. I followed the prompts the whole time, forcing myself to fit the words in. Sometimes they directed the story went and other times I molded them to the story already in my head. I wrote more than half of the novel in serial form, one 1000 word (approximately) scene at a time. When I got to a pretty big cliffhanger I stopped posting and wrote the rest of the story in private, saving the final reveal for when I would publish the book.
I wrote that first post having no idea of the plot or where the story would lead. That made it fun and exciting to write. I love mysteries and puzzles. So as a creative experiment, instead of starting Foreign Identity with an outline, I started with a problem and worked to find the solution.
The Thrill of Being a Reader
Readers have commented on the thrill they felt when caught in the mystery of the book and their attempts to try and solve the puzzle. Often writers don’t get to experience that same thrill of discovery with their own books. We usually have the end in mind before the journey even begins. And in a way, that didn’t seem quite fair. The mystery is what makes it fun. This was part of my motivation for starting with a problem rather than a solution. (I have to say that it’s not an ideal way to write. I’ve since found that I prefer writing through a more thoughtfully organized method).
Once I’d decided to start with a problem, I needed to figure out what that problem was. What situation could I throw a couple of characters into that would be complex and seem impossible? My answer was this: chain them up in a nondescript room and strip them of all their memories. And to top that off, leave them devoid of interaction with their captor and without any clue if they even had a captor.
Perfect. (Insert evil writer laugh.)
After that it was just figuring out how to solve my poor characters’ dilemma. How would they escape? Once they did, what would be waiting for them? At that point I came up with a full back story and an elaborate scheme for why they might be in such a situation. But instead of telling the readers, I used clues that raised more questions than they answered. The television show Lost was a great example of how to write a properly suspenseful story without completely frustrating the viewers.
When you read Foreign Identity, you might feel the urge to figure out what’s behind it all, to put the puzzle pieces together. In fact I hope you will. So far I’ve succeeded in mystifying most readers. In my mind, that’s a good thing. I love stories that make me think, question, piece things together, and then end up with an unexpected twist. An enjoyable book is one that surprises me.
I’ve done my best to pull all of that together in Foreign Identity. I hope you enjoy it like a thrill ride that takes you to unexpected heights and then brings you back to reality.
A Giveaway and a Challenge
In honor of the Creative Copy Challenge and to celebrate how it inspired my book, I’m giving away a paperback copy of Foreign Identity. To enter all you have to do is stretch your creative muscles a bit. You don’t have to be a writer, but you’ve got to be willing to have a little fun.
Here’s what you have to do: go to the Creative Copy Challenge. Click on the writing prompt challenge for today, June 11th. Write a short piece using the ten challenge words and post it on the site. The deadline is 10pm CST on Sunday, June 17th. I’ll select a winner from the entries. Don’t stress out about it–just have fun!