While working on Merrick Maples and the Legend of the Lost Stone, I did a lot of research about pirates and the types of things they were interested in. I asked myself such questions as, what motivated them? Were they all really rum-drinking, buried-treasure-hunting sea dogs as movies and books romanticize them to be? Could I have Jack Sparrow come and captain my crew? Would it be hard for my thirteen-year-old characters to join them? But the more research I did, I kept coming back to the question of treasure and what kind of “treasure” or reward would motivate my characters enough to act. For some, the answers were obvious: immortal power and slave subjects, the opportunity to plunder for spoils in a new world, and so on. But other answers surprised me. I mean, really, who knew that magical fizzy soda in my characters’ fantasy world could be such a good motivator?
All this talk about buried treasure is even a motivator for myself as a writer. Let’s be honest: as writers, we all share a dream that we will suddenly become inspired with a story idea, sit down at a computer, and then proceed to write the world’s best novel in a single draft. Obviously that’s not going to happen unless you’re superhuman, and those of us without super powers, can easily become frustated during the writing and revising process. We’ll start writing a draft, love it, leave it alone for a while, and then come back to read it again and discover that it’s the worst thing that we could possibly have written in our entire lives. And, due to our lack in superpowers, we start spiraling down into thinking that being a writer was a bad idea and that we should never write anything again, ever.
Don’t worry, this is exactly where my pirate research and talk about buried treasure comes in handy. Your motivator here should be the thought that your story idea is amazing. Don’t give up on it! Think about that line that spurred your idea in the first place. That’s the core of your story—a gold piece, if you will—and the buried treasure is your finished novel. I call it the “buried treasure” because the elements of your soon-to-be-finished novel are in there; you just have to dig them out. Now, think about those pirates again. When you see the glee on their faces after digging up their treasure chest, don’t you think they probably thought the journey was all worth it?
So, what gets you inspired? How do you decide on a story idea? What’s the best “buried treasure” story you ever found in your own writing? I would love to hear your comments.