Thirty Minutes on the Plot Machine

“Where do you get your ideas?”

Over the years, I have read many interviews in which authors claim this is the most asked question they get, so much so that many of them make up witty and humorous answers. So far in my writing career I’ve done a number of interviews and no one has asked me this question. Rather than feel left out anymore, I decided to take the proverbial bull by the horns and deal with it here and now. But to do so, I need to digress for a moment, so bear with me.

My birthday is coming up soon (Jan. 20 for those of you who want to mark it on your calendars) and, since I was born in the same year as the Big Mac, Penthouse magazine and, less notably, the very year man first landed on the moon, that means I will be turning forty-four. The age doesn’t bother me in the slightest because, as you will often hear me say, life begins at forty (okay, you caught me. I probably wasn’t the first person to say that). However, there are things that have begun to change with age, one of which is the speed of my metabolism. While I have been good at cutting out those also-turning-forty-four Big Macs, I am the possessor of a great love of both chocolate and ice cream. In fact, if you told me I had to either give up those two items or my two children, I would have a moral dilemma on my hands (having said that, my son is 18 and has skills as a landscaper, so he’d be worth a fair penny on the black market. Hmm.).

So, in order to keep my kids around, I head off to the gym.

I find weights take a certain amount of concentration, or provide a certain amount of distraction, depending on your point of view. But on my cardio days, when I work on the elliptical trainer, things are different. Cardio

A plethora of stories waiting to happen

A plethora of stories waiting to happen

is boring. I don’t take an ipod with me, the TVs are always tuned to something uninteresting (and the volume is turned off, even if it is anything good) and it’s too hard to text or talk on the phone while bouncing up and down like that. It leaves me nothing to do but think. And what does a writer think about given time on his hands? Well, if you’re a dedicated, serious writer, you think about your writing.

From this moment heretoforth, elliptical trainers all over the world shall be known as plot machines.

My NaNoWriMo project, the third Icarus Fell novel titled Secrets of the Hanged Man (expect it this spring), was plotted and planned, outlined and imagined almost completely during a string of thirty minute sessions on the plot machine.

It began as I thought about three different stories I’d started years ago; none of them had grown further than a page or two, and all were very much focused on the character, and that was the one thing they had in common: they were about a male in his late teens. One was growing a tail, one was suicidal but couldn’t die, and the last was such a bad luck charm that everyone he cared about ended up dead. As arms and legs pistoned back and forth one day with a sweaty man in his 50s to one side of me, a woman more interested in texting than getting in shape on the other, and Days of Our Lives playing silently on the TV, I started imagining one character that brought all three of these stalled ones together.

“Hmm,” I thought, somewhat breathless as my thirty minutes of exercise drew to a close. “This could be interesting.”

Unfortunately, my version comes with a bald man.

Unfortunately, my version comes with a bald man.

That was the first time I became conscious of the effects of the plot machine. From that moment onward, every time my somewhat stinky workout runners hit the machine, my mind starts working. I have come to think it operates on the same principle Dr. Xavier and Magneto used when they built Cerebro, the super computer that enhances the good doctor’s psychic ability so he can detect other potential X-Men from afar. My plot machine doesn’t work at long distance (yet), nor does it help me find hot blue chicks who can shape shift, but it sure seems to enhance whatever the hell is going on inside that weird little device in my head that creates stories.

So there you have it, my answer to the age-old question. I didn’t make it up and I can’t completely explain it but, as I keep my belly in check, my imagination works overtime.

Now excuse me, but I have some fat to burn and a story to write.

Bruce Blake is the best-selling author of the Icarus Fell dark urban fantasy novels and the Khirro’s Journey epic fantasy triology. His latest book, Spirit of the King (Khirro’s Journey Book 2) is now available on Kindle, Kobo and Smashwords.


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