Everyone has this amazing tool at their disposal. Scientists still don’t understand quite how it works, but they do know that we all have a duality of minds: your consciously thinking mind, and your subconscious mind. Whether you are creating a character that people will want to read, composing a song, or trying to solve a dilemma at the office, your SM can do the work for you. It’s true!
Ever been with friends discussing a movie or a song, and you can’t remember the name of the lead actor? “It’s on the tip of my tongue!” you might say. Finally, you give up. The next morning it hits you. You remember the name. Well, folks, that is your SM at work. It’s a very simple example, but proof that your mind can problem-solve while you are not consciously thinking about the problem.
There are two basic things to remember about your SM. First, it never sleeps. It’s always working, regardless of what you are doing. Second, your SM has no filters or screens. It’s like the mind of an innocent child and will soak up everything without prejudice.
So, how do you put your SM to work for you? Very easily. You must fuel, or feed it! For example, when I’m working on a new character, I will sketch out all the basics. A background, including family and career. Physical description. Accent and manner of speaking. Oddities or quirks, such as a man who always jingles the change in his pocket when he’s nervous. Next, I’ll think about the plot and how the character fits in. And then it’s time to feed my SM. If my character were the owner of a bakery for example, I’d quiz some pastry chefs, subscribe to a trade magazine, and watch cooking shows. If my character was a sleazy landlord, I’d read some articles about fraud and scams, maybe interview a property manager or two, and check out the real estate market where the book takes place. Bottom line? Go on road trips. Talk to people. Read applicable magazines. Attend pertinent continuing education classes or seminars. Brainstorm with friends. AND THEN FORGET ABOUT IT! One of the best times to put your SM to work for you is just before bedtime. Forget Leno or Letterman and take fifteen minutes to review your notes or read that trade magazine. Go to sleep thinking about your project. You’ll be amazed at what you come up with.
Once you begin to utilize the power of your SM, your characters will become multi-dimensional and real. They’ll begin telling you what they would say or do in a given situation. Your plots will suddenly come together in a way that makes perfect sense. That song you’ve been trying to compose will vividly spring to life. And that problem at work? You’ll suddenly have the solution, and in hindsight, you’ll probably wonder why you didn’t think of it sooner.
Oh yeah. One more thing. If you’re going to tap into the power of your SM, there are a few rules. You must avoid negative people. You must keep an open, welcoming mind. And you must try to remain stress-free. Like everything else, your subconscious mind performs best when nurtured.
It’s how I plan, plot, and write. SOUTHERN FATALITY has just been re-released in paperback, SOUTHERN POISON is now out in hardcover, and I just sent in the manuscript for the third in this mystery series. Jersey Barnes is such a fun character to write… I just love it when the characters start telling you what they’re going to do next!