Jan 6, 2012

A Silly Kind of Motive

By Debra Erfert

I’m new to the ANWA blog team, and in a way to introduce me, I thought I’d tell you how I began to write—where that first moment of inspiration came from. Quick, it’s not to late to turn on Live with Regis and Kathy Kelly sans Regis. No? Still here?

It’s been 8 years since the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie finally was pulled from the theaters. I’d anticipated that film months before it arrived, loving every brief scene splashed across my television screen. When it finally showed, I dragged my husband—my sons—my friends—and, out of desperation, I went alone to watch when nobody else could stand seeing it again. And then the powers-at-be took my precious, precocious pirate away from me, and I was lost. I needed my Captain Jack fix, but what could I do? It would be months before the DVD appeared on the shelves at Wal-Mart. I’d surely die of withdrawals long before then. I could feel the stomach cramps start as I walked out of the theater on that last night. My mood fell into a darkened, despondent state.

Then this not-so crazy idea flittered into my brain. Why not write a sequel to the movie? Not only would I be plunged into the middle of Captain Jack’s life, I might even be able to sell the manuscript to Disney, or Jerry Bruckheimer! Oh, boy, I was really onto something. Okay, no, I’d never written anything more than comparative arguments in my college English classes, but, really, how different could writing a book be?

Stop rolling your eyes!

I’d just graduated from college with a degree in drafting, so I was thinking from the left side of my brain. My surveying class worked us up from basic math through trigonometry—totally a left-brain function, very organized. When working on blueprints you need to start from the very bottom of the building first—the foundation. This is what I did with building my pirate story. Of course then I had no idea of the basic, simplest things, like dialog punctuation for example. I never really paid attention to those things when I was just a reader. I doubt if anybody does—unless they’re an aspiring writer, then every little mistake sticks out like glowing green neon.

Oops, got off on a tangent.

Let me back up . . . the foundation of my pirate book—that’s right. I visualized the parts I wanted: the opening, the characters, the perils, the adventures, and the conclusion. I could “see” it all in my head. I just needed to get it down in my computer. I remember . . . it took three weeks, and the manuscript was a total of 109 pages long. It truly was my first novella.  I felt like I could do anything—except sell something that was copywrited. What? Nooooooo! I spent all that time working on something that Disney couldn’t even legally read and neither could Bruckheimer? It would never be anything more than my own personal story when I needed a Sparrow fix. Ah, well!

Now what, I thought. Writing that short story was a total blast. Could I write a longer manuscript—one that was completely my own idea, with my own characters? “Yes—yes, I know I could!” I told me.

If you’re a writer and not just a lover of books, what inspired that first draft? Another book? Maybe a weird looking pirate in a silly movie? A story or character you couldn’t get out of your head while you lay in your bed at night when you were young? Did you make up stories for you children, or were you the storyteller when you were a child? There are thirteen other bloggers on this site, and more ANWA members who click over and read the posts. I want to know you better.  

Everyone has a story. What’s yours? 


  1. My Mom was a reporter while she was pregnant with me so I think hearing the typa typa typa ding! in utero influenced me.

    Great post Debra. Of course any post that includes pictures of Jack Sparrow is great.

  2. I thought I was weird because I wrote stories in my head every night as I drifted off to sleep. I actually thought I was the only one who did that and I didn't tell anyone about it until a few years ago when I decided to write one down (after some encouragement from an editor.) I was a closet writer I guess. I have been enjoying the fun of it and getting through the struggles of "writer's block" and I'm almost done. Writing rocks!

  3. Great post!

    I've always loved making up stories, but when I walked out of the theater after seeing Return of the Jedi I felt gypped that we didn't get to see a wedding for Princess Leia and Han Solo, (the celebration with the ewoks would have been so perfect!) so I went home and wrote down how I would have ended it. And my "writing" career was off!

    How funny that movies inspired us both. :)

  4. In my adult life, I've always enjoyed writing creatively. I would come up with extremely extended metaphors as answers to school assignments. People told me I should write a book!

    So, instead of doing it the "right" way, as you guys did, by actually WRITING something, I did research. I read some how-to books and took some classes. I was in a class being taught by Jeff Savage and a germ of an idea came to me. I ran with it, got some general plot points, a rough outline and 3 years later, I only have a couple of chapters done! Yay! (Boo!)

    Great post, Debra. Sounds like your story is destined for fan fiction, but you may not want to delve into those piles to read. I hear they can get ... steamy. And icky.

    p.s. it's "powers-that-be", sometimes abbreviated as PTB. It's ok, just last week my mom informed me that as a kid, I pronounced the name "Syd" as SIDE. You know, SIDE Hoff?

  5. Imagine how I felt when I logged onto this blog a few minutes ago and saw my boyfriend staring back at me! ;) I've always had a soft spot for swashbucklers, starting with Treasure Island as a kid. POTC has been very inspirational to me, mostly for my fashion choices but also a little bit for writing. My steampunk WIP, Cobalt, has pirates in it, so I fall back on POTC (and other pirate lore) for inspiration.

    My local writers' group friend has a friend who wrote a POTC prequel and Disney bought it. >:( I think she had it pre-arranged with them or something. Whatever. LOL

    I can't even come up with a definite answer to your question. Seems like I've been telling stories as long as I could read. I used to staple pages together into booklets and then write and illustrate them. I decided to get serious about writing in high school, when my favorite teacher told me I should write.

  6. Janice, I suspect talents can come through bloodlines. A couple of years ago when I finally spoke about my writing to my dad, I told him about sending out a query letter to a story I wrote. He told me that when he was a senior in high school he wrote a short story that was published in their literary magazine. This was something I never knew about my father. It shocked and totally amazed me that my dad, an accountant, could use the right side of his brain and write fiction. Yeah, I suspect I got my talent from him.

    Kami, I always--ALWAYS haves stories floating in my brain while I'm trying to go to sleep, even long before I wrote that first story. I couldn't help it. And really? I thought I was the only weird one out there with that problem. (problem?) I certainly never told anybody about it--certain they'd think me daft and suggest professional counseling. I was the perfect "closet writer." Even my husband didn't know what I was doing on my computer. He thought I was emailing. *grins*

    Julie, Inspirations come in the strangest places, huh? I'd love to have seen what Princes Leia's dress looked like--how you described it. Or were you an under-describer? lol. I certainly glad Han could give you, ahem, a hand in launching your career as a writer.

    Joh, I'm so glad you set me straight on PTB. Hopefully I'll remember it. Oh, and I've already clicked over to FanFic, and I've read some of the *clears throat* provocative Captain Jack serial chapters. I don't think my rated "G" chapters would hold those readers attention. Sad, but true.

    Kristin, I have your boyfriend's poster lining the inside of my closet. *Shush* Don't tell anybody. It sounds like you should try your hand at writing and illustrating a children's book, or have you done so already? I have one started in my files, but since it's supposed to be done in poetry, it probably won't get any farther than that one page and it will stay hidden forever in that file. What a wonderful high school teacher you had. She? gave you that gentle push you needed. We should've all been so lucky.

  7. Being the youngest, I often babysat my nieces and nephews and told them stories when I was growing up. My dyslexic spelling kept me from persuing that until computers and spell check. Going back to college with 6 of my 8 children still at home in the early 90's helped too. (Did math first to get it out of the way.)

  8. Bless that Jack Sparrow. Funny where inspiration comes from . . .

  9. Deb & all,
    Wow what an inspiring bunch you guys are! No wonder I joined ANWA. When I was a child growing up on a 38 acre farm in Tempe, AZ I was regularly found writing stories and my three older sibs and I would put on plays in our barn for the neighbor kids. But my novel writing came one day years later after I was married with 7 children. I was sitting at the window in the dining room when a storyline came to mind. After several days of it popping in and out of my thoughts I finally started writing it down in my computer. That was about 25 years ago... now that's a long time! Hopefully it won't take me another 25 to get them finished!
    ~ Joyce S. of Tumbleweed Lane

  10. Donna, it took me a solid ten years to get my degree. I took classes, part-time, while my boys were in school. I finally graduated in 2006. Yay! I don't have dyslexia, but I depend on spell check heavily. I'm so glad this modern technology can help you achieve your love of writing.

    Rene, even now, after probably 30 viewings of the original POTC, I still laugh as hard as I did the first time I saw it. It's so darn funny. IMOHO

    Joyce, isn't it amazing how fast 25 years can go by? You are a storyteller at heart, and you're in the right place. ANWA is full of sisters just like you--like us.

  11. My first novel was inspired by a situation that really disturbed me. I'd met an African immigrant who'd been severely abused by her husband. She seemed to have so much working against her--didn't know the language, had a bunch of kids to take care of, no self-esteem. Basically, I wrote about her because I wanted her to get out of that situation.

  12. I love POTC also. I get ideas from dreams and the weird way I combine things that occur to me.

  13. Rebecca, you must've written a non-fiction novel. I can't imagine being in that situation. How devastating. I hope your book helped.

    Susan, my husband can't remember any of his dreams--ever! But I can. And I can even break them down to bits and pieces. I find I dream about what I'm worried about--well, mostly. There are those random dreams of swashbuckling heroes that catch me off guard sometimes. *sighs heavily*

  14. Twilight inspired my first novel. Writing a novel is like therapy and I loved it so much, I'm working on another one.

  15. Mine got started writing Starsky and Hutch stories for and with friends who were also fans. TV does count right?

  16. Laura, don't hate me, but I just recently started watching Twilight. I saw the first one on television, and now I'm waiting for the rest to arrive on DVD through the mail. *sighs* I've become a Twilighter . . .

    Terri, I've probably seen every episode of the original Starsky and Hutch, and yeah, TV totally counts. If I could sit down and continue some series, I would bring back Heath Barkley's heartbreakingly beautiful soft voice and blue eyes, and have him rescue another female in distress off a runaway horse. Oh, so many--so many . . .

  17. I can't remeber a time when I didn't make up stories about people I'd see walking down the street, driving in the car next to us, waiting in a line somewhere, whatever. Then in addition to reading to my kids a lot, I would make up stories at their bedtime starring them and their friends.

    I didn't officially start writing until about three and a half years ago, after a particularly intense reading binge and a lifetime of other creative pursuits (singing, acting,songwriting, etc). I thought one day, "I wonder what it would take to write a novel, and what would I write about if I did try to write one?" That night in bed an idea popped into my head with characters so vivid that I HAD to write them down and get to know them better. Hello, new obession/now passion.

    What a great journey it's been!

    Thanks for asking. What a fun post and comments to read.


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