Last year the kids and my husband and I were watching reruns on a Saturday afternoon of a popular 1980s sitcom. In one of the episodes a character announces his intention to bury a time capsule in the backyard and open it in 25 years, all in the name of proving how much he loves his wife. The show wound to its expected conclusion, but the idea of the time capsule stuck with me.
I mulled the idea of a container used to preserve precious objects. What would happen, I thought, if the person who buried it couldn’t open it? What if someone else found that time capsule and then had to figure out what the contents meant?
This small brushstroke of inspiration provided me with the sketch of the second story in my first book, Two for the Heart.
I write short stories and have begun publishing them in serial format. I named the series “Stories in Pairs”, and each book contains two stories. Both stories share a theme, which you find out from the title, and a link, which you discover after reading the stories.
The first book of the series, Two for the Heart, offers readers two stories about the power of love and how far it can take us if we let it lead. That’s the theme. The link comes from a character mentioned in passing in the first story, called “The Proposal”, becoming the main character in the second story, called “Remembrance”.
In “Remembrance” two sisters reunite after 11 years apart. They don’t want to have anything to do with one another, yet circumstances force them to come face to face. One of them suffers from temporary amnesia—my “time capsule” from the sitcom. While a person’s memory and a time capsule may differ, they perform the same function: they both hold items of importance. When a person loses access to either, the consequences can alter a life in drastic ways.
Of course I didn’t come up with the idea of temporary amnesia right away. That idea came after several brainstorming sessions and several story drafts. I knew from the beginning, however, that I needed to write a story about losing access to something precious and how that loss would affect my characters. After going back and forth with my editor on the story (in which she shook her head a lot and I scuffed the ground with my foot and tried to argue weakly why I really needed to keep the story elements that weren’t working) I finally published “Remembrance”.
Give yourself a lot of leeway when an idea catches your imagination. Just because it doesn’t work with a current work-in-progress doesn’t mean it won’t work in the future. Jot it down, either in a physical notebook or in a document on your favorite word processor. Then play what should be a writer’s favorite game—What if.
Keep playing it until you answer every story question, big or small, and don’t accept the first or even the second or third answers you find. Those answers are the ones that everyone expects and that have probably been done before, dozens of times over. Keep asking the question until you astound yourself. When you astound yourself, you’ll be more likely to amaze your readers. And when you get to that point of astonishment, that’s when you start writing.
Since the start of her publishing career in 2005 Ekta has edited and written about everything from health care to home improvement to Hindi films. She has worked for: The Portland Physician Scribe, Portland, Oregon's premier medical newspaper; show magazines for home tours organized by the Portland Home Builders Association; ABCDlady.com; The Bollywood Ticket; The International Indian; and the annual anthologies published by the Avondale Inkslingers, based in Avondale, Arizona.
In 2011 Ekta stepped off the ledge and became a freelancer. She edits short stories and novels for other writers, contributing to their writing dreams. She is also a part-time editor for aois21, and she reviews books for her own book review blog as well as NetGalley, TypeReel, and Bookpleasures.com.
Prairie Sky Publishing serves as the publishing arm of Ekta's professional writing blog, The Write Edge (thewriteedge.wordpress.com). When she's not writing, Ekta is a domestic engineer--known in the vernacular as "a housewife." She's married, has two energetic daughters who keep her running, and she divides her time between keeping house and fulfilling her writing dreams.