Partly it’s slow going because there’s so much going on right now in my non-writing life, but part of it is simply that I was trying to force an idea that wasn’t quite right.
Ideas come to me in bits and pieces. A particular character, a particular dilemma, a certain relationship dynamic…but sometimes not even that much. Sometimes the spark is just a scene or the way a song makes me feel. I’m not sure you can really analyze the creative drive -- or maybe what I mean is, the analysis can drain the magic out of the flash of inspiration.
I got the idea for “Baby, it’s Cold” from a brief article I read about hiring a chef for the holidays. I thought that would be a very fun thing -- although the idea of a professional chef trying to make sense of my kitchen? Madness. But fiction isn’t reality.
Initially the idea seemed straightforward. Someone would hire a chef for the holidays. I could picture my chef: tough, tattooed, pierced…not your normal TV chef. Did he maybe have a prison record? Hmm. Rocky. Yes, I would name him Rocky.
So who would hire Rocky? Someone with money, obviously. Someone throwing a party? And what would their conflict be?
This was the problem. Jesse would hire Rocky. I knew what Jesse looked like because he was inspired by Johanna Ollila’s cover art months ago. But though I knew what Jesse looked like…I had no sense of Jesse. Why was he hiring a chef? And how would this tie into the anthology theme of being housebound for the holidays?
I decided that Jesse worked for an actor who was throwing a Christmas Eve party. Jesse was organizing everything because he was this actor’s PA, but at one time they had been lovers…
Hmm. That just might...no.
Already I could feel it starting to go off the rails. But I persisted. So…Jesse was still working for this selfish asshole actor because…because…he had written a script and this guy was going to produce it so he could star in it and that would be Jesse’s big break so he was putting up with the indignity of staying on and working for his ex.
Okay. And Jesse was coming down with a cold so he would be sort of feverish and acting out of character.
So a week went by and I kept trying to imagine the dialog but it Just. Wasn’t. Happening.
I didn’t like Jesse continuing to work for this jerk who was using him, and I couldn’t see what the attraction would be for Rocky. And why would a snooty actor -- or his wishy-washy PA -- hire someone as street as Rocky?
I turned to the research. What would Rocky cook? Maybe that would give me a hint.
Well, heck. Rocky could cook anything, that wasn’t terribly interesting.
No, what would be interesting would be trying to cook for someone like Rocky. Because Rocky was a perfectionist, critical, a bit arrogant. And if the scrambled eggs weren't right, he'd tell you.
And all at once I had it. Jesse turns up at Rocky’s hideaway cabin to cook a romantic Christmas Eve dinner for two. Except Rocky isn’t expecting Jesse because he and Jesse aren’t together anymore. And Jesse can’t cook. And Rocky’s current boyfriend also shows up...
I like it. It's funny. Nutty in a romantic comedy kind of way. There's natural conflict. The idea has evolved, changed, and now we just might have a story. I'll keep you posted.