Welp, it’s time for me to get serious. I’m under contract to write a middle grade contemporary novel, and I have pretty much maxed out my procrastination time. I’ve already generated the main concept and (some) of the main cast. Now it’s time to work on the outline. 

This morning, I sat down to brainstorm the opening scene. I know what it needs to do—to establish the characters and introduce one of the major conflicts that will play out through the novel—but, for some reason, I drew a blank on how to get started. 

I tried to picture my characters in a scene, but everything seemed like something I’d done before. School? Mall? Coffee shop? No, no, no. I tried to think about where tweens hang out. What places does my own young teenager like to go?

And then it hit me: the graveyard.

I realize that this sounds like my daughter is Wednesday Addams, but nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that the graveyard is right beside her middle school. The kids don’t usually hang out there, but they often walk by it or through it. We live in a small town, and the graveyard is pretty, like a park. It’s peaceful.

The idea of a graveyard inspired other thoughts and memories

I remembered visiting my grandfather’s grave with my grandmother. She always kept a scrub brush and gallon of water in the trunk, and when we would go, she would pour water on the granite gravestone and scrub it down. Then she would fuss with the marigold bushes she had planted there, removing dead buds and watering. 

I remembered a trip to a graveyard in Guatemala, where the locals held an annual kite festival to celebrate the Day of the Dead. Everyone trekked out with bouquets of marigolds (the flowers of the dead) and they would picnic on the aboveground crypts. Kites would soar on the wind, like the souls of loved ones. 

With those memories, I suddenly had characters and motivations and loads of material to create a gripping opening scene, one that would allow readers to experience a familiar place in a new way. 

This week, why not try going on a walk or looking at photos of places online. Write down some thoughts and associations, and see if any of that material inspires a scene. Wherever you are, you can always capture ideas in Bookflow using your phone. Bookflow is optimized for mobile, so you don’t need to download a new app—you can just open your browser and login.