Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N IS FOR NAILS


N is for Nails  (Skim to the underlined genre or style that best suits you.)

Ideas can’t be copyrighted, so the ideas I will be posted below are free for you to use.

Nails may not be romantic on their own, but they sure can lead to Romance if your heroine just moved to a new place. Imagine that she’s anxious to make her new abode look homey. She’s got her favorite artwork ready to hang on the walls, and she even has a hammer, but she can’t find anything more than thumbtacks. It’s a small town and a Sunday–good luck finding anything open. The grocery store, yes, but nails are not in the aisles. Determined, she hustles over to the next-door neighbor, remembering the little old lady who waved from the porch the day before. Such a sweet old lady. She’d probably be more than happy to hand out a few nails. But when the door opens to a green-eyed man wearing tight-fitting jeans, your heroine forgets what she came for.  

In a Mystery it’s fun to keep the readers guessing, but you’ve got to dole out clues or you’ll lose them. It’s possible somebody was murdered with one of those huge four-inch nails that look more like spikes, because they would be deadly if thrust right into somebody’s jugular. But you might want to use them as clues in your story, instead of as the weapon. Either could work. If the victim died of suffocation because somebody gifted her with a pine box for eternal sleep (before her scheduled time), then the nails used in the coffin could be a clue. Maybe a couple of them had a small blotch of red on them, and one such stained nail was found by the librarian’s desk (a sister-in-law to the victim) when the sleuth was there for research and a few questions.

What is it? Red paint? Fingernail polish? Now your sleuth is going to get a sample of that paint or polish from the nail, and maybe be one step closer to the truth. If it’s paint, your sleuth might remember seeing somebody else with red paint splatters on his or her baggy clothing, which means this person was working on a project of some sort (or he’s an artist!). Your sleuth will follow the clue and have a chat. This could be the killer, or it could be somebody supposed to look like the killer. So, who is it? The evil librarian, the artist, or someone we’d never suspect?

Literary stories often involve a physical process of doing/creating something, and that process parallels the inner process of growth going on in a character’s mind. Building something can be a process. It can work like layering, a common technique in literary work. So your character has enough nails that by the time he’s done building what was to be a simple frame room, he might have an entire house. Something usable. Something that can withstand a lot of time and weather. What can that mean on the outside to a particular character? And what will the interior process mean when with each new nail securing the dwelling, the character comes closer to a realization about himself, and about life?

A nail in Children’s stories? Consider middle graders competing in a bicycling race. Either your protagonist or one of the other characters wants to boot out the most serious of competitors, and so he stabs a nail into the competitor’s bike wheel. Would your protagonist do that? You’d first have to make him likable and create a situation where readers will understand such an action, even if they don’t agree with it. But maybe it isn’t the protagonist who is so ruthless. Maybe the protagonist is the victim. How would he tackle the problem?

To make this story really interesting, you need something important at stake. I don’t think a little trophy is enough, although to some it might be. But maybe there’s a money prize, and the character who did the cheating only wanted the money because he or she really believes that it might save Grandma by getting her better care in a hospital strictly for cancer patients. Now the character has a strong motivation to win. Whether this is your point of view character or not, the dishonest action will have an emotional impact for the reader. If it isn’t your point of view character, will the point of viewer, once wise to what’s going on, lose the race on purpose? Make it a hard choice with something at stake on both sides and you’ll have a captivating story.

What ideas can you pull off the top of your head? If you can offer some ideas in genres I didn’t cover, such as horror, sci-fi, or fantasy, please share! Readers will appreciate it.

Happy writing!

 

70 comments:

  1. Excellent write Debi and a very interesting post to read,
    Yvonne.

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    1. Thanks, Yvonne, and now I'm headed over to your blog because I definitely need to listen to some good tunes today. :-)

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  2. My first thought was fingernails, polished, manicured or bitten to the quick with worry or anxiety or some other nervous syndrome or used as torture for prisoners of wars with nails ripped off - then I read more and realised 'nails' are also hardware, rusty nails scratching the skin leading to horrible infections. Interesting to see where that one word can take us.

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    1. Yes, it can travel in a few directions! :-)

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  3. A really interesting post. Thank you so much, nice to follow and connect through atozchallenge.
    http://aimingforapublishingdeal.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Thanks for the comment and the visit. I appreciate it.

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  4. It amazes me what you come up with. I'd love to spend a day with you and your imagination! Nails - who'd have thought. I love your romance parts, being the hopeless romantic I am, and now I can visualise the green eyed adonis in the tight jeans.... phew.

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    1. Yeah, he can come to my door any day. :-)

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  5. Not forgetting, of course, the materials found under the fingernails in autopsy or forensic examination. Good subject, thank you.

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  6. Great post Debi thank you .. am keeping a file on all these amazing ideas. The comments are also always interesting. I wish I could think of something off the top of my head ... the scent of neroli in the air, and the perpetrator wearing it or a trace of it on the nail/s?
    Garden of Eden Blog

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    1. Thanks for adding ideas, Susan. I appreciate it.

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  7. How about some creature that has terribly, disgustingly long nails? Or using an innocent victim's nail clippings in some kind of evil ritual?

    Madeline @ The Shellshank Redemption
    Minion, Capt. Alex's Ninja Minion Army
    The 2014 Blogging from A-Z Challenge

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    1. Excellent suggestions, Madeline. Thanks!

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  8. Hi,
    Your post yesterday was really good and today I have read your N post and can only say bravo. I especially love the paragraph and I quote it here," Literary stories often involve a physical process of doing/creating something, and that process parallels the inner process of growth going on in a character’s mind. Building something can be a process. It can work like layering, a common technique in literary work. So your character has enough nails that by the time he’s done building what was to be a simple frame room, he might have an entire house. Something usable. Something that can withstand a lot of time and weather. What can that mean on the outside to a particular character? And what will the interior process mean when with each new nail securing the dwelling, the character comes closer to a realization about himself, and about life?"

    It is so important to know that good writing is reflective of the writer's own self growth and maturity.

    Thank you and I am now a follower of your blog. Thanks also for visiting me.

    Ciao,
    Patricia

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    1. Thanks for the follow, and I'm glad you are enjoying my posts.

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  9. Remember when you posted K is for Keys and I told you about my HERE'S TO YOU posts? Well, I don't know what would have happened this week. I might have had to choose or just dedicated both of these to you. HERE'S TO YOU... again...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlAXZclowmI

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    1. What an excellent trailer. Thanks for this. I won't miss it, and even this little part brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much. You are a sweetie!

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  10. Very clever, Debi! I also thought of fingernails when I first saw the word nails. Funny.

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    1. Thanks, Linda. I love seeing what comes to mind for different people.

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  11. Debi, I chuckled at your stories. I too first thought of fingernails when you mentioned "nail"... particularly in a romance story. I like your thinking. I think you did a great job with each genre!

    I appreciate your stopping by my blog too. Thanks! Gwynn
    http://gwynnsgritandgrin.com

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    1. Thanks, Gwynn. It's great meeting people through this blog hop.

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  12. When I think "Nails," the first thing that pops into my head is horror--and deadly talons. I think they can be such an indicator of personality though. (For women and men.) They can say so much about a person.

    True Heroes from A to Z

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    1. Yes, they can, which I why I hide mine. :-)
      Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

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  13. A great clue for mysteries, especially if our sleuth keeps changing the color of her fingernails, as a message of sorts - that would tie in well with Message from yesterday. :)

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    1. That's a great idea. Thanks for your input.

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  14. When I saw the title of this post I was trying to figure out where you were going with it, but I get it now! :) I also thought you were talking about fingernails. haha

    I immediately thought of horror and how nails can be used for torture scenes. *shivers*

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    1. They could cause some great torture. :-)

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  15. Your post made me think of both metal nails and fingernails. "For the want of a nail.." and how fingernails can help in characterisation - long, short, bitten, painted and so on.
    Nilanjana.
    Madly-in-Verse

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    1. Yes, they can help distinguish different people and personality types. Thanks for the comment.

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  16. i think of nail polish. mostly cuz i host a lot of tea parties and the little princesses come in with sparkly nails.

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    1. Tea parties. How fun! I live in an area where it would be too far for anyone to drive out for a cup of tea.

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  17. Funny I thought fingernails at first. Very different scenarios you present. I think it would be difficult to use a nail as a murder weapon itself.

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    1. It would be very difficult with your average nail, because the victim would fight you I would imagine, so how would you get close enough to the right lane in the neck. But I think if it was the big hunk of an assailant, and here she use one of those huge four-inch nails that you use in 4 x 4 studs, and you jabbed it just right into the neck vein, that victim would be a goner. :-) More than likely a nail would be used as Keith Channing suggested, and it would be some kind of evidence under the victim's fingernails, and it would be discovered through forensics. That CSI stuff. :-)

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  18. Hardware also has its uses in fiction, absolutely! :)

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    1. Thanks, David! I didn't want to go with the obvious hammer clobbering someone over the head, so I decided to use one of its counterparts. :-)

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  19. For me nails means nail polish. But in writing it would be synonmous with horror and gore.

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    1. Yes, it gives more than one image. :-)

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  20. I will never look at nails (finger or hardware) ever again. Good post!

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  21. Interesting. I immediately thought how much chipped nail polish could tell about a character who was dressed to the nines and decked out with jewelry. Then, of course, a nail could be a perfect murder weapon and easily disposed of by driving it into a porch railing in need of repair. You've got me thinking.

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    1. I love that idea of driving it into a porch railing. Who would ever think to look there?

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  22. lol the nail stabbing in the bike wheel is so cheating. Had a screw in my car tire once, that count?

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    1. It sure does. I hope the culprit got caught. :-) And it wasn't me, honest.

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  23. What fun ways to use the item nails in a story! In horror, I can see people slowly tortured and killed by driving nails into them.

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    1. Yeah, so can I. Nightmare inducing images. :-) Thanks for stopping by, Cherie.

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  24. You've come up with some interesting ways of using nails. Like your theme. You should compile this at the end.

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    1. I suppose I could do that, but I don't know what I'd do with it from there. Thank you for stopping by.

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  25. Nails to construct something...something to house or maybe something to enclose...to shelter or maybe to hide away...(thinking, thinking...) :)

    The Immarcescible Word

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    1. I'm glad it's got you thinking. I appreciate the visit. :-)

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  26. Have a character who is a carpenter maybe? Could be interesting.

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  27. I like your idea of nails being used symbolically.
    For a children's story, how about a problem-solving story in which a child has to build something but he has no nails.
    Wendy at Jollett Etc.

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  28. Thanks for dropping by my blog and following debi.

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    1. Glad I did. Hope you're interested enough in my posts to follow me, too. :-)

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  29. Forget writing that romance, I want to be the character in that book! :P

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  30. I immediately thought of finger nails - you can tell so much of a person by their fingernails, it's a great character details. Are her nails perfectly polished, slightly chipped, covered with only remnants of black polish? Chewed to the quick? Hands long and elegant, rough and calloused?

    Your prompts are so inspiring!

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    1. Thanks and I agree about the fingernails being a sort of window. I hide mine. :-)

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  31. Sorry...I'm too good at typos.

    I'm impressed with all the journeys your brain goes one when considering one object like a nail. Your creativity inspires our creativity. Thanks, Debi.

    Thank you also for supporting my contest entry. I really appreciate it, and I'm very glad we've connected.

    xoRobyn

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    1. I hope you win. It was a good entry. Good luck!

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  32. Wow Debi..what an imagination! 'The nails unscrewed themselves and he emerged out of the coffin, to take his revenge...' My mind has wandered off now...Thanks for this! ;)

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    1. I am so glad it brought you inspiration! :-)

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  33. Or, the villain punctures the protagonist's bicycle tires with a nail to prevent him from winning. It's a great chance to show a child how to cope with this kind of frustration.

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    1. Yes, exercising coping skills is a good idea. Thanks for your input, Chuck.

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  34. I love how you come up with a story in each genre! Shows how one prompt can send the story in so many different directions. :)

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    1. Thank you, Kirsten, and thanks for the visit.

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  35. Gosh I can't believe how you come up with so many great ideas. Nails, I'd never have thought of so many...kudos.
    Maggie@expatbrazil

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