ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
2 WITCH. Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
-- From Shakespeare's Macbeth
These days, I'm plotting, tossing a lot of ingredients I barely understand into the cauldron of my work in progress. It's an exciting time because almost anything can find its way into the story: aspects of characters I've met in real life, shards I've plucked from gossip or news items, shiny bits of life that have caught my eye and won't let go.
It's a dangerous time, too. With the wrong combination, the whole plot can blow up, showering the story with corrosive gook and melting down my bright hopes for a worthy novel... as well as a completed manuscript before my springtime (gulp) deadline.
But more often than not, the strange ingredients, no matter how disparate (or desperate) eventually form worthy characters and a cohesive tale. How does it happen? I could tell you it's all due to hard work, time... imagination.
Or I could speak the truth: that's it's a form of magic -- a mystery I've never understood and can't begin to explain.
So what's your recipe for beginning a new story? Do you dream plots, as does an author friend of mine? (I'm frankly jealous.) Do you start with a simple idea and then embroider upon it? Do you begin with a character? A place? A situation? (I've done each of these, at one point or another.) How do you get started?
And does anybody have an eye of newt to lend me?