Leap Day as Writing Inspiration

For this unique event, here are some unique suggestions for using leap day as writing inspiration.

Speculative fiction

Such an unusual day seems ready-made for inspiring speculative fiction. In the thirteen-book series, The Notebook of Doom by Troy Cummings, Alexander Bopp’s leap year birthday proves pivotal to the plot as he and his elementary school friends battle monsters in their hometown. The first book starts with Alexander moving to Stermont right around his birthday. The importance of his birthday isn’t revealed until the last book. Mr.Cummings uses this plot point cleverly and brings a cohesion to his series that I don’t always find in middle-grade books. The Notebook of Doom is a lot of fun for second and third-grade readers.

The rarity of leap year should signal something rare for the characters and plots of speculative fiction. Perhaps a character discovers her special power on February 29th and is at her most powerful on that day. A particular magical phenomenon only occurs on February 29 or during the leap year, and various parties try to take control of it.

To give a story an Indian-Jones flavor, two groups, one good and one evil, are attempting to discover some powerful object that is only accessible on February 29th. Once they find it, they must use it during the leap year. After the year is finished, the object becomes dormant.

Mystery

I’ve encountered two stories in which leap day was a crucial clue. In one short story, of which I can’t recall the title, an old diary is proved to be a fraud because the person who supposedly kept it had an entry for February 29th, 1900. Leap day occurs at the turn of the century every 400 years. 1600 and 2000 had leap days, but not 1700, 1800, and 1900,

In a radio episode of “The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” from the 1940’s, a Scottish nobleman waits for his inheritance, which will happen on his twenty-first birthday. Because he was born on leap day, he is 84 years old but has only had twenty actual birthdays. A key plot point, again, is the fact that 1900 did not have February 29th. The nobleman must wait until 1904 to celebrate his twenty-first birthday.

Here’s another approach: greedy relatives contest the will of a wealthy woman because she instructs her lawyers not to make its contents known until the next leap day. Why the condition? A relative plays detective to uncover the answer.

Or a small town had a notorious murder committed on February 29th. Legend has it that the ghost returns every four years. The town’s tiny police force is strained to the limit dealing with an invasion of ghost hunters. When one ghost hunter turns up dead, the cops have to figure out if there’s a connection between the old murder and the new one.

Other Genres

In a romance, a couple meets on leap day. Events and their own flaws tear them apart, but on the next February 29th, they have a chance to reunite. Another idea is for a couple who met on leap day to hold a special celebration every four years, and the story charts the development of their relationship on those days.

For a family drama, a tragedy on leap day still haunts the survivors years later. On another leap day, a character somehow brings peace to the family so they can move on with their lives. Perhaps the family had a misconception about the tragedy.

For more ideas on how to February can inspire your writing, check out this post.

How can leap day as writing inspiration ignite your writing?

Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts: What’s the Mystery?

readingw-1803540_1920What’s the mystery about this quaint photo? The scene looks so peaceful. An elderly man reading a book on the porch of his small cabin. With a rifle across this knees. Things can’t be as peaceful as they seem. Here’s my opening. I’d love to hear yours.

I trudged up the dirt and spotted a man sitting on the front porch of his cabin, reading, a rifle balanced on his knees.

I stopped. Most people kept a cup of coffee or tea close by when they read. Not a gun.

The man looked up from his book, scanned me from head to toe, and then smiled. “Need help?”

“Yes. My car broke down, and I can’t get reception. Do you have a phone with a land line?”

“Only kind of phone that works around here. C’mon in.”

I thanked him and walked onto the porch.

As I pulled open the screen door, a large SUV ground up the road and parked in front the cabin.

The man set aside his book. Any trace of a smile gone, he swiveled the rifle toward the vehicle as a tall man slammed the driver’s door.

Writing Tip — Favorite Book: Police Procedures and Investigations by Lee Lofland

Police procedureIf you are looking for one resource to introduce you to the world of law and order, I highly recommend Police Procedures and Investigations: a Guide for Writers by Lee Lofland.

Last winter, I got the inspiration for a a new mystery series and realized I needed to know a lot more than I already did about police work, which was zero. This book covers such areas as how men and women are trained at a police academy, the proper process for arrests and searches, the different departments of law enforcement in the U.S., how the court system works (I’ve never understood which courts try which crimes), and much more.

The copyright date is 2007, so some of the science may be out of date. My favorite chapter is the last one. Mr. Lofland writes about how many Americans believe they understand law enforcement from what they see on TV. This leads to people on juries misunderstanding forensic evidence because it’s not presented in a trial like it is on the C.S.I. shows.

Mr. Lofland offers some quotes of what real police officers think of their fictional counterparts.

“Police officers don’t fire warning shots! For goodness’ sake, what goes up must come down!”

“TV cops return to a crime scene over and over again to collect evidence. In real life, you usually get one shot at the scene.”

All of these quotes are from officers in Ohio, which is especially helpful to me, because that is where my series is set.

Another part of the book that I found fascinating were the short, personal essays. The author relates stories concerning the first autopsy he watched, putting a gang under surveillance, and trying to arrest a mountain of a man without using his gun. Those stories make law enforcement seem real to me.

No one in my family, except for a cousin, who is now a member of the Army police, or my husband’s family is involved in law enforcement. So reading this book has opened my eyes to a life I knew nothing about. As a writer, I want to tell a compelling story. But not at the expense of reality. I want to write about the men and women in law enforcement in a realistic way. I’ve found the more research I do hasn’t limited my inspiration. It has actually sparked it.

What book do you recommend for mystery writers?

Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts: What’s the Mystery?

power-station-w4002026_1920What’s the mystery about this photo? Who’s is the dark figure in the foreground and what’s is his or her connection with the plant in the background? Here’s my version:

As an evening wind spun dry leaves over my tennis shoes, I leaned against my battered car and stared out over scrubby brush and empty fields.

The Ramson plant. It employed most of the people in the county. The Ramsons were the most powerful family in the area because they owned it. Local businesses depended on it. Local charities counted on contributions from the plant and the Ramsons. The citizens of Auger County couldn’t imagine life without the plant.

They’d better.

Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts: What’s the Mystery?

ruinw-540829_1920I’m starting my new theme a day early because I just can’t wait to dive into a month that features my favorite genre, mysteries.

Abandoned and forgotten places have always attracted me. An abandoned and burnt-out children’s home is a key setting in my YA Christmas mystery that releases TOMORROW! But more of that later.

What’s the mystery about this abandoned building? What was it used for? Was it a home, an inn, or what? Why was it left to rot?

The empty windows with their crumbling sills looked at me like battered eyes. As I walked on brittle grass, the weeds brushed and snagged my jeans. How long had it been since someone had entered the inn? It was supposed to be haunted. But if I was right, something a whole lot worse than ghosts was hidden between its walls.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑