Let’s Talk with Karla Brandenburg

Turning Points and Aha Moments
By Karla Brandenburg

Aha MomentThere were a series of insurance company commercials not long ago with people talking about their Aha moments, the turning points in their lives that changed the way they do or see things.

For me, I’ve been writing stories all my life, from the time I was first able to write. One of my earliest memories was of writing a story about cats and kittens and sending it to Random House when I couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old. The story obviously didn’t get published, but my path was clearly established, even at that early age.

While I continued to write stories—it was programmed into my DNA after all—I didn’t really apply myself until I reached a turning point in my life. For all the imagination I transcribed to paper, I didn’t take the time to structure it or carry it through to the next step, until that Aha moment.

I’d had a wisdom tooth pulled. Curled up into a comfy chair nursing my wounds, I turned on the television and watched Indiana Jones, and when that ended, I switched over to PBS, which was showing a special on Mt. Vesuvius and the burial of Pompeii, a subject which has always fascinated me. Something clicked inside my brain. What if the Holy Grail was buried beneath all the lava and ash? What if St. Paul carried it with him when he went to Malta and left it for safekeeping in the southern port cities of Italy? The timing worked. In that moment, I determined to make a conscious decision to write a focused novel. Who knew having a wisdom tooth pulled would be a turning point? I’ve written nine novels since that fateful day!

Has that ever happened to you? One moment in your life where everything clicked? Fell into place?

Comments

  1. One of the keys of Aha! moments is to get out of their way and let them happen. When we try to control every second of every day, we shut them out. Great blog, Karla.

  2. I needed a motivating factor for my hairdresser sleuth, Marla Shore, when I was creating the Bad Hair Day series. Back then, I still had my nursing license and remembered a continuing education course I’d taken on near drowning in children. This is a common hazard in South Florida with our backyard pools. Bingo! I determined that Marla had experienced a tragedy in her youth, and the resultant guilt drives her to solve the crime in Permed to Death.

  3. Terry Ambrose says

    I’m not sure it really “clicked,” but there was a moment when I wrote my first novel and realized writing was a cathartic process for me and I needed to do it regularly. The first novel was junk, but it was a starting point. Thirty years later, I’m still working at it.

    • I left many stories behind that weren’t worth sharing – catharsis. The difference is that now I’ve found a way to organize those thoughts into something readable, much like you’ve done with your Hawaii based mysteries. Good to see you, Terry! Mahalo!

  4. Oh yeah. I’d been trying to get a handle on my male protagonist Trey, but I couldn’t find the through-line, the connecting spine. And then I read an article in Scientific American about how people with certain types of brain damage became better than average at telling when others were lying, and I went bingo! Or aha! Or eureka! One of those. Regardless, they are certainly invigorating, these moments.

  5. I had more, but it was way too long for this reply window. I just wanted to say that Aha! moments are the BEST. When one happens it feels amazing.

  6. Great post, Karla. I love that writing is encoded in your DNA. That makes it easier!

    I have moments when I’m solving a puzzle when I realize I will be able to solve it. Hard puzzles bamboozle me, but I won’t give up. I keep at it until one answer, hard or not, allows me to figure out all the others.

  7. For one of my books, I had a click moment listening to “Leader of the Band”. The line that said “Papa I don’t think I said I love you near enough” solidified Blakes inner conflict for me.

    • Music is often a catalyst for me. When I was writing Cookie Therapy, I heard “Good to be Alive” and that was very nearly the title! Hearing the song energized me and was definitely a turning point in that novel.