Three Ways to Begin Your Story: 3. Mind Meld

by Lisanne Harrington

I come from a family of writers. We all use a different method to begin our stories: Mind Mapping, which we covered in Part One, Index Cards (Part 2) and a modified pantser method that I call Mind Melding, which I’ll share here.

A Cinematic Experience

I love movies. Straight up horror, murder mysteries, classics, comedies like Ferris Bueller, coming-of-age stories, even animated/family movies. I can quote you lines from more movies than I can count.


So it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that I visualize my stories as if they were a movie. But before the DVD starts in my head, one or two characters will pop in to say “hi” and tell me their story. Sometimes they are straightforward and everything comes tumbling out at once. This happened with Book Three, Moon Shadows, in The Wolf Creek Mysteries. I was already familiar with James and Beth from Book 1, Moonspell, so they took turns telling me their side of the story. Scene by scene, they told me what happened.

No Mind Melding necessary.

But when I was writing Moonspell, the little boogers weren’t always forthcoming. It was almost like I had to earn their trust before they could reveal what they had gone through. After all, I was an adult, and they hadn’t had much luck with adults believing them. Instead, they would give me conflicting information. For example, at first, James told me that he was on really good terms with the town cops, but Beth said that wasn’t true, that James thought the sheriff was okay but that the deputy was a real douchebag.

Her words.

Turns out, she was right.

Voices in My Head

Basically, I live with the characters for anywhere from a few weeks to several months. They keep me company while I wash dishes, walk Fiona — my rowdy, opinionated Min Pin — and run errands. Sometimes, as was the case with James and Beth, they talk over each other until I feel like my head will explode. But mostly, they take turns keeping me company.

And no, I’m not hearing voices…

Not all the time, anyway…


I get to know them as if they were real people, and to me, I suppose they are. Bet your characters seem real to you, too.

By the time they’ve told me everything they have to say, I’m ready to sit down and write. The words flow from their voice to my brain, out my fingers and onto the page. It feels a lot like I’m simply transcribing the story for them.

I see the scene unfold and just write down what I see.

It’s all very cinematic.

But sometimes, the characters fool me. As I get to a particular scene—typically the climax—I often find that the killer is not who they said it was. This happened twice in Moonspell. Other times, it’s three or even four times.

Are you kidding me??

It’s all in fun, they assure me.

If by fun you mean frustrating, then yeah, I agree…


The Mind Meld

So why do I call it The Mind Meld? For anyone not familiar with the original Star Trek series, the Vulcan Mind Meld allows the Vulcan performing it to share thoughts, experiences, and memories with someone else, usually through touch. Spock used to place his fingertips on the meldee’s face and temple. While my characters don’t actually touch me—how creepy would that be?—they do impart their knowledge and beliefs to me from inside my brain. It’s a little like telepathy.

But “Mind Meld” sounds so much better, doesn’t it? ☺

I think all successful writers have this ability. How else could we write well-rounded characters, people who could actually be our neighbors and friends? While it may be a limited talent, with a little patience and willingness to listen to what the character has to say without forcing the issue, you could turn this knack into a full-fledged gift.

I encourage you to try it, but knowing that it won’t work for everyone, there’s still the Mind Map and Index Card Rainbow to try. Or find your own way to begin.

Just get writing.

You’re still here? It’s over. Go on.

Find that beginning.

Get writing.


Lisanne HarringtonAfter sixteen years as a paralegal, I staged a coup and left the straight-laced corporate world behind forever. I now pander to my muse, a sarcastic little so-and-so who delights in getting the voices in my head to either all speak at once in a cacophony of noise or to remain completely silent. Only copious amounts of Diet Cherry Dr. Peppers and hamburgers will ensure their complicity in filling my head with stories of serial killers, werewolves, and the things that live under your bed.

I live in SoCal, in the small town I fashioned Moonspell’s Wolf Creek after, with my beloved husband and persistently rowdy, always-has-to-have-the-last-word Miniature Pinscher, Fiona.

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One thought on “Three Ways to Begin Your Story: 3. Mind Meld

  1. I’m a big believer in letting things ferment. The subconscious will figure it out. I also like some prep before writing. Doing everything that will help the writing. Thanks for this series, Lisanne. Very fun and inspiring.

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