After I finished Relics, my agent said casually, "Why don't you write some synopses for the next few books in the series? Maybe five or six. In case I need to wave them in front of an editor or movie scout sometime. And while you're at it, send me some titles you might use later in the series."
Think about what she just asked me to do. She wanted me to come up with plot ideas, flesh them out, then boil them down to a few paragraphs each...for five or six books. I just stuttered a moment and avoided speaking the words that popped into my mind: "Easy for you to say."
I actually pulled it off, and it was an interesting exercise. Effigies is the only one of those plots that has actually become a book, but I still have the list. It serves as a security blanket and a writer's block fender-offer. The list includes a story based in New York City that I very likely will do fairly soon.
I googled up an archaeological dictionary to make that list of titles, and the only ones I have used so far are Effigies and Findings, but both of those titles spawned the main plots of those books. I enjoyed exploring the aspects of effigies--effigy mounds, effigy beads, and the simple definition of an effigy, a physical symbol representing something else, usually a living thing. I liked the multiple meanings of "finding." The artifacts unearthed by an archaeologist are "findings." And another definition of "finding," the tiny metal metal piece that fits a jewel into a piece of jewelry, spawned the fabulous emerald that glitters on the cover of Findings and which rests at the heart of the story.
The lists of plots and titles I made all those years ago fits right into the new topic we're discussing at The LadyKillers blog this week: Lists. I just wrote tomorrow's LadyKiller post, in which I made a list of valuable writers' tips. As a bonus, I also included a list of movie stars for whom I pine. This is a big problem for me, because most of these men represent a passion that only a time machine could solve. My post goes up there tomorrow and, yes, I'll remind you about it tomorrow: http://www.theladykillers.typepad.com/