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Story Sparks, A Writer’s Journey

In my current work in progress the main character's home is just to the right of this shot on a forbidden Hawaiian island.

They say every journey begins with a single step. Whoever they are, they obviously weren’t a writer. My journey begins by putting my butt in a chair, and a story spark.

What I call the story spark can come from anywhere, at any moment. Sometimes the tiniest thing will spawn an entire soap opera in my mind. That kid whining to his mother in the line at Target? Later in the day I’m pretty sure he gets kidnapped by a tribe of pigmy monkeys.

The rose bush on the corner hides an entire troop of fairies. And if you look the right way at the lake in the distance, you can see a boat on it which will take you to an alternate universe. For a price.

The spark for my current work in progress, Dance With Demons (working title), happened so long ago I don’t remember it anymore. I was reminded of it while thumbing through an old notebook. I found a scene buried between two recipes for chocolate pie which pulled me in and didn’t let go. I suspect, like a lot of my ideas, it was part of a dream I had that I wrote down before it escaped.

It was a simple scene, really. A girl with black hair was sitting at a table in an outdoor cafe, spying on a guy across the street. She smiled to herself, full of self confidence and attitude. She was about to arrest him, and he had no idea. The guy, on the other hand, smiled to himself as his ego told him there was no way anyone would ever be able to catch him. He had magic, after all. The girl laughed as she realized he didn’t know that she had magic, too.

And so it begins.

That initial scene that sparked my imagination isn’t in the current novel. Oh the girl is there, complete with attitude. The guy is there too. He’s black haired and Irish and delicious. But she’s not after him. At least, not in that way.

Dance With Demons is in the millionth revision. I won’t call it final, but I’m hopeful that after this round it will at last be good enough to share with more than my fearless beta readers. Chapter one is making me smile every time I read it now, which I’ll take as a good sign.


So what about you? Did your journey begin with a single step, or a chair?

9 comments on… “Story Sparks, A Writer’s Journey”

  1. I remember having a real interesting conversation with my house cleaner, a Palestinian Christian from the Old City of Jerusalem, and later that day having an interesting conversation on the same topic with a girlfriend who is an educated, secular Muslim business owner. I became fascinated with imagining what would happen if I brought them, and some other real “characters” in my life together. What would the occasion be? A potluck, I thought. I started writing the cooking scenes and found they helped me develop the characters. Then the story morphed into 4 separate stories that came together in my potluck. Then it turned out the characters were inter-related in ways that I couldn’t anticipate (and neither will the reader), and then the potluck completely disappeared. The book is far from done, but I can already see there are many “story sparks” and likely more before my journey is done. Thanks for asking such a provocative question!

    • That sounds like a great idea. It’s amazing how much bonding can happen over food and the making of it, no matter where you are from. It’s like laughter and a smile…the need to eat is universal. Did you try the potluck in real life? 😀

      • Have not had a potluck. In Palestine, it would be VERY strange (and insulting) to invite people to your home and ask THEM to bring food! The host is responsible for providing food, and especially meat, since that’s how people honor others and show themselves as honorable. The requirement to serve meat is so ingrained that I recently found out that Christians who are fasting for Lent still serve meat at funerals and the like when they happen during Lent — out of concern that they’d be seen as stingy if they didn’t. The fact that the potluck was so improbable was part of what made the scenario interesting for a book. But I will try to do it in real life someday. You’ve inspired me.

  2. I’ve had many of them while driving. “Unintentional Angel” started just blocks from my home. “Ellie” ignited when I was driving home from the San Diego Comic-Con. “Capture the Flag” began when I was staring at the hill off the side of our house. This WIP, it started when I was surfing the internet and a pop-up came across my screen. I’ve had ideas for my story spark while on walks. Other stories have sparked off of articles I’ve read. You just never know, do you? Until now I never realized how many of them came to me while driving. Thanks for the thinker, Melinda.

    • That’s awesome! I don’t really get ideas while driving, but I can see how it would happen. Your mind is free to wander while you drive (usually). I get a lot of ideas while on the elliptical. Not the treadmill or any other exercise, just the elliptical. I have no idea why my muse is so picky!

  3. This may be my favorite of your posts, Melinda. I’m inspired by sitting down at my computer, too. Some ideas hit me while driving or exercising, but the real magic happens right here. 🙂 Best of luck with your revisions!

  4. I can tell that your story excites you Melinda! And that’s the most important thing that will drive your story forward to the finish. Keep that fire inside you stoked girl! *Hugs*

  5. My ideas usually come to me in dreams, snatches of conversation, or they just flash into my head. But until I sit down in front of my computer or pull out my trusty notebook, they’re just that…ideas. For concepts to become stories, I have to put in the work.

    • You are so right, Jacqui. I have a friend named Olivia. She puts words and ideas together sweet and smooth like a flourless chocolate cake. She says brilliant things based on little things she notices so that you spend the rest of the day thinking about what she said. But she doesn’t write them down! I’m trying to convince her that you can’t be a writer unless you WRITE!

It gets lonely out here in the big wide webs. Talk to me!