A Mystery and a Joy

Inspiration is a strange thing. It can come from the simplest remark or observation. It can come from a story prompt, a song title, a picture in a magazine or a problem page. Just about anywhere, really.

Inspiration, or the idea for a story, is only the start, though. Often, things that seem as though they may make a great story turn out simply to be anecdotes or not to have the legs for a story that will sustain a reader’s interest.

I’m still trying to work up a story about the ‘baby meat ravioli’ I saw on a menu a couple of weeks ago. It was amusing at the time, maybe it’ll get dropped into a story as an anecdote a character is telling, or maybe it isn’t story material. We’ll see.

Because the inspiration or idea you get today may not make a story today, but it may do on another day, when you’ve been exposed to different influences or when your head is in a different place. Write them all down, read through them now and then. What seemed bland one day may seem perfect on another.

The two stories of mine that appear in ‘Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After’ had quite different inspirations. Fortunately I can remember what they both were – I often can’t. How they then became stories, how that first flicker developed into something worth writing down and (I hope!) worth reading is much harder to identify. Sometimes I can remember if you ask me soon enough, but as often as not very shortly after the story is written I forget completely where it came from and the story just ‘is’.

‘The List’ starts with Sarah noticing a crack in her wall. I had a crack in my wall. Why that inspired me I can’t say. Maybe I needed to vent my frustrations on paper. Maybe the writer in me saw the metaphor in cracks appearing in things that seem solid and how that can transfer to different aspects of life. Probably.

‘The Girl in the Yellow Dress’ was a prompt supplied by one of the members of our online writing group. How that became the story in the book, why the girl in the title became the particular girl in the story I’m afraid I have no recollection of at all.

Because after the inspiration it’s imagination that takes over. And how that works, how we can create tales out of nothing much at all, is what makes writing both a mystery and a joy to me.


Bernadette James

You can read The List and The Girl in the Yellow Dress in Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After now, on kindle!

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