There aren’t many reindeer ’round these parts. This is probably a good thing, as I certainly don’t want to get run over by one. There does, however, seem to be an abundance of muses, all running around trying to run me over every chance they get.
Not that you will ever hear me complain about this. Run me over anytime you like, dear muses. Just think of me as asphalt.
J.K. Rowling once said that the idea for Harry Potter came to her quite suddenly, while she was on a train from London to Manchester. There she was, just looking out the window, when Bam!! Harry “fell into [her] head,” fully formed and with a story to tell. She knew he was a young boy who discovered he was a wizard and he would be going to a wizarding school — and the rest came in rapid fire throughout the remainder of the trip. As the story goes, Rowling didn’t have a pen on her (why is it muses love it when we’re “unarmed”??), so she did her best to keep all of these flashes of inspiration in her head until she could get to a pen and paper, at which point she poured everything out of her brain and over a decade later, history was made.
Every writer has had this happen to them at one point or another. You could be at the grocery store, at the restaurant, in the shower… when all of a sudden, inspiration hits and it’s not unlike being struck with a two-by-four (not that I have first-hand experience in this; writer’s imagination and all). It’s glorious, it’s exhilarating, and you know — you just know — you’ve got something when you have a physical reaction once the idea hits you. Goose bumps. Prickles in the back of your neck. Butterflies on steroids in your stomach.
You just know.
Yesterday, I had one of these experiences. I was on a training run, which I normally do with the rest of my Team In Training comrades, but which I had to do by myself because I got hopelessly lost on the way to meeting the team at the location where we were supposed to start our run (let’s just say I am Garmin’s dream customer). Anyway, I mention this because if it hadn’t been for me missing the team run and having to do the run on my own, I may not have gotten run over by my muse.
Because as fate would have it, I didn’t have my iPod with me. I normally have my iPod with me if I’m running on my own, but I wasn’t planning to run on my own that day. Here I was, at the start of a long 8 mile run, on a crowded trail, with the temperatures rising by the second. I was pretty convinced that this was going to suck, and suck bigtime.
I decided I was going to try and make the best of it by finding some way to entertain myself. I thought, hey, why not use this time to think about this vague idea I’ve had in my head for weeks now? A seed of an idea for a sci-fi/dystopian fantasy that’s been nudging at me and nudging at me, but being a bad tease, because it won’t tell me any of the characters’ names, where they live, how they came to be who/what they were, and for crying out loud, I couldn’t even come up with a title for this vast storyline that just WOULDN’T. LET. GO.
Well, if I was going to be running for an hour and a half without my iPod, this was as good a time as any to start ruminating on this, right?
And what do you know, the muse was in the mood to be cooperative (if you call running me over being cooperative). By the end of the run, I’d not only come up with my title(s), the names for my main characters, but also the entire storyline arc for the trilogy AND key scenes throughout. When I came home, I wrote down everything that came to me on the run — and this generated even more ideas. By 1AM last night (this morning?), I had effectively plotted out all three books.
Physical reactions to this? Forget about butterflies. People, I’ve got leprechauns doing the jig inside my stomach. I know there is something here. And I know it needs to be written.
I’ve still got lots of gaps that need to be filled, lots of questions that need to be answered, before I can even start to do a formal outline. I’m still dealing with amorphous brain dumps, and not everything makes sense yet, and not all of the dots connect. But I am absolutely in love with these characters already and they are screaming at me, insisting that I let them out to play and write their story so the rest of you can know about them.
I just started writing my mainstream novel last week and am still very excited about that, but I think I may need to put it on hold for now, until I can get this idea fully developed. When the wave hits, you want to ride it while it’s cresting, and holy smokes, is it promising to be a big one.