Sunday, August 16, 2015

Ephemera: Where the Story Begins

The germination of storywhere does it begin?

How does your story come to you? Does it gallop in out of nowhere?

Hangaku Gozen by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Does it begin with an image, a flash of insight, a half-remembered dream?

Viking Woman Warrior by Hans Splinter.
Licensed under CC by 2.0. Cropped from original.

Does it begin when you are passionate, relaxed, ecstatic, miserable?

Does this describe your mood when you've thought of a new story idea?

These are most common ways that the magic of story germination happens for me:

  • A storyline stays in my conscious mind from a dream or a half-dream
  • A complex idea pops into my relaxed, contented mind, seemingly from nowhere
  • A striking image will inspire a character or a situation

A perfect example of this phenomenon is the story J.K. Rowling tells of how Harry Potter popped, fully formed, into her mind. That's the magic of inspiration at work, one which built a real-world story empire.

All of these flashes or situations need narration built upon them, which becomes the conscious mind's work. After I've received these inspirations, I love to let them germinate in my mind for a few days before I even write them down. While they're still thoughts in my head, I feel like the story has infinite possibilities. Writing the words down seem like they take on a permanence that concretizes them into a certain shape.

I can explain how I get inspiration. Yet, these flashes of inspiration themselves are the magic—the ephemera, if you will—that is inexplicable. It's the unconscious mind at work in ways that we can never predict or control.

I'd love to hear about how your story germinations take place.


  1. Stories always seem to hit me from out of nowhere. I'll see a sign, or perhaps watch people interact in public. Suddenly, an idea pops up about how this scene would happen if X happened before it, or if it happened in world Y. Most of my ideas are Quantum in nature, however. They exist as long as I don't look too closely at them. At first serious look they disappear, move or transform into something less appetizing.

    1. Thanks for sharing the way your ideas come to you! It seems your inspirations are a mixture of 'ideas come out of (seemingly) nowhere' and 'images or happenings inspire a story'. I love those moments of inspiration, and always have.

      Interesting that your ideas will often morph into darker territory. There is no story without trouble, so that's not a bad thing.

  2. Experience has taught me to respect and appreciate the unconscious mind. It operates at a high level and cuts through Gordian knots. Glad to see you put it to use in creative writing.

    1. Thanks for visiting and for your words of wisdom, Ally! The unconscious mind does operate at a high level.