Where the hell did that idea come from? Or: The cruel tricks our muses play on us

The mysteries of where writing ideas come from has always fascinated me. How an author like Steven King, for example, can be so prolific and successful both heartens and discourages me as a potential writer. To someone like me, his rise to fame after the hordes of rejection letter he received spurs me to keep trying. Having read his memoir “On Writing”, I know where some of his ideas come from. I don’t have the background he does. My life has been relatively normal, even boring, but I still feel the need to write. I imagine I always will.

The creative process is a mystery, no doubt. All my writer friends joke about their respective muses. I’m pretty sure mine is more of the demonic nature, rather than some classical Greek icon wearing a flowing, diaphanous gown.  Mine is frequently late or altogether absent. Further evidence of his (I’m sure it’s a male, though I’m not exactly sure why) diabolical nature is evidenced by the fact that I get excellent ideas for current or new stories when I am swamped by other tasks.

Such has been the case lately. Just two classes and full-time work have me writing things that are analyses of other people’s work, all structured a certain way, worded in an academic fashion, or as close as I can manage to the style. And then, out of the blue, a scene embeds itself in my mind. There is no backstory, no logical progression, the people in it don’t even have names, but they are real and insist that I capture their moment somehow. I know better than to ignore this directive. To miss getting the idea down is to spend the rest of my life remembering only tantalizing glimpses of that original seed.  I certainly can take what I remember and turn it into something more, but it lacks that certain spark, the indefinable something that can only be captured in the moment in which the notion strikes. And the neglected characters are angry at being ignored and tease me with ‘what if?’ What if that story was The One, what if that story had more material accompanying it, what if the Great American Novel was lost
because you were too damned lazy to get up and get a paper and pen? I’m positive my  muse has leathern wings and stinks of sulfur.

But this time I didn’t ignore the idea. I have just over a thousand words describing the scene that was part dream, part mind wandering into sleep. They don’t have names yet, the two main characters, just a vaguely archaic setting where healing is done by firelight. The narrator is a priest of some kind in a world with multiple gods and his protector is a woman who is brash and crude by his reckoning. Chances are good that a novel like it already exists somewhere. The fantasy genre has a fair share of such role reversals, but this one is mine. I’ll let these two take me where they want, show me the parts of their lives they wish for me to see. Sounds like maybe I have some
issues with reality, doesn’t it? My writer friends and I joke about doing ‘what the voices inside my head tell me.’ That’s an eerily accurate way of describing the process for me. These people in my head have a substance, an existence that is undeniable, that I feel a need to convey as best I can into a medium that I jhope others will enjoy, sharing in their adventures.

But first, they need names.