A Story is Born–A Glimpse of How I Come Up With These Things

This week, this post will be much closer to what I intended. Part of what I wanted to post about was what actually goes into writing a novel or story for me. This week, I decided to show you exactly how one of my latest story ideas was born, then share you the short story that will likely be the embryo for perhaps an entire novel.

As the morning began, I had no thoughts about any new story–I was too busy trying to figure out the details of the one I am already elbow-deep in. However, as part of my daily ritual, I popped in to look at one of my favorite writing blogs. Lately, this blog has been posting a writing prompt every week to practice a skill they talked about in earlier posts. Usually, I just sort of skim it and move on without really participating, but this week, it was far too promising, and a spark of an idea leaped out. This spark grew as if it had landed on a piece of perfectly prepared char cloth, and soon a small flame of inspiration was glowing. Right now, it is probably just that, but it has the potential to become a blazing full-length novel. (For anybody interested, you can find the inspiring post here.)

Here is the writing prompt, and my response.


Take these sentences and make them specific. Replace vague writing with detail.  “Things hadn’t gone as expected. He didn’t like it. They wanted him to. He could tell by the looks on their faces. They wanted him to react as they would have. But he wasn’t like them and he never would be.”



Marken looked at the soldier under the point of his sword. Even in defeat, the soldier’s eyes held the fire of defiance. It was that blasted defiance that had ruined everything. This fight hadn’t gone anything like Marken had planned.

Marken had accepted the fact he had to fight the soldier—it was the only way he could remain above suspicion while infiltrating this group of outlaws—but he was never supposed to win. He had been certain that when he arranged the fight to move toward that gap in the rocks, the soldier would seize the opportunity and make an escape. Either the soldier hadn’t been as bright as Marken had given him credit for, or he was made of a lot stronger metal than Marken believed because the soldier hadn’t retreated. He had launched into the fight with more vigor than ever before. Marken had no choice but to defeat him or be killed. Now, however, he was faced with a different choice, and the thought left a sickening feeling deep inside his navel area.

He looked around at the outlaws surrounding him. Cheers were bouncing all around those who had gathered to watch the duel. Cries of “Finish it, finish it!” flew toward Marken, and he shuddered inwardly. Of course, the outlaws would want him to kill the soldier. The eager leers on their rough faces purveyed the message clearly enough even if he hadn’t been able to hear their ruthless instructions.

Would Marken really have to kill an innocent man? It seemed as if he had no other choice. If he didn’t, the others would never believe he was as despicable as they were. It would cast suspicion on himself, and his entire mission would be compromised. If he did kill this soldier, his position among these lawless brutes would be secured. Perhaps this man’s life would be the cost of success.

Marken took a deep breath. He couldn’t believe he was about to do this. He let the sword’s point drop into the dirt next to the soldier’s head. No, he wouldn’t kill the soldier. He would find another way. No matter how much he appeared like these outlaws on the outside, he wasn’t like them. He would never be.


As I have said, this idea is still in its infancy, but I believe it has great potential. Already, I know who Marken is, how he fits in with his world (which is, of course, Aviandria), and I have a vague idea of the premise of this entire story. I don’t know many plot details yet, but they will come as this idea matures. I have several other story ideas in queue before this, so I don’t know how soon it will be written, but we’ll see.


How do you get ideas? Do they come all at once, or little by little?

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