|Photo: Diego PH
A VISIT FROM THE MUSE
A few months ago, my muse visited me just as I sat down for breakfast. Having a flash of inspiration at the kitchen table has never happened to me before. In fact, inspiration usually strikes when I'm at the computer—it rarely happens elsewhere. But that morning, the idea was so surprising and so powerful that I wolfed down my oatmeal and jogged upstairs to write.
My muse was kind enough to follow me. She revealed the initial concept and the conflict of the story. Nothing more. I simply started to type the first line (whatever came into my head) and allowed the muse to guide me. This first line led to the setting of the story: a small village governed by a king.
At this point, all I knew was the main character was a little boy who faced a big problem. However, I didn't know his name or how he was going to solve the problem. It didn't matter at this point. What mattered was following the lead of the muse and allowing the voice of the story to shine through with lyrical language (rhythm, similes, and repetition) and sparse dialogue.
I honestly didn't think about where the story was going. Misspellings were ignored. Editing would come later. After about an hour, I had a rough draft of the story.
In the weeks that followed, it was time to address major issues. There were questions that had to be answered:
- What were the personality traits of the main character?
- Would the main character's name reflect his personality?
- How would the main character change by the end of the story?
- How can I show the feelings of a child when he's up against something so big?
- How would he solve the problem?
- How could the message (the theme) of the story be conveyed without being didactic?
- How do I resolve the story and perhaps throw in a twist?
- How do I allow the action of the story to unfold visually so that an illustrator had plenty to work with?
With so much to consider and work out, you might say, go ask the muse for her help. Invite her to return. But it doesn't work that way. It's not up to my muse to solve these problems. Her goal was to inspire and set me on a journey. I alone had to find a way to way to make it all work.
Day by day, the story took shape and the beginning, the middle, and the ending came together like pieces of a puzzle. Then, my first reader made comments and afterward, I edited the manuscript. Now, the story is out on submission. Time will tell how it will be received. It may be a tough sell because it has social and political overtones. However, it has a powerful premise, so it may pique the interest of an agent.
It's exciting and surprising when inspiration strikes. But this brain flash can be fleeting and soon forgotten. That's why I wolfed down breakfast and headed upstairs to write. When the muse stops by, there is no time to waste. Intending to get to it later would not a good plan. I had to act now. I had been given a gift: the seeds to a story. And I was fired up to set it all down in words.
✌ and ♥