When the Muse Strikes

Inspiration can come in the strangest places! I once came up with a country name for my latest fantasy novel based on one of the presenters in my MBA healthcare seminar. Long road trips are always good for a new chapter or story idea, and I’ve plotted many a twist from the heights of my deer stand during the fall. The trick is learning to be open to the muse and capture it, even in those bizarre unexpected situations.

Pay Attention to the Everyday Details
Don’t let life pass you by—writers, by nature, are great observers. Be aware of the characters, worlds and drama unfolding around you at any given moment. Even the smallest, seemingly innocuous interaction can spark a story. I got the basis for my first published short story by taking out the trash.

Jot Down Names & Ideas
Don’t worry about getting the exact phrasing right, just get the main ideas on paper. It might help to carry a small notebook. The muse doesn’t always fit the story I’m working on at that moment, so I have a specific nook in my writing space where I keep random notes from over the years. That way, I know exactly where to go when I’m searching for a name, plot point or turn of phrase to work into my latest story.

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
If you’re stuck somewhere it’s not feasible to have paper on hand, try the old studying trick of repetition. This works great for short phrases or names…not so much for longer scenes. Say them several times in your mind, and you’ll probably find it easier to recall later when you can write it down.

Envision the Scene
If repetition works for short phrases, envisioning the action works for more elaborate scenes. I like to play certain scenes in my mind like a movie because images serve as a trigger to remind us of words and ideas. The movie approach allows you to call that scene to mind later, without losing the main emotions and actions you’ve already imprinted.

What’s the strangest place you’ve found inspiration? How do you stay armed to capture it?


  1. I was sitting under a tree one day and an apple...oh, wait, that's when I went by Newton.

    Seriously, this is a case of life imitating art. I was teaching a special-ed English class, and we wrote a short story. The kids wanted the MC to be a sax player dressed in white leather. That very weekend I went to a Blues club and the sax player was dressed in - white leather. The club was two counties away from the school and there was NO WAY they knew him.

  2. Will you think of less of me if I admit that I had to Google to 'frigate' to understand that Dickinson quote in your header?

    (Not that this is the first time I've used a dictionary with Dickinson.)

  3. Cool story, Watcher!

    And, no, Hektor, I wouldn't think less of you. That Emily Dickinson is a tricky one. :)