People often ask how writers come up with story ideas. Really, we don’t always know. Sometimes they’re inspired by music, movies, or current events. Other times, they’re just suddenly there in our heads. The idea for Ghost Flute, however, came together for me much differently than any other story I’ve written. At the time, I was struggling with writer’s block. It had gone on for well over a year. I couldn’t brainstorm no matter how hard I tried. My creative well was dry, and too many people were telling me what to do and how to do it.
Then one day, I was sitting at the computer, just staring out the window. My house backs up to woods and a small creek. It was sunset and the sky was in that hazy in-between stage. I started wondering what was back there that night. All forms of wildlife make their homes in those woods. It’s a very pretty, natural setting that can take on an entirely different personality at night. Once darkness falls, owls cry, raccoons scream, and trees creak in the wind. Watching the woods as dusk fell, I was suddenly caught by the feel of the nocturnal world coming alive. It was a sensual, spooky feeling, and it got my stalled brain churning again.
As much as the feeling intrigued me, though, I still didn’t have a story idea. The only thing I was sure of was that it tended towards the paranormal – but not vampires or zombies. It was closer to the earth, more primal. Suddenly, I remembered a book I own on Native American mythology. I love folklore and myths, but I don’t think I’d ever cracked the cover of that particular book. I did that night, and I stumbled across the inspiration I needed.
Suddenly, everything came together for me – the setting, the story’s vibe, and the characters. The story’s plot was so strong in my head, I could practically touch it. It was exciting to have a break-through like that, especially when I’d been struggling so badly. I started writing Ghost Flute the next day, and the story that ended up on the page is very close to what I saw in my imagination when I looked into those darkening woods.
Some writers insist that writers’ block isn’t real, but I can tell you it is. Sitting down and forcing myself to write didn’t help; it only made things worse. What I really needed was to stop pushing, get other people’s voices and opinions out of my head (most important!), and let the inspiration come to me.