How a work in progress is born

little girl 4

A while ago my friend Ari posed a question on Twitter:

#TheMerryWriter – D27: What was the 1st idea spark for your WIP (eg char idea/setting/a what if)

My answer: We were at the San Diego Zoo in the elephant section. A little girl holding a balloon was jumping up and down with excitement. A few feet away a man (20-ish) looked bored.

Something just clicked.

I didn’t do too much when I answered her question. She’s always posting the type of questions that make us think and even though my answer was not exactly detailed it made me think.

How did I get my idea or better yet, can I remember the moment it happened?

The Little Girl

Little girl 1

I don’t know why the little girl with the balloon and the bored looking man caused my creative wheels to turn. All I remember is how both of them stole the show.

No longer did I care about the elephants. Something was going on in this brain of mine and there was nothing stopping it.

On an average day things come and go. We’re at work, we’re at play or we’re relaxing on a nice Hawaiian beach. Humor me.

Whatever it is little pieces of a story float in the breeze. Most of us ignore it but some we catch. Why is that?

I have five carefully drawn out ideas of future novels. I know every section of each. Offhand I cannot remember how they came to be. I wish I could but I have to say it’s common to forget.


The story stays but the reason for its birth does not

For some reason the little girl and the bored man took roots. A tiny moment lasting no more than a minute but long enough to spark an idea igniting a novel.

I don’t know about you but I cannot force these moments. Believe me, I’ve tried. I have taken walks through the University campus or a stroll downtown but I always come up empty.

I was either stuck in the middle of highly caffeinated college kids or in the middle of a busy street. But when it does happen it always comes out of nowhere.

My recent discovery came during a walk through a store. I entered past an end stand when I came upon an address that somebody left behind. A simple note with an address and number brought all kinds of possibilities.


Random acts or something more

So is this it? Do our ideas come about at random moments? Was it nothing more than a lucky break when I saw the child and the bored man?

Or was it the red balloon?

I often wonder if these ideas were always there and all it took was a little push in the right direction for me to see it.

Our creative minds are unlike any other. They work in a way that others would find impossible. So it comes as no surprise, at least for me, that the stories we write come from places that most ignore.

Places like a little girl, a bored man, elephants and red balloons.

Little girl 2


20 thoughts on “How a work in progress is born

  1. “The story stays but the reason for its birth does not”. That’s the best explanation I’ve read for why I know what I’ve written but can’t remember why I started writing it or how I came up with it. Thanks, Bryan!


  2. Love this post Bryan! So true! Our creative minds work in such mysterious ways! I cannot force creativity either and for some reason it seems to love to come to me while I’m driving and I cannot stop to take notes! UGH that’s why ‘m leaving voicemails to myself 🙂 Red balloons are super whimsical!


    1. I may have mentioned earlier how I searched for my notebook but could only locate a receipt. I had to work overtime to write that small. I know what you mean, our creative juices flow while we’re rolling down the highway. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love how whimsical ideas are! I think most of my book ideas have just been huge moments that hit me. The WIP I’m revising was inspired by someone’s name tag, and for some reason their name (even though no one in the book is named after them) just gave me an entire idea. My NaNo novel was a culmination of ideas, but the big, main concept hit me like a lightning bolt, too. Now if only writer’s could get ideas like that all the time. . . great post. 🙂


  4. The rare moments a new novel is born are pure gold and completely magical. I’m not even aware of what sparks them, just that my imagination has latched on to something and taken flight.


  5. That appear out of nowhere and I’m glad they do. I just had a weird experience with another idea the other day. Thank you Lorraine. Always fun to hear your thoughts.


  6. Indeed, interesting how stories are born, in countless ways individual to each of us. Reminds me of fellow blogger/author Britt Skrabanek who purchased a vintage handbag and found within a ticket to a wartime baseball match featuring women’s teams (as the men were otherwise engaged in the war effort). She turned that into a great book.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That is fascinating. I never heard that story before. It’s proof that all it takes is something to turn our minds and once it does who knows where it will lead.


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