One Writer’s Oath: Inspiration is Truly Where You Find It
My family and I had made Sanibel Island our vacation destination for 20 years when it hit me.
The “it” in this situation was an idea, a concept so clear I couldn’t stop mentally plotting the details. I was amazed, as I still am today, that a true story told by a kayaking guide would inspire me to write my first novel.
Until that time, the thought of writing more than a few pages terrified me. I had written short stories years before—two works to be precise—along with two stage plays and two screenplays. I have never been able to interpret the significance of that!
I was eager to start writing, so a few days after we returned home, I produced a few typed pages of notes. I had already decided on the critter for the principal character, a choice I made that day listening to the kayaking guide. My notes comprised a few characters, the problem or dilemma and a vague idea on how the protagonist would solve it. Then I began what was to be several days of research. A week in, I realized that one of the two settings of the story, the red mangroves along the coast of southwest Florida, would not make a realistic backdrop for the characters I had envisioned in my book. In fact, only a handful of my characters would naturally be found there.
Now I had a dilemma. Thankfully, the problem was short-lived, for during my investigation I learned salt marshes exist as a transitional community between mangroves and freshwater marshes. I was back in business!
Once I moved the setting of the second part of the story and adjusted the criteria for my research, my characters felt at home (well, all except one), and I was free to outline the rest of the book.
The manuscript I first created five years ago was naïve, clumsy and disjointed. Several drafts later, Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery has become a fictional work that fills me with pride.
I still remember sitting in the kayak, staring at the red mangroves while listening to the guide. I will never forget my feeling of excitement at the prospect of writing a novel, and the experience confirms my belief that inspiration can be found wherever you happen to be.