Monday, August 4, 2014

Olaf and Sue: The genesis of a story

I have written about inspiration in the past. That moment when the idea sparks in your mind and sends your imagination into fireworks. It is, to me, the best part of writing. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy stringing the words along in a web of plot and character. But, there is nothing that truly compares to that moment of epiphany. In a novel, these moments happen frequently as I wrestle with plot points and character flaws. There are times, though, when it happens completely unbidden.

I was having a conversation the other day with one of my co-workers about children. Now, I have a son who is a character in his own right and needs no imaginative help from me. However, the conversation quickly turned (I may or may not have intentionally done this) to her potential children. This colleague of mine is a tiny slip of a woman with Saxon red hair and a slight tendency toward Viking-ism. Her significant other is a rather tall rustic sort who - and I am fairly certain of this - has said no more than three words to me in the few times that we have met. I believe that the conversation went something like this:

Me: Why, soon, you two will be having kids of your own
Her (blushes): Noooo. I'm too old.
Me: Pshaw. That's balderdash. (Ok. That's not what I said. I tend to use more...colorful...language.)
Her: Oh, go jump in a lake. (That is actually what she said)
Me (laughs): No! Seriously. You two will have brilliant kids. A boy. yes, I can see you having a boy.
Her: Shut-up.
Me: A little Viking! A little baby crabby Viking! You'll call him Jebediah.
Her: Jebediah? (laughs) Why would I name him that?
Me: Sure, why not?! No. Wait. (this is where the idea really started to take hold) Olaf. His name has to Olaf. Olaf Jebediah Thorsen the Third!
Her: (laughs at me waving my arms about as if I were conducting Wagner's Die Walkure).
Me: Oh! Oh! Wait a tick! You'll have twins. Olaf Jebediah Thorsen the Third and his twin sister...Sue.
Her: Sue?
Me: Yes. Sue. She'll be the Viking. She'll have one of those Thor helmets and cardboard armor tied at the shoulders with yarn. Ooooo...and one of those flashlights that looks like a torch. Oh! A spear. She has to have a spear. An old broom handle with rags taped to the end. Her Dad will have done that, you know, to protect little Olaf. It's a costume from last Halloween, but she keeps wearing it.
Her: What about Olaf?
Me: Oh, he'll just be normal. Dark hair. Sensible. Quiet-ish. He like to build things. Legos and what not. Sue likes to destroy them. A Godzilla vs. Tokyo kind of thing.
Her: Can they be from Minnesota?
Me: Oh, ya, you betcha!

I spent the entire drive home that night writing the first scene in my head.

No comments:

Post a Comment