Writers’ Inspiration in a Graveyard

The sunny weather lured my son and me out for a long afternoon walk. We walked three miles and ended up on a main road. We caught a public transit bus home. The interesting bit is that we discovered this tiny cemetery along our route. I’ve driven past it tons of times but never noticed it. It’s behind a fence, and it’s very overgrown. It’s easy to miss. The oldest legible stone was for Emily Partin, born 1861. I recognized the name because local streets are named for her. A little research at home told me that this is the Partin Family Cemetery. Odd thing is the birthdate engraved on her son’s stone was two years after Emily supposedly died.

I used to think that novelists were keeping a secret. A novelist, any novelist, would be on a panel, and they would be asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” And the answer was always some vague variation on, “the inspiration for ideas is all around us.” As if it was that easy. Just step outside to get your mail and trip over several story ideas. I tried that when I was younger. I tried some creative writing and failed to stumble into ideas. Clearly, the novelists all conspired to keep the secret of the magical idea source to themselves.

As I grew older and started reading books on the craft of writing, I figured out that novelists prime their minds to see and hear the story ideas. And often it may not even be a full idea. Maybe it’s a seed of an idea. Maybe it’s just a glimmer of an idea. I’m happy to say that now I see and hear story ideas all around me. And there were story ideas swirling all around the air of that cemetery.

Maybe Emily faked her death, and that’s how she was able to have a son two years later. Maybe she was scared and fleeing. Maybe she just wanted to be free to have adventures. Maybe for those of you who are science fiction or fantasy writers, there’s something fantastical going on. And maybe, it’s not that I drive too fast and the cemetery is overgrown – maybe it was just never there before. Maybe if my son and I take another walk in that direction today, we won’t see the cemetery at all. So many story ideas in an old crumbling cemetery.

That’s not even counting the cornucopia of true stories that are stranger than fiction. Unearthing a great story from an overgrown grave would be an amazing feeling. Those of you who love digging into research and turning local history into a nonfictional narrative know what I’m talking about.

Nowadays my only problem is that I have too many story ideas in my head; I’ll never have time to write them all.

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