Today my guest is Naomi Musch. Naomi is an award-winning author who crafts her stories from the pristine north woods of Wisconsin, where she and her husband Jeff live as epically as God allows near the families of their five adult children. She enjoys roaming around on the farm, snacking out of the garden, relaxing in her vintage camper, and loving on her passel of grandchildren. Naomi is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Wisconsin Writers’ Association, and the Lake Superior Writers. Though she has written in a variety of venues, her great love is historical fiction. Her new novel, Mist O’er the Voyageur, released from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas in October.
Naomi had a lot to say about how she develops and grows a story.
When one asks what goes on in the mind of a writer, nine times out of ten, the question is tied to the simple curiosity of wondering how a story idea evolves. If I had a dime for every time someone said, “I don’t know how you come up with these stories,” I’d…well, I’d have a lot of dimes.
The fact of the matter is that story ideas arrive from many places, and they usually come as a seed or a mental germ that does a little dance through the writer’s mind, until it slowly gains substance. Then more bits and pieces are added to it until if finally comes out fully fledged, ready for plotting or writing. That is the light bulb moment that excites a writer.
For instance, there’ve been times an idea came flitting through my head while paddling a river in a canoe or sitting in a deer stand as snowflakes wetted my eyelashes. Others stir thoughts while foraging for berries or cooking over a campfire. These experiences provoke visions of what it might have been like to doing these same activities one or two hundred years ago. The activity itself drops seeds of an idea into my writer’s brain. A great deal of my newest release, Mist O’er the Voyageur, grew out of those outdoor experiences as well as a love of colonial and frontier history.
History, you see, and the study of it, greases my wheels. It might be more appropriate for my little analogy to say history waters my seedling ideas. As I research, my brain gets so full of possibilities it can become difficult to determine which to use and which not to. Sometimes I have only to do a little research for another entirely new story idea to emerge.
Then there are the ideas that birth through spiritual evaluation. While reading my Bible or listening to a sermon, some spiritual theme or question will often rear up, begging to be applied. It’s quite natural for me to want to transfer those questions to a character in a difficult personal situation, time period, or setting. One of my current WWI books, The Deepest Sigh, from my Echoes of the Heart series came to me out of the Old Testament story of Jacob and his love for Rachel, though he ended up marrying her sister Leah.
Sometimes titles spin around in my writer’s brain like puzzle pieces that settle into place and fit together. If I hear or read a phrase that would make a perfect title, a book idea might grow from that alone. I wrote a book called The Love Coward based on reference to an individual, and another called The Casket Girl based on a reference in the index of a history book.
Sometimes a story births in the mind of a writer as a dream—literally—a dream. I wrote one entire novel based upon a film unrolling in my head while I slept. It was full of angst and moments of personal heroism, and when I woke up, I was amazed to discover it had a plot that didn’t unravel.
Someone writing a memoir may say, “I have a story to tell” because they’ve lived through an experience that is rich and full and ready for telling. Any non-fiction writer looks at a complete idea and decides how to explain it. These types of writing, while they can be creative and definitely take a great deal of organization, do not require the sorts of invention that take place in the fiction writer’s brain. Fiction writers deal with the yet-unknown. The full story isn’t revealed to them right away. It’s opened to them in pieces as they mull and let their imaginations loose. They experience their stories not as something that happened and they must report, but rather as something that is currently happening just as they are writing it, with only the possibility of a plot outline to follow that is “known”.
So yes, fiction writers really do have a lot of concepts, characters, and adventures going on in their heads. Our brains are constantly story-forming, even while we aren’t in the act of writing. Sometimes the biggest difficulty isn’t coming up with ideas, but is in finding the time to write them all down.
Naomi would love to connect with you around the web. Visit her at her website: naomimusch.com , or
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