When I looked up, she was standing in front of me, a cherry pie in one hand, and the collar of a trouble-making little boy in the other. She was wearing a dress covered in large yellow flowers, covered in a hot pink bibbed apron. Her dark curly hair framed a freckled face with blue eyes, and she wore a thin headband festooned with tiny beaded flowers. Her name begins with a P, but I know no more of her name than that.
The pie steamed in her hand and I wondered momentarily how she wasn’t getting burned by holding it in her bare hand. The little boy, red-headed and about 7 or 8 years old, wore a plaid shirt and denim shorts and looked defiant, rather than sorry. His name was Corey.
I perceived a small white cottage with a picket fence, on a property with a handful of other white frame houses, a couple barns, and a big shed that had been converted to a country-style store. The fields around the houses and barn were filled with pumpkin vines, sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, squash, cabbages, gourds, and raspberry vines. There were stacks of hay bales and piles of pumpkins of all sizes, and scenes of fall – tied corn stalks and scarecrow dummies and fences made up of spectacular mums of all colors. The smells were wonderful – crunchy leaves underfoot, damp earth, apple cider, spicy sausage, and caramel-dipped apple slices. People inn sweatshirts and sweaters with kids in tow were tugging wagons behind them as they picked through the pumpkins and gourds. Children climbed the hay bale towers.
And that’s how stories start.
Here I was, minding my own business, working on my current WIP and trying to finish up the homework for my online plotting course, and there she is. Miss P, ready for me to tell her story. And the story of the red-headed little boy.
Of course, I sent her to the couch where all the other characters waiting for their stories to be written hang out. Told her to help herself to some coffee and a cookie. She just stood there, a smile on her face and her head cocked to one side, as if she were waiting for a better answer. And behind her, in the doorway, was a tall, red-headed man named Kevin, wearing painter’s whites and looking worried and anxious.
I often think of my brain as being useful in the front, and full of things waiting for me in the back. There is a big screen door back there. The old fashioned kind made of wood with some scroll work on the edges and big springs to keep it closed, but no latch or lock. Things can come and go as they please, with the understanding that if I am working on something, they need to stay back there in the waiting area and be quiet. If they get bored, they can leave. If their story is important, I’ll get to them eventually. Miss P came through the screen door but then marched herself right up to the business end and demanded my immediate attention.
I am often asked how I come up with stories. You’ve just seen it in action. Miss P is not going to leave me be, and she, Corey, and Kevin will be my next story. My heart is beating a little quicker, m mind is working the puzzle like a rubic’s cube to figure it out. And my fingers are itching to write. That’s a good thing, except for my current WIP, which will now go sit in the Drawer of Unfinished Things To Be Finished Later. I will get back to it. Someday.
At least I have a story to work on for National Novel Writing Month!