Friday, June 11, 2010

Story Sparks

Clover is in full bloom. We saw great spreads of it along the highway on a recent trip up I-71 to Columbus. There's also a patch along the road where I walk.

Clover makes me think of dotted swiss. Do you remember material by that name? It's a rather old-fashioned organdy fabric that's dotted with flocks of threads. And the thought of it brings back memories of childhood: the dark-haired doll dressed in a pale green dotted swiss dress, kitchen curtains in lavender, my grandmother's fancy white apron.

Follow the memories back to Mom at her sewing machine, and Grandma fashioning home-made dolls and stuffed fabric frogs. Oh, that takes me back to stories of Grandma as a child just after the turn of the 20th century and her tales of floods, flu epidemics, and such everyday childhood escapades as singing out doodlebugs and locking old Granny Manny in the privy.

Just the other day, on our trip to visit my parents, an amazing tidbit--one I'd never heard before--came to light when my dad (now in his late 80s) mentioned that his great-grandmother was a cook on a canal boat. The canals were a series of waterways wide enough for boats. The Ohio-Erie Canal linked New York to the Ohio River, and was used from the 1830s to the 1850s to transport goods and produce to market, before the advent of the railroad. The boats were pulled by mules that trudged alongside on the banks.

Though I've always been interested in history, especially local, I never was much interested in the canals--until it became personal. Now I think: "There must be a story here!"

Story. A family of six living in a hollow sycamore tree in 1800? There must be a story there (the book I'm finishing up on now). A barn with the number 1861 welded in wagon wheel rims and mounted above the large door? There must be a story here (book 2). A young girl (later to become my grandmother) rescued out a second floor window into a johnny boat to escape the flooded house? There must be a story here (book 3). And now who was this woman who cooked on the canal boats? Is there a story here?

Stories are everywhere. May we turn our ears to them, pluck them out of the air, get them down on paper, write them the best we can. And hopefully stir, inspire, entertain, uplift, (fill in the blank with your vision) our readers as we go.

Sycamore trees, barns, doodlebugs and dotted swiss are some of the things that have sparked my ideas. What has sparked yours?


  1. It's really interesting to see what sparked your ideas. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what sparked the main idea for my book. The idea came to me fully formed one day - obviously it had been mulling in my head for a while - but I'm not sure exactly what sparked it. All I know is I was severely depressed for about eight months and my idea, and the characters were what pulled me out. That time in my life is sort of foggy so I've got nothing.

    I do know that random conversations my characters have are inspired by music, the way the light hits an object, the way a shadow crawls, the way the wind blows... pretty much everything and anything.

  2. Dotted Swiss, yes! My Mom used to use that fabric a lot when she sewed. I actually made a dress out of it one time in a Home Ec. class. That and gingham fabric was used alot in our home. I had three sisters, so my Mom was always sewing something girly for us. That brings back memories, and memories give me story ideas. You're right, they are everywhere!
    Have a wonderful weekend:)

  3. There are stories hidden everywhere. When I started writing, I began to see possibilities everywhere!
    I have clover blooming all over my yard, and the bunnies are enjoying them.

  4. Thanks to all for stopping in. So interesting to get your takes on story sparks, too :-)

    Melissa, thanks for sharing about how characters helped stir you to write during a difficult time--that's inspiring, and encouraging to others. Karen, the idea of memories sparking stories and Lydia, the thought that possibilities emerge just from the writing process itself--all of this is good stuff.

    Thanks for dropping in!