Found Words

Words are everywhere.

Sometimes they show up unexpectedly. Sometimes they dance, demanding to be noticed.

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Sometimes they’re so common and disguised in the bustle of everyday life that even if they danced, no one would see it.

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Sometimes they’re hiding in plain sight.

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Sometimes they seem like just so much useless clutter. Sometimes they’re artfully arranged, full of hope and meaning.

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Where have you found words lately?


The Awesome Idea

Everything that’s ever been created or ever will be created starts with a thought.

Sometimes this idea starts like a tiny seed—just one small unassuming thought that grows and develops into a full-blown Awesome Idea.

Other times, the Awesome Idea hits full grown and the one doing the thinking is bowled over by the intensity of the beginning, middle, end, and solution all wrapped up in one package all at once.

I’ve had story ideas come to me both ways. Sometimes I’m inspired to write because I get the whole plot—or at least the rough outline—all at once. Even this full-grown Awesome Idea gets built upon, of course, as I write it down. (I have yet to think up a whole story—complete with every word in place, dialogue tags done, no mistakes—without actually writing it down first. Now that would be an Awesome Idea indeed).

But usually, the Awesome Idea for a story comes to me in bits and pieces, and I have a lot of work to do before I have something that’s concrete enough to even begin writing it down. A character, a loose concept, one word or one line, an image or a musical phrase that captures my mind—these little disconnected flitting thoughts are usually what I begin with. Then comes brainstorming, building, experimenting with combining two or more of these disconnected ideas to see if they could gel together to begin growing into the Awesome Idea.

For my current project, I can actually trace the Awesome Idea that is the trilogy I’m writing (hopefully it’s awesome!) to one exact moment, one specific kernel of an idea. It’s grown and changed, of course, and went from a stand-alone book to a trilogy. The setting moved from Russia to Finland, and my one main character was joined by a sizable supporting cast.

But it all began when I was watching a movie called Kautokeino-Opprøret (a Norwegian film; the title translates as The Kautokeino Rebellion). The movie is based on the true story of a revolt by indigenous Sami people against the encroaching government, in a remote village in Norway in the 19th century. There’s one scene where the Sami are combining their separate herds of reindeer into one giant herd, to prevent one particular woman’s reindeer from being taken by the government in payment for a fine.

A line popped into my head: what if an entire herd of reindeer just vanished? And thus was born The Vanished Reindeer, the first novel of my trilogy. I then enhanced that core of an idea with a small dose of Finnish mythology and a large dose of fantasy.

Just a reminder: I’m talking about the birth of an Awesome Idea. The final product—my novel—has absolutely nothing to do with the Norwegian movie, is not based on a true story, and is not intended to be a commentary about indigenous peoples or governments. But that’s where it started.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Writers, artists, musicians, and creators out there—how do your Awesome Ideas develop?

Music video/trailer for Kautokeino-Opprøret, music by Sami singer Mari Boine: