My muse has been visiting me for the past three weeks, breathing words and ideas into my mind like fog drifting into the timbered mountains with refreshing beads of vapor. I have experienced creative fever before, but never for this length of time or with this power.
I had the premise for a story in my series set in the days of ancient Minoan Crete. I had written three already and I wondered what I would do this winter—with time to write and no story compelling me. For this one I had a few names brought over from the earlier books, but I didn’t really know most of the characters. The two I knew best had carried another story in the series, and while I’d become so attached to these two that I had trouble leaving them, I knew the next book had to be focused on the new people.
The trigger for my muse came when I was doing a final reading of Book One in the series and came across a family name connected with my new protagonist. It would have been the name of her great-grandmother, and was only mentioned once in the first book. That name touched me, as the name I’d previously given the new character did not.
I decided to rename my protagonist. Logical, I thought, for her mother to name her after an ancestress. And with that change, she went from being a sweet girl, the delight of her mother and her people, to being a young woman who could break men’s hearts—and her own in the process—never intending harm but rushing headlong into life with all its joys and perils. Then, while I was still caught in the excitement of getting acquainted with this intriguing person, I considered another character. I had a minor role for him, although a key role. When I named him he moved into the story with stunning force that changed their world. My muse put the rest together—I think with sheer pleasure.
I’m not ready to reveal those names, but in three weeks’ time I have drawn up an entire storyline. I have over 80 single-spaced pages of notes, a preliminary outline of scenes, and am ready to put together my working outline from which I’ll write the first draft. I expect my muse to continue whispering small thoughts, and the story may shift here and there. They always do.
But I will never doubt the power of names to inspire a story.