It begins with an idea, a good one or a bad one, a complete one or a fragment. Every news story I write, each piece of fiction, whether it's a short story or a full-length novel, each essay and the occasional poem all begin with one idea. That single moment of inspiration may strike at any time, often at the oddest or most inconvenient hour. It might be in the wee hours of the morning, the wolf hour between night and dawn. An idea might pop into my head in the middle of a movie or while sitting on the porch. There's no way to guess when a simple word or sight or stray thought may spark inspiration.

It begins with an idea, a good one or a bad one, a complete one or a fragment. Every news story I write, each piece of fiction, whether it's a short story or a full-length novel, each essay and the occasional poem all begin with one idea.  That single moment of inspiration may strike at any time, often at the oddest or most inconvenient hour.  It might be in the wee hours of the morning, the wolf hour between night and dawn.  An idea might pop into my head in the middle of a movie or while sitting on the porch.  There's no way to guess when a simple word or sight or stray thought may spark inspiration.
That's why most writers carry a notebook around everywhere they go and why we often scribble a few words in the middle of the night.  If we're lucky, not only can we read them the next morning but we        can even understand what we meant.
Kinfolk was the first novel that found a publisher, Champagne Books, but the idea began long before I actually wrote it.  It began with the idea of a woman stepping down from a Greyhound bus somewhere in Arkansas and all I knew was that she was running away from something or somewhere.  The original line that I carried in my head for a a few years was "She stepped off the bus in Arkansas."  After incubating and at last sitting down to write the novel, the actual opening lines became:
After forty-eight hours of relative safety, Katherine was reluctant to leave the bus.  From the moment she climbed aboard in Hollywood, the Greyhound had cocooned her with anonymity. Danger from death threats seemed distant but it took a effort to step down at the station on School Street in Fayetteville.
I took the original idea and expanded on it, building a more detailed picture with words. And from there, I wove the framework for a story about Katherine Vaughn.  Within a few paragraphs she meets Ben Hatfield and although he's both enigmatic and not what she expected, it's the fragile beginning of what will grow into a relationship.
If the opening lines intrigue, Kinfolk is available in both eBook and print form.  The Neosho-Newton County Library has a copy that can be checked out as well.
In my most recent novel, Canaan's Land, published by World Castle Publishing in January 2017, a lunar eclipse inspired the opening scene but the idea evolved from the name, Canaan.  I had never heard it used as a first name and when I did, it intrigued me.  I liked the solid, old-fashioned sound and I spun a story based on a character named Canaan, a farmer on land handed down over several generations, whose land and life are threatened.  I had the entire novel outlined on the first day, something that seldom happens. Most of the time I know where a story begins and where, as well as how it will end. The rest I fill in as the story develops, one sentence, one chapter at a time.
I have several works-in-progress underway. One is a historical novel set just after the Civil War.  Another is a story written for an anthology call.  The other is still in the process of being formed but the idea began at the annual Newton County Fair.  The story isn't as much about the fair as about an old relationship rekindled after a chance meeting at the fair but that's where it began.
It all begins with an idea - writers take it, run with it, and go from there, never knowing where it will lead!



Lee Ann Murphy is a staff writer for the Neosho Daily News and writes a column for the paper.