Friday, October 27, 2017

Storyteller's Journey

Photo Credit: Public Domain
A Serendipitous Story Origin
While I'm normally inspired by a specific setting prior to writing a story, the Lindstrom Wintertime Tale that I'm now working on came about by my desire to include a snowy owl in my next short story. (Illustrated by fine artist, Michael Lindstrom.)

When I began researching natural habitats of the large white owl, I learned that the Shetland Islands was once a popular habitat for the beautiful bird during the winter months. (In recent decades they have only rarely appeared. But since my story is set in the 18th century that was no problem.) It dawned on me that the subarctic archipelago in Scotland is also famous for Shetland ponies - my family had two when I was a child! Things got even more exciting when I discovered that the island of Unst - the northernmost in Scotland -  has strong ties to Norwegian culture. BINGO! (I'm 57% Norse.) Since writing a story set in the Shetland Islands would touch on many of my own interests and personal history, I felt like I had hit the jackpot. Then, when I learned that the island of Unst is home to the Muness Castle (which was abandoned during the era when my story is to be set) the wheels in my head began frantically spinning around with numerous plot ideas. Ultimately, those tidbits I mentioned above prompted the idea for a protagonist. I'm excited to create another story with a female heroine!

After that initial research, I wrote an outline for The Whim of Winter.

I wanted to write this post to reveal just how a story can have a serendipitous origin. I'm not sure if I'd have chosen to set my next Lindstrom Wintertime Tale on the island of Unst, in Scotland, without these unexpected discoveries:

*Unst has a rich culture that includes their Norwegian heritage.
*Shetland ponies. (So many fond memories of Gidget and Goliath!)
*The island of Unst is famous for its stunning natural beauty.
*The Muness Castle quickly gave me an idea for an interesting plot.
*The sea cliffs of Unst are the natural home to over 120,000 birds.
  (As mentioned above, a snowy owl even occasionally appears.)
My husband & I have visited Scotland! (Just not as far north as Unst.)

As you can see, this story idea originated from my desire to include a snowy owl, but quickly found "steam" once other interesting points jumped out at me during my research. This is not the first time that has happened. While I'll not go into details, many times my initial research has dictated the direction of a story even before I created an outline.

My point is: Follow your own interests; don't follow what's popular!

You never know when serendipity will step in and lend a hand!


  1. I'm a great believer in serendipity. It was fun reading how your story idea evolved. On another note, my husband is from India, and on his first trip home (and my first trip to India ever), we were staying with his brother and wife and his mother. We had an upstairs room, and because of the warm temperatures, the windows were open. A white owl came flying by, looked in, then swooped in through the window and landed on the chest of drawers. It sat there for a moment, solemnly regarding me, then flew out again. Never saw one again, but I have to say, that moment was riveting, and I have never forgotten it. It was just wonderful.

    1. That is such a beautiful - and amazing - story, Mitty. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend!