Thursday, January 30, 2020

How to Spark a Story Idea by Kristen Joy Wilks

Hello, my name is Kristen Joy Wilks, writer of RomComs and destroyer of houseplants! Today, I want to talk with you about story ideas. How can a story spark in real life grow into a full-fledged novel or in my case, novella? For me, I take interesting things that happen and then blow them wildly out of proportion. It’s a whole lot of fun and retains that tiny bit of truth that makes even a piece of fiction feel real. Let’s get started!

The idea for Yellowstone Yondering came when our family was camping in Yellowstone.

The park is visited by many tourists for whom English is a second language. Therefore, they try to make the warning signs clear to one and all through the use of terrifying drawings. My sons were amazed by the drawing of a young boy being tossed in the air by a raging bison, waving a bag of marshmallows as a grizzly charged toward his sugary snack, and succumbing to the boiling waters of a thermal zone as he cracked through the thin crust to his doom! The same hapless child was featured on all the signs and so my husband named the poor lad, Jimmy. As we toured the beautiful park and remarked upon Jimmy’s many perils, I got to thinking … . Writers are always trying to menace their characters with dangerous situations. What better place to menace a heroine than Yellowstone National Park? But she would have to break all of those perfectly reasonable rules. What could I do to cause such a rash of foolish behavior in an otherwise sane adult?

Put her pup in peril, of course! I promised my sons that I would include a crazed animal in every book (as well as a kiss and a concussion, but they are less concerned about the kiss, ha!) I once saw my grandmother dart in front of a moving car to scoop up her little Shih Tzu. So, I knew firsthand how people react when their dog is in danger. We read Death in Yellowstone by Lee H. Whittlesey aloud as a family while vacationing (remember, I have 3 sons) and discovered that a parkgoer once dove into a boiling pool after his dog. People love their dogs and tend to throw caution to the wind when a beloved pet’s life is endangered. I had my motivation!

Now, we did not bring our furbaby, Princess Leia Freyja, with us to Yellowstone. After discovering that one cannot take a pet on backcountry trails, boardwalks, or anywhere with a geyser or wildlife, it didn’t seem like the kind of trip she would enjoy. The rangers expect you to keep your dog in the car most of the time. I faced a problem. How to get my heroine and her pet out of the car and into some danger? Take away the car of course! When my paternal grandparents visited Yellowstone and were stuck in Hayden Valley as the bison meandered across the road, the driver in front of them was a man on a motorcycle. He nervously sat atop his bike as 1,000 to 2,000-pound bison walked by, close enough to touch. I knew that this would be the perfect vehicle for my heroine and her dog!

Now, to use a few more nuggets of reality to fuel the fiction. Family bear stories!

When my mother was a girl, they visited Yellowstone and tourists often fed marshmallows to bears. My maternal grandfather was happily feeding a black bear by their campfire, when he decided that the bear had had enough. Didn’t want to ruin his dinner, right? The bear disagreed. The result was my grandfather dashing around the campfire at his fastest sprint as the bear gave chase, around and around and around! Eventually, my grandfather tired and flung the marshmallows to the bear before escaping into their vehicle. On another occasion, when my paternal grandmother was out walking, she was bluff charged by a bear. This occurs when a bear would like to give you a firm warning. The bear charges straight at you and then skids to a stop at the last second, thumping the ground with his front paws and giving a deep huff of air in case all that charging didn’t get the point across. Being a woods-savvy lady, my grandmother did not run, but simple stepped backward slowly until she was standing behind a tree. This satisfied the bear and he went back to the elk head that he’d been nibbling. These great family stories provided lots of creative fuel as I imagined Ainsley (my heroine’s dog) in peril.

So, when something interesting, funny, clever, or weird occurs in real life … be sure to write it down. Then later, imagine the very worst that could happen in that situation. Keep adding trouble and hardship for your poor hero, peppering in fascinating facts from research and character growth in between the action scenes. Let that nugget of truth bring believability to even your most wild tales!

How can a story spark in real life grow into a full-fledged novel or in my case, novella? - How to Spark a Story Idea by Kristen Joy Wilks for #seriouslywrite #amwriting #writerslife

Amazon Buy Link
Yellowstone Yondering

When a free-spirited wildlife photographer loses her Scottish terrier in a herd of bison, she sets out to rescue her furbaby before he is devoured. But will she succeed when Yellowstone National Park is chock full of boiling, bubbling, and rampaging hazards (both mammalian and geographical) -- not to mention a rule-obsessed park ranger whose many rescues thwart her efforts to find her poor pup?

They say opposites attract, and when it comes to Kayla Dineen and Ranger Alexander Brandt, no two people have ever been more opposed...or attractive. Old Faithful isn't the only thing making noise at Yellowstone this season.

Kristen Joy Wilks lives in the beautiful Cascade Mountains with her camp director husband, three fierce sons, and a large and slobbery Newfoundland dog. She has blow-dried a chicken, fought epic Nerf battles instead of washing dishes, transported a gallon bag of cooked bacon inside her purse, and discovered a smuggled gardener snake in her sons’ bubble bath. Her stories, devotionals, and articles have appeared in Nature Friend, Clubhouse, Thriving Family, Keys for Kids, The Christian Journal, Splickety, Spark, and Havok. She writes romantic comedies for Pelican Book Group, including Copenhagen Cozenage, The Volk Advent, Athens Ambuscade, Spider Gap, and Yellowstone Yondering. Kristen loves to write about the humor and Grace that can be found amidst the detritus of life. Much like the shiny quarter one member of their household swallowed and then found in the pot four days later. If God is good enough to grant us these gems, she figures that someone should be putting them to the page. Kristen can be found tucked under a tattered quilt in an overstuffed chair at 4:00am writing a wide variety of implausible tales, or at If you would rather enjoy photos of charging bison, Newfoundland dogs, and attacking squid then by all means visit her “What I’m Writing About” board on Pinterest  Pinterest