Sometimes it happens like this…

Last night as I was dozing off I was visited by Lorelei. There are a lot of new followers lately, so I’ll let everyone know Lorelei is my Muse.

I never saw her, never even smelled her sandalwood scent. Usually, she hits me over the head, but not last night. Maybe I’m in trouble.

I see posts that ask writers what they come up with first, plot or characters. It never happens for me that way. I get little vignettes. There’s a bit of setting, some plot, and a scosh of character. Then it stops. Here’s what I got last night:

I stepped off the monthly bus and removed my new felt safari hat. The plain leather band marked me as an outsider. Maybe I’d get the chance to upgrade it with something a bit more rustic. I wiped the sweat with my sleeve and put the hat back on to protect me from the brutal sun. The driver unloaded my bags and rifle case, then drove on.

The corrugated metal sign across the street was hand painted with The Grey Baboon. I carried my bags to the porch, but brought the rifle case inside. I looked up to see if the roof was really grass, or just on the outside. It was the real deal. The bartender had his back turned polishing a glass.

She sat at a table off to the far right, lounging lazily like no woman I’d ever been around before with one riding boot across a second chair. She wore one of those loose khaki military shirts with epaulets on the shoulders. Her sun bleached blonde hair was tied in back and cascaded over one shoulder.

There were light crows feet around her eyes and her skin was perfectly tanned. It was hard to tell if she was twenty five or forty five, but some of the women in Nairobi had the same look. She was beautiful, but not in that painted New Orleans style from when the boat shipped out. It was more like a perfect wild animal.

She turned over a second glass and filled it from her own bottle of gin, added two drops of quinine and sat it toward me. She took her leg off the chair and used her boot to shove it away from the table.

She pushed back the brim of her filthy old pith helmet. Her nails were cut short and hadn’t seen polish in years. When she spoke, her accent was like a combination of Australian and Heaven.ย “Welcome to Africa, Mr.–


And that’s all I got. It’s almost always that vivid and full of detail. It’s usually just that short too.

I don’t know who he is, or why he went to Africa. I know it’s historical, because he took a boat. There’s no hunting in Kenya these days, and quinine hasn’t been a staple preventative for a few years now.

I don’t know who she is, or how she knows him. She didn’t run up and throw her arms around him. She must be Afrikaans/Boer because of the accent (and the look), but she’s hundreds of miles from South Africa. That could be interesting.

I don’t know what they have planned. It could be as simple as a safari or a land sale. It might be ancient ruins or even an alien crash site. Maybe there is a will to be read.

I may never write their story, but you never know. I don’t usually post on Tuesdays, but these people are haunting me. I kind of wanted to make some notes about them and chose to share it here.

Does anyone else ever get vignettes? In all my reading it seems like I’m the odd one here. I’m usually on my own after that, but sometimes Lorelei comes back. Where do your ideas come from?


Filed under Muse, Short Stories & Vignettes, Writing

39 responses to “Sometimes it happens like this…

  1. =) That was pretty fast. Hey, I am quite pleased: you didn’t go zonkers with the adj and adverbs. That’s a big reason this flows so well, lovely like her. Very nice descriptions “like a perfect wild animal.” Forty-five, etc are hyphenated, incidentally. Feel free to edit this part out of the comment.

    I’m so glad the passion I wrote of somehow translated into this!



    • I just whipped this off. They’ve been haunting me all day. I usually just free write on the blog. Your comments are good and they can stay.

      As for these characters, these few pixels may be all they ever get. Maybe they’ll show up again in five years, or next week.


      • Yep – the grand adventure.
        Glad to be in on yours.



      • Your post still has more to tell me. Maybe it’s just something for my story structure notes. Maybe it’s more, but it’s sticking with me. Writing has to be like romance, just a bit. I want my readers to think about the story when it isn’t around. I want to deliver nice little gestures to my readers. I’m still dwelling on it.


      • My words somehow literally resonated with you. And maybe that’s something of what you’re after, too? *Shaking head* Not patting myself on the back. Only trying to figure it out with you. Words have literal energy. They literally come (out) of the mouth with breath. And they come from the writer’s mind with his, her energy and spirit. Your comment here is beautiful. A post all its own (perhaps with your first comment under my post.) =)

        Honored to be a part of this.



      • DANG! I wanna read this one. Don’t wait too long – I’m getting kinda old.


      • So am I. I like these two, but need to figure out what they’re all about.


  2. It’s good having you around. Maybe I’ll write a best seller next time out. Feel free to visit anytime.


  3. I’m the same way. It always starts with a scene. Maybe not quite as detailed as yours, but I have a folder full of little scenes waiting for me to discover what the story is behind them.


    • I think we must be a minority. Many start with a fleshed out character, others with a plot that needs a casting call. I get these every once in awhile, and that’s usually where I build my stories from.


  4. That’s so cool. I could see this going so many ways. Love the way you show your characters personalities through their descriptions. I get little vignettes also in the early stages of putting something together, but when I start actually writing it down they go a bit wild on me.


  5. Sometimes when I get just a bit of a vision like that, the rest comes back in the following two or three days. It sounds like you’re getting a lot of wonderful material for future novels. ๐Ÿ˜€


  6. Ali Isaac

    Happens to me ALL the time… little scenes, snatches of conversation, little bursts of action… I write em all down and use em. I really enjoy my characters showing me their stories, their ideas are always much better than anything I could make up!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I tend to get all my ideas from real life, because real life is so funny and odd and touching. When I was younger, I used to be blasted by vignettes. I lived, ate, slept, dreamed them. I had notebooks bursting with ideas, characters with lives of their own that would materialize from time to time and allow me a tantalizing glimpse through their windows. But as I’ve grown older, slowly their colours faded until they began to disappear, the curtains were drawn, and my muse slipped off to the dreams of another. In her absence, I have my life, for whatever that is worth.
    As for your vignette above, I love this start. The woman is intriguing – I truly hope you keep them alive long enough to take us on their journey. I have a good feeling it is there waiting to be told.


    • Did your style or genre change? I think humor is something that would require a lot of deep thought and refinement. It’s harder than blowing things up in a spy story.

      These two may stick around. I like them, but I already have a next project in mind. Glad you like them.


      • Haha! Yes, my genre changed over the years. My first book (never published) was a modern romance, actually. These days, I don’t mind reading a romance now and again, but I have no stomach to write them. Humour and comedy really are what I am most comfortable with. And YES, that does require a lot of thought and revision, as you well know. Perhaps my muse just speaks to me differently than for some. Today’s post actually started out with me complaining about how I hated drinking water, and suddenly, all these characters just appeared on the dance floor with a life of their very own. Bizarre how that happens… ๐Ÿ˜€ I never know quite what door these keys will open for me.

        And I look forward to a reappearance of your characters! MH


      • I’ll take it under advisement. I think they’re intriguing too, but they might wind up being a 2016 project.

        Good reminder, I need to drink more water.


  8. Michelle Mueller

    Oh, the conversation part happens quite frequently with me. I’ll have some kind of idea as to where my characters are (or could possibly be), but it’s mostly their interaction that interests me. Pretty cool how that turns out for you, though!


  9. It’s strange. I get visuals, setting, dialog and everything. I could detail the bar interior, the clouds in the sky and how deep the dust was on the road. It was all in my vignette, but isn’t worth overwhelming the writing.

    It’s not perfect, and some research would clarify a few things. If a Boer woman is misplaced, there wouldn’t be more like her in Nairobi. Maybe the setting should be further south. If I write it, I’m not afraid to change it up a bit.


  10. I don’t get anything like as vivid a picture as you, but i don’t understand how people can create characters and a plot without having that flash first. Maybe they just all said what is expected? I kind of get an idea, almost like someone (my muse? I must try to find a way to become more aware of him/her) whispering in my ear things like “What if So’n’so found out Whatshisface next door had kidnapped a girl and was keeping her in the basement?” (Oooh! Need to explore that. See?)


    • You could be right. Sometimes people comment with the expected answer. They’re just trying to be nice or supportive.

      This is the first time I’ve ever gotten anything near the beginning of a story. Usually it’s a scene that needs building from both directions. It’s a little odd to arrive in first person too.

      I may have to write this one eventually. It might be difficult to turn it into one of “my” stories. There are witch doctors in Africa though. That could be a starting point.


  11. My first novel got started because of a vignette vision. I couldn’t quite hear what they were saying, so my first set of notes had most of the dialogue wrong, but the setting was crystal clear. It eventually became the end of Ch. 23 and the beginning of 24.


  12. In a word, yes. That’s exactly how it starts for me, usually after listening to music.




  13. Pingback: One of those days. | Entertaining Stories

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