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People often ask how writers come up with ideas. Really, we don't always know. Sometimes they’re inspired by music, movies, or current events. Other times, they’re just suddenly there in our heads. The idea for Ghost Flute, however, came together for me much differently than any other story I've written. At the time, I was struggling with writer's block. I couldn't brainstorm no matter how hard I tried. My creative well was dry.
Then one day, I was sitting at the computer, just staring out the window. My house backs up to woods and a small creek. It was sunset and the sky was in that hazy in-between stage. I started wondering what was back there that night. All forms of wildlife make their homes in those woods. I’ve seen deer, red foxes, raccoons, woodchucks, and all kinds of birds. It’s a very pretty, natural setting that can take on an entirely different personality at night. Once darkness falls, owls cry, raccoons scream, and trees creak in the wind. Watching the woods as dusk fell, I was suddenly caught by the feel of the nocturnal world coming alive. It was a sensual, spooky feeling, and it got my stalled brain churning again.
As much as the feeling intrigued me, though, I still didn’t have a story idea. The only thing I was sure of was that it tended towards the paranormal – but not vampires or zombies. It was closer to the earth, more primal. Suddenly, I remembered a book I own on Native American mythology. Indian culture is rich with myths and legends about nature, the heavens, monsters and spirits. I’m fascinated by that kind of thing, but I don't think I'd ever cracked the cover of that particular book. I did that night, and I stumbled across the inspiration I needed.
The Brule Sioux tell the story of an elk charmer, a promiscuous lover who lured maidens out of their teepees at night by playing his flute. The lothario romanced women and tossed his conquests aside until the day he was found dead on the prairie with a knife buried in his stone heart. As the legend goes, the elk charmer still plays, roaming the countryside and looking for love.
Suddenly, everything came together for me – the setting, the story's vibe, and the characters. The story’s plot was so strong in my head, I could practically touch it. I knew how wildly the music pulled at Serena. I knew the danger and dark passion that awaited her in the trees. I knew the fascination Chayton had for his pretty new neighbor and the lengths to which he’d go to make her his. It was exciting to have a break-through like that, especially when I’d been struggling so badly. I started writing Ghost Flute the next day, and the story that ended up on the page is very close to what I saw in my imagination when I looked into those darkening woods.
I hope readers enjoy it. As it so happens, I’m writing this message, looking out on those same woods as the sky starts to fade. It’s been a rainy, dreary day. Crows are cackling and the wind is howling. The trees are bending and swaying, and I’m wondering what else is out there, battening down against the storm… Maybe another story!
- Kimberly Dean
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