Have you attended any of the Coffee with the Author events hosted by the Friends of the Bill Ellis Memorial Library in Port Aransas? It’s a great way to get insight to what an author’s life is like “behind the scenes.”
A popular question put to authors by members of the audience is “Where do you get your ideas?”
For me as an author, inspiration often comes when I least expect it. Take, for example, a scene from The Redoubt. I had a first draft and I was fairly well pleased with it. It gives readers some insight into the character of King Bewilliam and sets up a plot device that comes into play later in the story. I submitted the scene for read-and-critique by members of the South Texas Scribes. I got some well-considered comments about how it could be improved so I revised it and liked it even better.
Months later, as I worked on the book’s final chapters, I happened to join a fitness class and met a trainer who is the embodiment of a great leader. With equal parts dares, encouragement, and scolding, Karen Decker gets us to give our best effort—and then go beyond even that. And I realized just what that scene in my novel lacked. Back to the book for one more revision.
Here’s an excerpt:
The second skin of chain mail and the metal suit of armor added about fifty pounds to Robin’s weight and made it that much harder to maintain his balance. He could have worn lighter clothes to this training session but Robin felt it was important to stay in battle-ready condition. As king he was the supreme legal authority, jury, and judge; the chief executive; the kingdom’s principal comptroller but he was also the commander of the armed forces. It was the king who led his men in battle and he needed to be capable of doing that at a moment’s notice.
“Again,” came Jarin’s command. “Four diagonal strokes. Jump to a thirty-degree stance. Two vertical thrusts. Switch up those feet. Two horizontal strokes. One straight stab. Stay light on your feet. Maintain your balance.”
Huffing, his mouth dry, Robin tackled the series of moves. He had to hop to avoid a slick wet spot on the floor.
“Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth. Blow it out.”
Robin puffed out what little breath he had managed to pull into his lungs.
“Excellent, Sire,” Jarin said, not the least bit winded. The combat master was not weighed down by a full suit of armor but wore only a cuirass over his tunic. “And I’m not just saying that because Your Majesty could behead me if I didn’t.”
Robin chuckled and lowered his sword.
Spunky and spry, what the spiky-haired compact fellow lacked for in stature he made up for with muscle. Jarin no longer served on the field although facial scars, missing teeth, and a foreshortened left arm attested to the years of battle experience that equipped him to train the kingdom’s soldiers, even its king. No one in the kingdom could order His Majesty nor touch his person. No one, save Jarin. And Robin worked hard to please him. Though he had bested men and beasts in fights to the death, Robin found praise from Jarin nearly as satisfying.
I had no idea when I set out that morning to push myself through sets of Jumping Jacks, sit-ups, and push-ups that my writing was going to get pumped up as well. As I said, inspiration often comes when I least expect it.