A Spark that Inspires a Novel

A miniscule thought that crosses my mind or an article I’ve read in a newspaper can light up like a distant sparkling star and inspire a story. If the spark grows and gains momentum, the concept might become a novel.

The spark in Revenge in Barcelona (my Nikki Garcia Mystery #3), was the city itself, its unique architecture, colorful history, rich culture, physical beauty, and its independent-minded people. The spark grew in my mind until I knew that Nikki should experience action, mystery, and danger in Barcelona.

The process of following a spark of inspiration is similar for many writers. Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises, was inspired by a trip to Pamplona, Spain, to witness the running of the bulls and bullfights at the week-long San Fermín festival. He’d intended to write a non-fiction book about bullfighting, which had become a passion for him. Instead, the book became fiction based on Hemingway and his friends. In it, he explored the themes of love and death, a total reversal of what he’d originally intended.

This reversal of original intention happens to many authors of fiction, me included. The spark starts out with one concept, and it morphs into a totally different one. Yet the original spark, such as Hemingway’s bullfights, are often woven into the novel either as a theme or subplot, while the full storyline becomes much broader, richer, more scintillating.

Last week, I started my 5th Nikki Garcia mystery. The spark that lit up my imagination was a belt buckle that a man was wearing. It featured a mule.

I knew at that moment that I had to weave a mule or two into Nikki’s next novel. And where can I put a few mules? In a wilderness adventure, of course!


What sparks your imagination?


All photos are used in an editorial or educational manner.

Photo credits:

Sagrada Familia Steeples – Kathryn Lane

The Belt Buckle with a Mule – Pinterest

6 replies
  1. Gay Yellen
    Gay Yellen says:

    Much of my inspiration comes from reading the newspaper. I currently read two a day, one local and one national. Reports that cover real life is endlessly engaging for me and often stranger than fiction. Nice post, Kathryn.

    • Kathryn Lane
      Kathryn Lane says:

      Thank you, Gay. I can well imagine that you’re inspired by newspapers.

      I also read two newspapers a day. I’m in front of the computer so much that I love to read my good, old, print newspapers! I dread the day publishers will go online exclusively. The Sunday supplement of one has a real estate section. I have picked up interesting tid-bits from there that have inspired a line or two in my novels.

  2. Lois Winston
    Lois Winston says:

    I was also inspired after a trip to Barcelona and wound up writing Mosaic Mayhem, a novella connected to my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. My latest book in the series, Guilty as Framed, was inspired by the still unsolved art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum in Boston. However, like Gay, most of my inspiration usually comes from the news–both from reading newspapers and watching the nightly news.

  3. Kathryn Lane
    Kathryn Lane says:

    Thanks, Lois, for your comment. I love hearing how people are inspired to write, paint, invent.
    I just bought Mosaid Mayhem! I have travel coming up soon and this will be a perfect read!

  4. Barb Eikmeier
    Barb Eikmeier says:

    I recently read a book with a murdered mule in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I thought it was clever using a mule as the one who was murdered. Interesting story spark. Great post.

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