Unexpected Surprises

Inspiration is everywhere.

We hadn’t checked the weather forecast in a few days, so a sudden blizzard while we sat curled up under blankets in a room surrounded on three sides by windows was a magical experience for us all. The lights from multiple decorated trees reflected off the windows. Family that we hadn’t seen in months sat in the room with us.

We didn’t expect a white Christmas, so that in itself was delightful. But the experience felt like being inside a reverse snow globe. Although the windows were not full surround, out imaginations filled in the gaps. Staring out into backyard as the sun set on the falling snow, a scene appeared, illuminated by a landscape light that had been partially shifted under the weight of the snow.

I recalled a scene from one of my favorite books. You probably know it. Young Lucy Pevensie hides in a wardrobe, only to discover that in the back, the coats gave way to snow laden branches and a clearing illuminated by a single lamp post. I could almost feel the awe and wonder she must have experienced, being transported from a gray English countryside to a snowy wonderland. In that moment, she didn’t know about the evil queen or the problems in Narnia. She knew only that something unexpected had just changed her world. I was transported into the remembered story by the trio of trees illuminated in my parents’ backyard.

At first, my gut reaction was one of sadness. The dog was ruining the pristine snow in the magical scene. But then, something profound happened. I realized that I was witnessing the very thing that I had been imagining a moment before. Here before me were a dog and my children (not pictured) enjoying an experience that they hadn’t in years. They were living the magic that I was only observing.

These unexpected moments are the heart of storytelling, but they are also easy to miss in our own lives. If I hadn’t been looking, I may have missed the opportunity to experience C.S. Lewis’s scene in a new way. If I had stopped observing, I could easily have been distracted by the problems inherent in such a dramatic accumulation of snow on country roads. I wouldn’t have seen the puppy-like joy that children and dogs experience while playing in piles of frozen water. I wouldn’t have remembered how it was worth the frozen toes, chapped lips, and soaked clothing just to fly down the hill on wings of plastic.

And that is why I write, to take the magic that we often overlook, the events that are often wonderful but interpreted as unfortunate, and turn them out in a way that the reader can’t ignore.

My novel has some heavy themes. The protagonist, Stella, comes face to face with some decidedly NOT pleasant experiences, and in doing so she is presented with an opportunity for wonder that she may have never seen.

The unexpected events in our lives are the things that help us grow, move us forward, propel us to make changes, and create moments of pleasure. The same is true for every character in every book. Without the unexpected, there would be no story to tell.

Of course, I won’t ruin the story by telling you what these things are in Stella’s life. The inciting incident will, of course, be early on in the narrative. But like any good story, the twists and turns continue. So much so, in fact, that this is the first in a trilogy of stories. Because, really, can any of us predict what tomorrow will hold? And isn’t that part of the fun?