Written by Sarah Yoon
A vignette plays in your head. It is simple, lovely, and infuriatingly stagnant. Even as you write it down in your inspiration journal, you know that this glowing spark of imagination won’t go anywhere. Even before you finish sketching it out, the idea is dead.
Many inspirations endure this fate, but if a scene haunts your imagination and piques your curiosity, it’s worth a second look. As C.S. Lewis mentions in his article “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s To Be Said,” the single image of a faun, an umbrella, and snow-laden forest caught his imagination when he was 16. Decades later, he wrote The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Images and ideas are easily acquired, but it takes patience, persistence, and inspiration to help them come to life.
- Give it time. Sometimes we come across ideas that we’re not ready to use. It can take years to process, or maybe you need a week to sit on it before you dive in.
- Combine inspirations. Most story snippets can’t stand alone. They need a supporting cast, a chorus, and a good set designer before they can rock the stage.
- Talk it out. When you’re at a dead end, chat with a fellow storyteller. Simply expressing your ideas out loud will help, and maybe he or she will propose an entirely new perspective.
- Keep guessing. Sometimes the best answer is the least expected; don’t be afraid to throw in unusual elements such as character occupation, tastes, fears, etc. Some will stick and some won’t, so you might as well have fun with it, right?
- Conduct test runs. Set your characters in a new scene. Any scene will do. Explore their minds and gauge their actions. Each paragraph will help you round your characters by shedding light on their motivations and desires.
Over time your vignette will grow into a dynamic story, where characters come to life and mysteries lurk around every corner. Give each element time to grow and don’t be afraid to work on other projects while you wait. Since stories mature alongside their writers, it is up to you to discover your own pace and nurture each promising spark of inspiration.