Please welcome Tray Ellis as she discusses the inspiration for her stories. Welcome, Tray!
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Inspiration for stories can come in a blinding flash, a dream, an image, a feeling, or a host of many other ways. I’m grateful for fortuitous moments—characters wave hello, plots obligingly reveal themselves, and perfect beginnings and endings are effortless. Frustratingly, most of the time, it doesn’t happen like that.
My writing comes more like conscientious rock-wall building. Imagine those picturesque stone walls scattered across farm-country, keeping the sheep in, delineating land ownership. The end product might be lovely to behold, but it takes considerable planning to piece it together. (Or I like to claim so—rather, it is more likely to be scattered tatters that I quilt together. Shhh, don’t tell on me!) So as I cobbled together the different elements of “How Sweetly the Whippoorwill Sings”, there was a little bit of luck thrown my way.
First was an off-hand conversation I had with a scientist friend, who explained how helium was being rationed. (Who knew? But apparently, it is. It’s a Big Deal. Which is sad, because I adore party balloons.) That gave me some ideas on vocation—which is one of the hardest things to figure out for my characters—and also lead to some interesting research on the type of instrumentation that would use helium. (It’s a noble gas, and therefore, super important.)
Second, I was idly listening to the radio and one of the news stories was about the difference between love and lust in the brains of people who were having MRI scans done. They were shown photos of their own loved ones and then also photos of people (celebrities/actors/etc.) who were incredibly attractive. The MRI scans were clear – different areas activated for lust versus love. I was intrigued. This is the meat-and-potatoes for romance writing! Why do we fall in love? Must it be lust? Can we transition from lust to love and back again? And a thought for some other story, some other day – does this mean you could scientifically prove to someone that you love them? Or suffer the consequences if you found out that your affections don’t run as deeply as wished? Whippoorwill was meant to be a charming, happy story, and that wasn’t a road I wanted to travel down with those characters, but it certainly offers so many opportunities for other types of drama with other characters. Still, I couldn’t resist having Everett and Jake talk about it a little. Not only is it an important topic scientifically, but it is important for everyone who tries to listen to what their heart saying.
I couldn’t find a clip of the radio program I heard, but a search netted two articles talking about the same thing:
On the day of Molly and Irving’s wedding the usual hiccups and snags happen, but Irving’s best man, chemistry professor Everett Donnelly, is there to smooth them over, keep everyone organized, and make last minute adjustments based on the lists he keeps. If only he weren’t distracted and reeling from his strong attraction to Molly’s brother, police officer Jake Mountbatten, whom Everett first met at the rehearsal dinner.
In between boutonnière crises and wedding photos, the two men have ample opportunities to catch each other’s eye, but the obligations of the wedding interrupt them time and again. Finally, all the speeches and traditional activities are over, and Everett finds Jake to see if they can make a little romance of their own.
“Look at all the birds.” Everett Donnelly studied the enormous four-tiered pink and white wedding cake. It actually sparkled under the lights, and he was trying to figure out if the sparkles had been added after or were embedded in the smooth, fondant frosting.
“Not just birds,” Irving replied. “Whippoorwills.”
“Whippoorwills. Really?” Everett bent again to examine the cake. At least a dozen birds in flight scattered across the sparkling white surface, along with the most beautiful ornate green and brown tree branches traversing the different tiers. Each bird was a glossy sugary pink, their tiny beaks open as if song poured forth. “How can you tell?”
“Because Molly asked for whippoorwills, and if those aren’t whippoorwills, then we have a problem.” Irving readjusted his glasses, giving the cake a serious frown.
“They are definitely whippoorwills. No doubt.” Everett nodded. He actually wasn’t entirely sure what a whippoorwill looked like, but he did know they were a type of bird, and there were certainly graceful swooping birds on the cake. “Why whippoorwills?”
“Molly says they have an ethereal song and are considered good luck, and a symbol of everlasting love.” Irving’s tone brooked no discussion.
“Sure. Of course.” Everett wasn’t going to argue with Molly, even if it was through Irving. He was especially not going to argue on her wedding day, and definitely not about her wedding cake. He glanced at his watch. “We need to get going. If I don’t have you to the church on time, Molly will come after me first and with a vengeance.”
Tray Ellis never learned to whistle and her home is rarely organized, but that just leaves more time for writing, which she adores. Gentle twirls of fate are her specialty and when she writes, she aims for quiet humor and a satisfying ending. She can be found chronicling her writing journey at Tray Ellis Dreamwidth, Tray Ellis Blog Spot, and Tray Ellis Facebook