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Hitting Pay Dirt: Creating The Fool’s Gold

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

For those of you who have read and enjoyed The Fool’s Gold, I thought you might appreciate learning how I came up with this story in the first place. For those of you who haven’t read it yet, I advise you to check it out (click here), as this post will contain some spoilers.

Back in 2022, I was struggling to come up with a short story I could write. I’d already written Hack Eye (an excellent tale you can get for free by subscribing to my site), and my alpha and beta readers loved it and wanted more short-form content. Additionally, I wanted more stories to share and post, so it was safe to say I was rather desperate for a new idea. Yet, just like the young writer in The Fool’s Gold, I struggled to come up with anything compelling.

So, I signed up for the Writers of the Future Workshop, hoping it would teach me how to mine deeper into my imagination and find those elusive smaller tales. I went through the video lectures, and while many were good, one lecturer (no names, but he’s, uh, pretty famous/infamous in the Sci-Fi world) was incredibly long-winded. Still, I survived his countless meanderings and recollections of childhood and finally reached the part of the Workshop that focused on finding inspiration. Now imagine my millennial-flavored disappointment when I saw that I was not going to watch another video but, in fact, read an essay. Ugh.

Yet, this essay was about the famous American novelist Jack London, and it detailed how he came up with so many great short stories so quickly. Apparently, he did this by heading down to the bars near the waterfront in San Francisco, finding the most grizzled, rough-and-tumble sailor, and buying them a drink or a meal. In exchange, he’d only ask that the sailor share some unique experience they’d had while at sea, using their anecdotes to generate ideas for new stories.

My first thought after reading this wasn’t that I should find someone to interview—no, my mind rocketed straight toward the idea of a young writer trying to find inspiration in the same way Jack London did but finding a monster instead…

When true inspiration hits, I never feel like I’m creating the story but discovering it, and as I sank into the narrative, things quickly took shape. It was as though I was excavating some far-off part of my mindscape and discovered there the fossilized remains of a story that has always been. As I dug, I met Roy Jewell, the young writer who would meet a tragic end. Further down, I found the monster who caused that end, Lateisha Lucas. There were more clues among those depths—budding crystals made of themes along with folds and foliations reflecting the narrative and its refinements over time. The Jack London essay had served as my geologic map, guiding me to the story-rich strata that lay beneath my mind’s surface… all I had to do now was unearth it.

Now, this isn’t to say that every exploration of mine has always led to worthwhile discoveries. Plenty of stories never pan out, and much like poor Roy Jewell, I sometimes think I’ve finally hit pay dirt, only to discover that all I’ve found is more fool’s gold.

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