I’ve written before about what writers can use as inspiration–a photo, an overheard snippet of conversation, an idea that’s rolled around in your head for years. Some writers are inspired by television programs or popular books and write fan fiction (which some writers then turn into popular, though ill-written, books and make tons of money). Other writers, myself included, get inspiration from actual events and put a fictional twist on them.
This past weekend my Unitarian Universalist fellowship held a used-book sale, and I promised myself I’d be good and not buy any more denizens for my groaning book shelves. Best-laid plans, and all that. A few seconds into browsing, something caught my eye: Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to Al-Qaeda by Thomas Powers. Powers’ book is a collection of essays he wrote for various publications on America’s history of spying. At $2.00 for a hardback, how could I, the spy writer, pass that up?
The Table of Contents is a veritable mine of story prompts: “The Conspiracy that Failed,” “Phantom Spies at Los Alamos,” “The Mind of the Assassin,” “Marilyn was the Least of It,” and “The Trouble with the CIA” are just a few examples. Even more than inspiration, this is an excellent reference for delving into the history of the world of intelligence.
However, it wasn’t my new acquisition that inspired me this weekend. Rather, it was a combination of the prompt for Week 21 of the Rory’s Story Cube Challenge and the ghost of executed Romanian Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. For quite some time now, the ghost of Romania past has bugged me to write about his timely end. I’m not going into length here about Ceausescu and his equally ambitious wife, Elena. You can Google them and get a number of reputable references about Romania under their rule (remember the news stories on Romanian orphans) and how the Eastern European anti-Communist uprisings in 1989 had their bloody culmination in Romania.
And don’t get me wrong. If Ceausescu were still around, he wouldn’t like my portrayal of him or his wife in my story, “Judas Goat.” That just goes to show, you can haunt someone to write about you, but payback’s a bitch.
Here is the roll of the cubes for Week 21:
And here is what I saw: l. to r. – knocking on a door; evil; shouting in anger/angry; eating; thought/thinking; magic/magic wand; flower; sheep; sadness/dismay.
The object that stood out for me was the sheep, and you’ll get the connection to the title, when you read the story, of course.
As usual, if you don’t see the link on the story title above, hover your cursor over the Spy Flash tab at the top of the page and select it from the drop-down menu. If you’d like to give the Story Cubes Challenge a try, write a story of any length based on the picture above, then post a link to it here.