I suspect most writers have a jumble of plot and character ideas constantly churning through their brains. I know I do. Characters who need stories. Incidents that fascinate me, only I don't have characters for them or any idea how to tie them into a full-fledged plot. Cliches I want to twist and skewer into something fresh and surprising. And so on.
And then every once in awhile comes the beautiful "Aha!" moment when I find a story for a loose character or the right people to bring an incident to life. That, for me, is when a mere Idea becomes a Story. It's an embryonic story--very small, and I don't know what it will look like when it grows up. But I know there's enough there that if I nurture it along, I can get a book out of it. And so I love the days when an "Aha!" strikes.
Today was one of them. There's a period of history I've been DYING to write about forever, never mind which one, because I'm shy of saying too much about my stories when they're still teensy little embryos. But I didn't have characters, and I didn't have the foggiest notion how to structure a coherent fictional narrative out of the jumble of actual events. Until this afternoon, when it came to me. I have two characters. I know how and where they'll meet, and I sort of know what one of them looks like. I know they'll be friends and rivals and maybe even occasional lovers. And I know where they'll be at the end of the story. And that's all. I've got a beginning, an ending, and a glimpse of two young men. But that's enough. Now I'll let the thing gestate for a year, two years, TEN years. I'll work on other stories in the meantime, but this one will always be at the back of my mind. I'll be thinking about it idle moments, researching the era and thinking, "Yeah, my protagonist would've been there. What did HE think of that play? What was HIS role in that battle?" and so on. And it will grow, and take shape, and someday I'll sit down and start writing.
I love being a writer. I wouldn't trade days like today for anything.