The Substance Hoped For – Inspiration

The next few posts will be about my novel, “The Substance Hoped For.” It’s a work of Christian fiction, coming in at a bit over 400 pages. The title is taken from Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the substance of things hope for, the essence of things not seen.” Think of the upcoming posts like a “Making of” feature on a DVD. Here’s how the book got written, how I think as I write.

By the way, it is definitely a story about faith. However, it is set at Christmas, so people keep telling me “What a nice Christmas story!”

Ok. It’s a Christmas story.

Many people want to be published authors; fame, fortune, etc. The biggest, most basic problem is not too different from high school and college when you had to write something for a class: What do I write ABOUT?

Inspiration is hard to find. I guess that’s why they call it “inspiration.” There’s no formula to get you there. If I had to boil it down to one thing, it’s “Pay attention!” Pay attention to what’s happening around you. Do you see something that makes you say, “Huh?’ Or something that makes you say, “Cool!” What moves you? What is happening or has happened to you – ever?

Take that nugget and start playing make-believe. What happened before the nugget caught your attention? What do you think will happen next?

I was given a copy of the very first Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Album years ago. I was blown away by it. If you’ve never heard one of these albums, you absolutely must. Chip Davis is a musical genius who takes Christmas melodies and does incredible arrangements based solely on what the music says to him; forget the lyrics.

Imagine Good King Wenceslas arranged like a soundtrack for a high octane chase scene in a movie. The next cut might be arranged as a medieval ballad with lutes. Trust me – get any Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album, and you’ll understand. Remember Home Alone? The Carol of the Bells that played as the kid booby-trapped the house is a Chip Davis arrangement.

So, with an insane mix of styles from classic rock to ballads to who knows what else, it dawned on me that it had the feel of a movie soundtrack. I saw a chase scene for Good King Wenceslas, a tender love scene for Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella, and more.

I had a series of scene types, but no story. I thought it would be a very interesting exercise to do a movie kind of backwards. Instead of composing a soundtrack for a movie, how about writing a movie for a sound track?

I knew it had to be set against Christmas, whatever the story turned out to be, right? I mean, with all those Christmas carols, it wasn’t going to be a western. I had to listen carefully to the music and hear what it told me. With a lot of different styles from very modern to very, very old, I started thinking about Christmas over the centuries. We could watch a character travel through time to the different Christmas celebrations over the centuries, and then… Naw. Too National Geographic.

But with the different styles of arrangement and the Christmas Carol genre, I knew it has to be a Christmas story that involved time travel. Hey, I’m huge Star Trek fan. You go with what you know.

So Chip Davis’ first Christmas album was the impetus for The Substance Hoped For. And I have to say he’s my home boy – kinda. He’s from Sylvania, OH, a suburb north of Toledo, where I was born and raised. OK. Never met him, but it makes me feel a little cool.


NEXT: “Why?” and writing tight stories

The Substance Hoped For by Jeffrey H. King

Available on line at Authorhouse in hard and soft cover: . Look for the orange cover.

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