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How Does The Story Begin?

Writers acquire ideas from all sorts of places. When something substantial hits me, it’s best I write it down. I use my iPhone notes app to store my thoughts and ideas. Frequently I make character lists for a book too.


There are two types of writers, those who follow notes and those who are pantsing (they write by the seat of their pants). When I first set my hand to writing, I was one of those pantsing writers. I just wrote because I didn’t feel there was time to make notes, or I’d forget the idea. Then over time, I learned if I needed to rearrange a sub-plot or remove one from the story, this was more complicated than not having notes. Moreover, they came in handy when writer’s block took up residence.


After writing Prodigal Trail, I realized there were too many sub-plots unconnected to the main character in the story, and knew they would leave the reader wondering why this part or that part was in the story. So, in my first editing, I removed the unnecessary sub-plots taking the story from 135,000 overall words down to 76,000. But only after listing each plot and sub-plot on a page, giving me an outline to scrutinize.

The Story’s Inception

Prodigal Trail found life through my love for westerns. Although many other ideas have since been born, writing this first western kicked off my desire to write.


Growing up, my family owned and raised horses. I suppose my involvement played into the influences that shaped my writing westerns. Other influences were Louis L’Amour books and the movies inspired by them. I also have a curiousity about the historical days and culture of the Old West and have read various articles and books relating.


Being a Christian was and is the most significant aspect of my writing. Even the title Prodigal Trail--influenced by my Christian walk--would have little appeal to some readers, because in many ways, was modeled after the life of the Prodigal from Luke’s book in scripture.


One day after rereading the story, I thought someone should write a western about a young man who loses his way until God shows him the path home. Then the Holy Spirit said, “Why not you?” So this is how Prodigal Trail found its existence. God showed me that PT could benefit those who may not read the Bible or download an app.

Making the Story Christian

I use that term lightly so as not to offend. But unfortunately, not every novel in today’s society is suitable for Christian reading. Filling our minds with stories that have a negative impact on our lives can lead us astray. Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body (Proverbs 16:24). Some writers can’t seem to understand the importance of appropriate words.


The novel must be clean to render a story fitting for a Christian. In my opinion, there’s no place for foul language in novels targeting Christians. We hear our share of inappropriate words in our daily lives, so we should avoid them in our books.


While some writers believe the use of these words fits their plot, I know there’s always a better way, one that pleases God. Writers must always consider how the words they write affect or influences the reader. Think positive. Even in stories with awful outcomes, writers should offer a spiritual message in a positive and encouraging way.