"Fishy Idea" by Greg Schurman

There are some weeks that feel like daily epiphanies — or daily slaps to the forehead, thinking, Hello! I knew this already. Why didn’t I think of it sooner?  

Yesterday’s epiphany came from thinking about why so often I prefer fantasy over realistic fiction. I realized that it’s hard to pull off “ordinary” — the ordinary high school, ordinary girl/guy next door, ordinary problems as big deals. It can be done, of course, but as a reader I want the ordinary to be infused with a sense of wonder. I want to see it in a completely different way.  

Like with this photo of the fish in the lightbulb: I know it’s photoshopped, but it’s so intriguing!  

And all of that reminded me of one of the many amazing essays about creative writing theory that I read in grad school — this one called “In Search of Wonder” that Katherine Paterson gave as a lecture in 1997, where she says this:  

Let me suggest that there are at least three aspects of wonder that we may find in a well-told story for children — not only in a children’s book, of course, but also there. There is the wonder of nature and human nature — we call it setting and characters. There is the wonder in the telling — language, style — how the story is told. And there is the wonder behind and beyond the story — the meaning of this story that ties us to the mystery of the meaning of our lives and of all creation — the story’s shape, flow, and theme.  

Yes, yes, yes! That’s exactly what I want. I want to be in awe of all those things as I read: characters, setting, language, style, shape, flow, theme. None of them are allowed to be just ordinary, just any old setting or stock character. At least for me to be happy with a book.  

And what this epiphany did for me was give me an angle for approaching my new vision (re-vision) of my WIP. I hate the chore of writing up character bios and all that. It’s just never worked well for me. But when I thought in terms of exploring the sense of wonder in my story, I got excited. I opened a fresh document, and I let myself just start writing the things that intrigue me about my characters, settings, etc.  

Six single-spaced pages later, I had so many breakthroughs! I realized things about my characters, about the magic system I’ve got in place, and even about the settings that I was fumbling through before. And, best of all, all of these breakthroughs will help amp up that tension I’ve been struggling to find. And I think it’ll help make my entire story more intriguing.  

Hooray! You have to love the epiphany days as a writer. Sometimes they’re tear-inducing epiphanies, like realizing you have to switch 300 pages from first present to third past, but every epiphany makes the story stronger.  

Two months and a week until my next critique group deadline. If I can pull off everything I came up with in freewriting today, it’ll be an awesome manuscript with plenty of big changes.  

Anybody else have a cool epiphany recently — not just about writing? I’d love to hear about it.  

Leave a comment!  

7 thoughts on “Sense of Wonder

  1. yes, actually, i did. this one involves relationships between men and women. i was reading about what men want. and even though i’ve known that i want to be confident, independent and playful for a guy to be interested, my other “moods” interfered with my present relationship. and he began to back-off. i’ve ignored his most recent calls/emails and now he’s wanting me even more. i know this might all sound trite, yet knowing this all in my body was the real epiphany. after 54 years young, i finally think i’m “getting it.”

    do you know about opensalon.com? a grrreat community of writers! (by the way, i’m gypsy island girly on the site–check it out, girly!).

    many blessings,


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