Guest Post by Tim L. O’Brien

 I am honored that Tim O’Brien has agreed to be my guest today because I admire his writing and thought you’d like to know a little more about the man whose been causing all that “Static in the Airwaves” in the blogosphere recently.

Now he’s not to be confused with THE Tim O’Brien, the award-winning multi-published author and the Grammy award-winning bluegrass musician that goes by the very same name—although I hear he likes to sing in the shower.

Please don’t sing for us today, okay Tim? Thank you.

What he does admit to being is a Jack-of-all-trades and master of none…

Hmm maybe. Maybe not.

So what are a few things that make Tim O’Brien the man that he truly is?

Though Tim was born and raised in Houston, Texas he now resides near his Alma Mater, the University of Oklahoma. Go Sooners! There he received his degree in Journalism and is currently in pursuit of his Masters in Professional writing, that is when he’s not working, writing on his novels, or playing Mr. Mom to his ten year old son and his nine year old daughter.

He is also the proud father of two grown daughters, one married, both in college, while he himself just got married within the last couple of years. So all together there are three boys and three girls which makes them, as Tim put it, the real life Brady bunch, minus Alice.

Whew, did I get that right Tim? You are one busy man!

Yet besides his family and his strong desire to write, the closest thing to Tim’s heart is an isolated stretch of land along the Rio Grande called El Indio. There is where he feels most at peace and in isolation. And there is where Tim spent a week of vacation with his wife and children on his family’s full working cattle ranch, which sounds just about perfect.

Uh-oh, I hear more Static in the Airwaves. It must be Tim. Oh, hi Tim!

Hi Karen.

Take it away Tim!

Thank you Karen.

Hello everybody!

Ever since Karen asked me to write a post for her blog several weeks ago, she and I have sent messages back and forth about what I should write.

Until she asked me to write about this…

Hunting…For a Novel Idea

The first golden rays of the sunrise wouldn’t appear for another hour or so. We sat in muted silence, slightly shivering, and waited. We leaned against each other for comfort and added warmth, fighting the urge to close our eyes and grab an additional hour of sleep while waiting for the morning sun to illuminate our surroundings.

Sitting on the frost-covered ground nestled amongst mesquite trees and thorny brush gives your mind plenty of time to think and second-guess your decisions. Why in the world am I getting up at 5:30 in the morning while on vacation? At this precise moment in time that warm bed sounds much better than trying to remain completely still and quiet in the darkness.

The sacrifices we make to pursue our dreams and hobbies.

On this particular morning, I was sitting with my ten-year-old son not far from the banks of the Rio Grande River. We had spotted a big, mature whitetail buck several days ago and we were in hot pursuit.

Waiting for the sunrise gives your mind plenty of time to wander. I thought about ideas for my blog. I thought about the novel I’m working on and played out the next scene in my mind. I wanted to shut my mind off work and enjoy the moment with my son, and appreciate the great outdoors when I realized that hunting and writing are very similar in approach.

I’ve always felt that one of the most overlooked aspects of good writing is the writer’s power of observation and ability to pay attention to everything that surrounds us. The smallest of details can make the biggest of impacts.

Those details give the writer a time and place—a setting. Some writers like James Lee Burke are so talented at setting that it becomes a character in the book. Burke is so adept at description you can almost smell the salt-water air and feel the rain as you read about the world surrounding his fictional character Dave Robicheaux amongst the swamps and bayous in Louisiana.

Michael Connelly is another extremely talented writer who uses his setting—in the case of the novels featuring detective Harry Bosch—Los Angeles as a major character in his story. You can feel the smog drip off every page.

To be a successful hunter it is imperative that you pay attention to the same details. We had been following this buck’s track in the sandy soil and searched the brush for ‘rubs’ or ‘scrapes’ which a buck will do to mark his territory. Not unlike your pet dog and a fire hydrant. We needed to be aware of wind direction, time of sunrise and sunset, temperatures, and even the moon conditions from the previous night. We examined food plots and sources of water.

Slowly, we were able to determine the roaming radius of this buck and his likely pattern of travel. Using all of our clues we determined that the densely covered brush area, where we sat that early morning, could possibly place us in proximity to our goal. Let’s call this the research before beginning the novel.

Before any novel begins we must have some vague idea of the plot, a starting point—a plan.

The following quote if from James Scott Bell’s book Plot & Structure. “A plot is about a Lead character who has an objective, something crucial to his well-being. The major portion of plot is the confrontation with the opposition, a series of battles over the objective. This is resolved in a knockout ending, an outcome that satisfies the story questions and the readers.”

As the sun began to rise and our surroundings became more visible we began to detect an increase in activity. We could hear movement in the brush. Time for a little call and response. I picked up our rattling horns and began to simulate two bucks fighting over a doe. The thrashing of the antlers broke the morning silence. In less than a minute we had a buck come charging into our sights, his nose dripping and mouth frothing. His intention was to steal the doe while the two bucks continued to fight. Unfortunately, he was not the buck we were in search of.

We continued our call and response and I began to think back on one of my favorite books on writing by Jack M. Bickham, titled Scene and Structure. His chapter and explanation on stimulus and response is the best I have ever read.

We continued to rattle the horns (stimulus) and several more bucks came charging in towards us (response), but these were younger bucks and not the monster we were in search of.

Undeterred we moved spots, but again no luck. Time was running out on our vacation and hunting opportunities. The following morning we were scheduled to make the ten-hour drive back home.

That final evening we set out on foot, changing our tactics slightly, and moved into another area. The rut was on and our trophy buck was chasing does, making his behavioral patterns more erratic. This was our last chance. Make or break time, and time was running short.

And like any good novel our trip concluded on a happy note. The protagonist overcame several obstacles and setbacks for an outcome that satisfied both father and son.

I wish you all the best as you hunt for your novel ideas!


Thank you for having me here today Karen!

No, thank you Tim!

That was an awesome example and we wish you the best of success with your novel writing!

So what do you think? What methods do you take to capture an idea for your novels? What kind of hours do you keep? Do your ideas keep you up late at night, or are you awakened before dawn’s light with thoughts and dreams from your wildest imagination? If they do, then you deserve a trophy from all of your fine efforts!

If you enjoyed this, I encourage you to follow by email for future posts!

Thank you for your many thoughts and fine comments everyone!


38 thoughts on “Guest Post by Tim L. O’Brien

  1. Lena Corazon

    Such a wonderful post, Tim! Thanks for reeling him back in, Karen. 😀

    My ideas come at all times of day, sometimes while I’m being still and quiet, but more often when I’m in the midst of doing something important, which means I have to drop everything and find a spare pen and piece of paper. But I definitely agree that as writers, we have to learn to see, and to drink in the details of the world around us. It’s one of the things I try to train my sociology students to do when I teach field methods. It’s the one method in the social sciences that allows for some creativity, especially when it comes to writing field notes filled with “deep description” about people and places. Definitely good training for creative writing as well!
    Lena Corazon recently posted..Monday Inspirations: Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.My Profile

      1. Karen

        Hey there Lena, good to see you. It’s awesome to have you here. I know you’re one busy girl! I can’t imagine all the great ideas you have rambling on in that brain of yours. I, like you am always looking for something to write on as I never know when an idea might pop into my head. Thanks for sharing yours! 🙂

  2. Debra Kristi

    Hi Tim!

    It’s good to have you back. (Waves at Karen) That’s an interesting analogy you used. But I’m much like you; my best ideas come in those quiet moments. I think that’s when we are most open to hear our muse. We don’t let all the “static” get in the way of our reception. Thanks for the great piece Tim. As usual, thank you Karen for another great interview.
    Debra Kristi recently posted..Secrets of One Naughty and NiceMy Profile

    1. Tim L O'Brien

      I think you stated it best Debra. Once the “static” gets in our way it clogs up our reception. I find it hard to write with any sort of creativity when in static overload. I can’t take credit for this analogy however. All credit goes to Karen!
      Tim L O’Brien recently posted..Trying To Find My Way HomeMy Profile

      1. Karen

        I’m waiving Debra, I’m waiving!!!

        Well you are welcome Debra. It was simply my pleasure my friend. And thank you Tim for the credit, although it was you who wrote this amazing post remember? 🙂

    1. Tim L O'Brien

      I have many fond and entertaining memories from my youth when I worked down in that area. Del Rio was always a good time and so was the Corona Club across the border in Acuna. I went to some pretty wild BYOB parties at a dance hall in Quemado that always ended up like an old western movie bar free for all fight. Fun times!
      Tim L O’Brien recently posted..Trying To Find My Way HomeMy Profile

      1. Karen

        Jenny, who do you not have something in common with? You are amazing girl. Thanks for dropping by and lending your support. The only thing I know in southern Texas is my cousin in Houston. Not that exciting I’m afraid. You all know the cool and crazy spots. 🙂

  3. SheilaSeabrook

    Welcome back, Tim. Your hideawy spot sounds peaceful and inspiring.

    I tend to get my ideas in those quiet moments between the time the alarm goes off and the moment I finally put my bare feet on the chilly floor.

    Thanks for the lovely post!
    SheilaSeabrook recently posted..ROW80: Week 2 Check InMy Profile

      1. Karen

        Hey there Sheila! Thank you for coming by and for all your support! There was no way we were going to let Tim stay away too long. I hunted him down until he gave up and said yes! And it turned out to be inspiring! 🙂

  4. Patricia Rickrode

    Hi Karen & Tim:

    Thanks for having Tim as your guest Karen. This was fun to read. Tim, it sounds like you had a marvelous time in Southern Texas. I love hearing about other peoples’ writing processes and where they get their inspiration. Thanks for sharing.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Scmidt

    1. Karen

      Thank you Patricia for dropping by. It was my pleasure to have Tim as my guest. I do believe that Southern Texas is very dear to Tim’s heart and family. I can see where he gets his inspiration. 🙂

  5. Jennette Marie Powell

    My husband doesn’t get how I can spend the time I do at my computer making stuff up, or just thinking. But he does hunt and describes it much as you do. I’ll have to share this with him. I do want to know: you say the outcome was satisfying, but did you get Deerzilla?? (as my DH calls the trophy buck he’s been after LOL) Karen, thanks for a great guest post!
    Jennette Marie Powell recently posted..Reading Outside Our Usual Genres: Northcoast Shakedown by Jim WinterMy Profile

      1. Karen

        You’re welcome Jennette! Tim did a great job in tying in writing and hunting. Although I do recall seeing a post on Facebook a few weeks ago that showed what looked like a “Deerzilla” to me! It was quite the trophy buck! I’m thinking someone is going to be eating this winter, huh Tim. Venison stew sounds pretty good to me. Thank you Jennette! 🙂

  6. August McLaughlin

    I love when people and writers I adore pair up. Great post, Tim! Thanks for facilitating it, Karen.

    Ideas tend to pop into my daydreaming-prone head at all hours, more so than when I “hunt” for them on purpose. That said, going to bed at night with the simple wish of “Let something cool happen in my brain” tends to help. I do my best thinking in the morning for sure. (Love the ‘waiting for the sunrise’ bit… :))
    August McLaughlin recently posted..Does Dirt Have Calories? — My StoryMy Profile

    1. Tim L O'Brien

      Thank you for the kind words and the continued support August. Watching the early morning sunrise is so peaceful that you can feel all stress disappear and let your mind open up as a sort of antenna for free thinking. It is very hard to recreate that inner peace as the day unfolds and other stimuli clog the filter a bit.
      Tim L O’Brien recently posted..Trying To Find My Way HomeMy Profile

      1. Karen

        Thank you August! That’s amazing. I do the same thing at night. It seems that is when my best ideas come to the forefront. Maybe it’s because it’s a peaceful time of the day as we slowly wind down, our bodies relax and our energy flows to our creative mind. The trick like Tim said is not to allow other stimuli to clog the filter although we really need to watch out for all that static in the airwaves! 🙂

  7. Carrie Daws

    Great metaphor — I can completely see the similarities between writing and hunting. I find that when I’m “stuck” someplace — typically waiting for something like my daughter’s dance class to end or the doctor to get to me — I can slow my mind and really see things, pay attention to some nuances that make it into my current WIP and highlight something important.
    Carrie Daws recently posted..Homeschool Blues? Not Here…My Profile

      1. Karen

        Carrie, I couldn’t agree with you more! Tim did a fantastic job at tying in the two similarities! And thank you for sharing your process in developing your novel ideas. Slowing down our mind is a real treasure indeed! 🙂

  8. Pat O'Dea Rosen

    Thanks for this writing-as-hunting metaphor. The sentence that will stick in my mind for a long time is this one: “We leaned against each other for comfort and added warmth, fighting the urge to close our eyes and grab an additional hour of sleep while waiting for the morning sun to illuminate our surroundings.” I’ve heard men talk about hunting trips taken in childhood, and what they’re really talking about is uninterrupted time with their dads.

    1. Tim L O'Brien

      You really captured what the hunt was really about. Spending one on one time with one of my children. As an “older” father, I feel like I have to cram as many moments like this one into his memory banks as possible. I’m glad I was able to convey the true meaning in that particular sentence.
      Tim L O’Brien recently posted..Trying To Find My Way HomeMy Profile

      1. Karen

        Thank you Pat for plucking that sentence out of Tim’s post! That was one of my favorite things about his experience. You felt like you were right there with him and his son. That was wonderfully done! 🙂

  9. Susie Lindau (@SusieLindau)

    Great interview! Welcome back Tim!

    My blog ideas come from random thoughts during the day. The flash fiction stories just sort of pop into my mind. I have an over-active imagination and now I finally have a place to use all that energy!

      1. Karen

        That’s wonderful Susie! I also love the support you have at home with your husband and how he saves all your posts and binds them for you. You can’t ask for better than that. And we love your blogging ideas! 🙂

  10. Diane Capri

    I’ll never look at hunting the same way again, Tim. We have white tail deer all around our home. They’re bold as brass and eat everything we plant. Maybe our deer are part of your metaphor, too. Like deer, ideas are everywhere and they devour everything in sight. Yet, when they see us watching them, they freeze in place where we can capture them — with a camera.
    Diane Capri recently posted..What? Me? Indie? Yikes!My Profile

    1. Karen

      LOL Diane! And tormenting poor old Tim like that with all those white tail deer. I know what he’s thinking. He’s seeing his freezer full of venison! LOL But I do like capturing our ideas and freezing them in place like a camera. Great metaphor Diane. Then again, you write some awesome metaphors in your books my friend. Thank you. 🙂


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