When new authors join the Ring of Fire Universe and want to write in the 1632 milieu, we have always said, “Write small.”

This is hard to understand, I guess, so let me unpack it. Eric Flint, Chuck Gannon, and the other “mainline writers” will handle the broad canvas, the wars, the politics, and the uproar. Let them. What we want to see in the Gazette are the small stories, the ones about the “little people.”

A few years ago, one of our authors said he was stuck and couldn’t come up with a story line.

So, I set him a writing problem. Since it might help you, I’m setting it for everybody.

There is a village in the east of Germany, near the Bohemian border. It isn’t big, it isn’t famous. It is more or less in Bavaria, so most of the village is Catholic; the rest is Lutheran. It doesn’t matter what kind of Lutheran. There are about 20 families in the village.

The Lutheran pastor in the village has just received the “Wish Book” from a printing house in Magdeburg, and it is sitting in the village tavern, with people paging through it. Everyone in the little village can read, at least well enough to read the Bible and can do simple math.

The village blacksmiths are twins.

There are no Up-timers in the village, and none pass through it during the story.

Go.

I’ve left off all sorts of things. You make them up as you go. I think you can get at least three stories out of this scenario, maybe more.

If you think scenarios like this won’t work, I suggest you look at the stories Bethanne Kim is writing, and that Bjorn Hasseler has written, especially his “Reed and Kathy Sue.” That one is even more pared down. It is a love story told in love letters, and it makes me cry everytime I read it.

I’m going to make this an unofficial writing contest. I will publish the top three “small stories” I receive by the end of June.