My father came in my room the other night and asked me an interesting question. “Where do you get your ideas for your book from?”
He’s retired military and just moved back home a few months ago. I finished college and moved back a month or two prior to him. He had just found out that I wrote a book and self-published it. I pretty much kept the project under wraps because I was unsure of myself and my ability to finish or even write the dang thing. Once I went through dozens of drafts and had a professional editor look at it, I was satisfied enough to show it to the world. That included my family and friends.
When my father asked me about my ideas I told him that “I just sort of had a handful of them and went with the one I thought was best.” However, that really wasn’t the answer he or I was looking for. It made me think for the next few days what my process really was. Where did my ideas come from?
I thought back to the beginnings of that self-published novel. I looked back at my hand written notes and realized that my process was a mix of combination and condensing.
Something usually catches my interest like a scene from a movie or tv show. I tend to store the thought of that scene away in my mind. I keep it there and see other things through the lens of that idea. Eventually something will present and interesting enough idea that it will make me more openly think about it.
For example: When I was thinking about that first book I saw a girl behind the librarian’s desk at my college. She looked familiar to me but I just couldn’t place it. My wild imagination took hold. I thought about a person who had maybe followed you your whole life but maybe stayed just out of sight. Why would a person do that? What would be their reasoning? I knew that I wanted to write an epic fantasy of some sort so I ran with it. Maybe this person is a guardian? Maybe their watching over this other person waiting on the day they can take them back to their own land in order to defeat a great evil? That spark was enough to keep me thinking on the idea. Eventually, I decided the guardian would be best played by a character that I was going to put in another novel. So I took him and a few other characters and ideas from that other story and combined them into one.
That was the true start to “The Guardian of Athmore.” I had an idea or platform in the back of my mind. (I wanted to do a fantasy) Something sparked my interest. (The girl behind the desk) I combined ideas and condensed. (The characters from the other story, essentially threw out other story.)
So there you have it. That’s my process. If you find yourself getting stuck or feel like your plot may be too cliché, keep it in the back of your mind. You never knew what you might be able to combine it with.
I’d love to hear your process. Is it similar to mine, or totally different?
By the way that girl behind the desk turned out to just be a girl I had a pre-calc class with my first semester. Fiction is so much more interesting isn’t it?