As we established in the last blog, there are so many opinions about this topic. It seems that there are as many ways to obtain creative ideas as there are writers. We can go from Margaret Atwood's method to begin a story, which implies no initial idea, to systemic ways to find ideas. Some writers read other writer's works to get their own ideas. I once met a writer who asked me to introduce him to a shaman to get inspiration by drinking ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic brew, from the Amazon Jungle. ...and he did it!On another occasion, while at a friend's opening art exhibition, I briefly mentioned a nightmare of mine to a group standing around one of the friend's paintings. A writer approached me and asked me to tell him the detailed version of that nightmare. When I asked him why did he want me to tell him about a bad dream, he answered, "Because I am a writer!" I bet your inspirations are among the numerous ways out there.
The evolution of your initial idea
Your initial idea can be very simple. Nevertheless, in order to create a superior, interesting, and engaging novel, it is necessary to develop several supporting ideas. These usually come from following the logical implications of the initial idea, or the necessary conditions for the initial idea to be possible. The intentional quest for adding conflict to the initial idea can lead to some interesting possibilities. You may end up finding a few sub-ideas that would enrich your initial one. Thinking of your initial idea may even take you to better ones. Maybe, the initial idea will become a secondary theme after the long period of sculpting your novel plot. The dissolution of your initial idea, rather than being a sign of weakness, scattered thinking, or the erratic appearance of your thoughts, can indicate that your plot is evolving. It's getting better. Don't be afraid of changing something or everything. Art means change. Obviously, the direction of the evolution of your ideas depends on your preferences. Here is where we all begin to differentiate our work, to stamp our fingerprints on the story.
The birth of an idea
As you accompany me through my creative journey and become a witness to the development of my novel, you may be curious to know from where in the world the idea for the novel came. I hope you have already your own idea by now or you get inspired by this article to find your own, so you can follow me through this Magical Mystery Course.
My initial idea was born from a moment of clairvoyance. That moment arose from a casual event. The initial idea was a great starting point for finding a good plot, but it developed into an important sub-plot to the story without limiting the story.
I was reading a discussion among the members of a fantasy writers' group from a well-known social network. The discussion had so far been long and passionate. Members wrote their opinions on the claim that the blood of 359 enemies is needed to get enough iron to make a sword. I studied chemistry when I was young and had particular experience in obtaining iron from blood, actually from a bucket of bull's blood. In my contribution to the discussion, I explained several reasons why this idea was impracticable. After I expressed my opinion, the participation ceased immediately as if by magic. I wondered why. I was very surprised that my contribution had not generated more controversy and at least one or two questions. I am even giving you all a good idea for a novel, I thought to myself, at the same time I was surprised at what I had just said. It is true! It's a good idea. Why not write a novel based on my own comment. This was the origin of the novel I am writing. In the same way, some people want to be "in contact with their feelings", you -as a writer- should be in contact with your creative mind. We will develop this widely in articles to come.
Considering the initial idea seriously
My first idea came to me almost immediately. Why couldn't I write a story of a particularly powerful sword that was created with proven metallurgical techniques, but that ordinary people thought it was forged by witchcraft spells and evil means. Let´s say that you've got an idea like mine. The very next topic to think about is the setting in which the story takes place. What environment will inhabit a story like this? For me, it was obvious. I needed a scenery where people are driven by superstitions, just like the fantasy writers' group: The Middle Ages. Supposedly, this sword was created with the use of blood. The enemy's blood? Whose enemy?
Applying what you have learned
Do you still remember Dan Brown's advice from my last article? We have to look for conflicts. He looks for conflicts choosing two antagonistic fields and putting them together, like Church and Science. There is another way: think about possible sources of tension within the same field. So, in order to create the greatest conflict and make it really dramatic, whose blood will be used in the forging of this sword? The blood from a bull or blood from a child? What child? A peasant child, the blacksmith's little son, or the King's son? Why would a blacksmith kill the son of his King? Most likely, the use of blood for his swords as well as the murder of the King's son are both false accusations against him. Do the same with your idea.
Think of the implications of your idea among the corresponding human environment, going from what is personal to the social surroundings. Look for possible conflict inside your character's inner thoughts, between characters, and relationships between the main powers of the area: The King, the Church, the neighboring Kings, etc. What would this accusation involve, besides the obvious anger of the King? Would the blacksmith be accused of witchcraft? Would the Inquisition be involved? The access to advanced metallurgical technology to produce steel from iron ores may imply what we call Chemistry knowledge nowadays. Should we include the participation of an alchemist? Would an alchemist have trouble with the Inquisition too? What the Alchemist is doing in this kingdom? Does he have the protection of the King? Would he protect his pupil, the blacksmith, from his King? Would the Church be against the alchemist, the king, and the blacksmith? And, who is going to solve the mystery of the King's son murder?
Can you see already a story taking shape? Do you see how the main idea begins to grow almost by itself by imagining the personal and social implications of it? I would like you to do the same with your own idea for a novel. I will help you to be in contact with your creative mind through these blog posts, so you can imagine and generate all these implications faster and easier.
You have to notice one thing, though. So far, you have a fantasy-crime story, good enough for becoming an action movie if you get lucky. If you develop the characters and the drama well enough, you will have something better than an Agatha Christie´s novel. If you are ambitious as a creator, think of books like Crime and Punishment or Oedipus the King. These books say something more than just telling a story: they reveal something deeply hidden in the human soul. Because of this, they touch the heart of human beings in a universal way. No matter what culture or geography the readers come from, they will see part of his soul spread on the pages of your book.
If your goal is economically driven, the fantasy-crime story may be enough for you and lead you to success. If you love the art of writing, instead, come with me in the making of my novel, Scratches on The Steel, through these blog posts. See you in my next post.
Good Bye for now and remember, if you can dream of it, you can do it.