One of the standard questions writers are asked during interviews is where do the ideas come from? Every time I have been asked that about one of my stories or books I’m reminded of an interview Stephen King gave to a reporter in his study – the actual place he does his writing. He said he has the mind of a child. Then after a pause he reached down to open the bottom desk drawer and hastily added, “I keep it in there.”
Where is the magic place I go for inspiration? I wish there was place or some sort of formula I could use, but there is nothing like that. One of my author friends told me she carries around a note pad with her at all times and her significant other is accustomed to her stopping to jot down things often when she is in a place that one would not expect someone to get an idea for a story. Several people have told me they keep a notebook on the nightstand beside the bed to capture the essence of dreams. Others have quirky rituals as unique as they are. The point is there is no single right way to go about finding an idea. Sometimes it takes years for the kernel of a story to play out and generate the kind of inspiration that creates a book or a series.
In the case of The Wolfcat Chronicles there were multiple sources of inspiration. There are a couple of sections that appear int hat series that began as stories I wrote in the 9th grade. Other parts, the character descriptions for example, come from a creative writing course I took while studying Mass Communication at Purdue University. Other characters emerged from the back story of One Over X, which was the first novel I published. A lot of that novel was written while I attended the University of Texas at Austin where I studied Marketing. The majority of the story I wrote just after I returned from Korea. A chunk of it I composed while I was recovering from surgery in 1995. And one of the major battle scenes in The Wolfcat Chronicles that appears in Book Seven of the series is based on the hallucinations I had while running a 104 F fever prior to being hospitalized with a bacterial infection in my bloodstream. So, you see there are a number of ways inspiration can come to a writer.
The nucleus of The Wolfcat Chronicles is the middle five books what comprise a volume I called One Pack when I wrote it as a contiguous story. At one point it was a 413 page draft written between May and July 2000. After five or six revisions to the story it continued to grow. It was clear that it should be broken up into five parts, each between 200 and 250 pages. What was also evident was that issues left unsettled at the conclusion of One Pack needed to be resolved. So, another story emerged that became The Last Wolfcat, eventually turning into three more books.
Between the writing of the last two books of The Wolfcat Chronicles it occurred to me that I didn’t know enough about the origins of the wolf Pack and the major characters. So I needed to compose a story that would flesh out more details and so I composed a two part prequel to One Pack which I called Spectre of Dammerwald. When I finished writing that draft I needed to revise One Pack again to ensure everything was in concordance between the prequel and the sequel pieces.
As I have mentioned previously in other blog posts the prequel to One Pack started out to be a children’s story. I began it at the suggestion of my publisher. A few chapters into writing it, the story was clearly not intended for children.
A lot of the inspiration for The Wolfcat Chronicles came from a role playing game I participated in with between fifty and a hundred other people in a large IRC chatroom between May and July of 2000. That was concurrent with the composing go One Pack in draft. In subsequent years I continued to be in touch with many of those people throughout revising the book. Some are the inspiration behind certain characters. Monte of my muses inspired the principal character, Ela’na. She is someone with whom I am still in touch all these years later though we do not chat as regularly as we once did.
The Wolfcat Chronicles pretty much wrote itself. There are times when, as a writer, you are in The Zone. You can feel the creativity of the moment flowing through you as if you were a conduit for a story. I’m not sure I care to know where those ideas come from but usually they turn out to be quite spectacular and result in cranking out 1500 to 2000 words or more at one a sitting – spanning several hours.
Some of the things I have written are based on my real life to some degree. Usually I draw upon personal experiences to fill in the details of a story, giving it a more realistic feel. But rapidly fiction goes off on tangents and the story diverges and travels far from reality. I write fantasy and science fiction because there are fewer limits to what can be done.
Some of the people in my life can probably find characters in my work that are loosely based on them but I really try to use composite characters, people that don’t specifically exist as individuals. So one character might have the attributes of three or four people I know blended with some strangeness that is purely fictional.
There have been occasions when I have begun to write a blog about something going on in my life only to find it inspiring a fictional story as well. I think I understand that process best because it happens fairly regularly. It’s like the simple act of writing anything at all opens a pathway through which other ideas can make it out onto the virtual page of a word processor file. Think of it as turning the knob on a faucet to let the water flow. I believe that one of the best ways to forestall writer’s block is writing something everyday, no matter what it is. To that end you can truly be your own inspiration.
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