Seriously, What Were You Thinking?

It began with a song.

The first time I really remember my imagination unlocking to a deeper level, carrying me away to a new world inside of me, was sitting as a little girl in the back seat of my parent’s car. We are were one of our very long drives. I couldn’t read, as I got car sick the second I tried looking at printed type. “Playing with the Queen of Hearts” was on the radio.

I try to put myself into that long ago mindset of a young child. What was it about that song that set my mind free? I can promise you I did not understand half the lyrics! What did I know about love in reference to a deck of cards? I did know it was about love. Take the image of a Queen, who you need to be wary off, and a joker, who would “do anything for you,” unhealthy love, and a very long car ride and my mind was running in realms far beyond Barbie and My Little Pony to say the least!

For awhile, I had to hear THAT song to get my mind going, but eventually I could journey beyond the mundane without it – a great trick to learn when my bus ride to school topped 45 minutes! Daydreaming was my best hobby as a child, as I mentioned in my first post here. It took many years for that to overflow into writing.

I prefer hikes measured in days, motorcycle rides measured in weeks,  vacations bordering on epic. I love writing novels as opposed to short stories. I hit my stride far beyond where a short story would wrap up. This impacts the ideas I develop. If a spark doesn’t grow, I tend to let it simmer down into an ember.

That is what had happened with the opening to Born of Water. A short story idea, which had fizzled – it involved a corporate woman, who just so happened was a dryad, stumbled across a young woman with similar potential at a conference – was still floating about half alive. You see why it fizzled, I’m sure! It needed something more, a motivation to carry it beyond the tiny frame I could see. It needed the painting located in the bathroom of the office where I work.

An early inspiration for Mirocyne

I’m serious about the painting part. It is a good four feet by two feet, massive painting of a Mediterranean village. It isn’t great. Well, it leaves a lot up to the imagination! Which is why it snagged my mind every time I hid out in the bathroom (it is the ONE room in my office where no one will track you down. I consider it a cubicle of stress relief.). Stress, a corporate woman who became a plant if she wanted to hide from coworkers, a painting about somewhere far away that begged a story – they came together and became Born of Water.

But that is just the beginning, it is only Mirocyne. There is the rest of the world: the Archipelago, the Kith, the Southern Shore, Rah’Hahsessah, The Temple of Dust, the Ashanti and so much more. Really, where do all the pieces come from that forms a novel?

I can say that the first imagined version of Born of Water was sadly unimaginative. Seriously! As I mentioned in my last post, my first run through when I am “patsying” the whole thing is a rough framework sketched of shallow characters visiting known territory. Like dropping in on a wild west town, you just know there will be a saloon, a jail, a stable, and some trouble. The story needed work. Even once I wrote it, it needed work.

This is me in college! It may be black and white, but you get the picture. Just imagine a sylvan forest instead of a counter top!

For Lus na Sithchaine, my first vision was of a northern woods town a la Maine. Can you imagine Darag as a lumber jack!? Then I thought ‘Forests’, which usually equals elves. I cringed. Don’t get me wrong, I love most stories about elves. You should have seen me in my teenage years: 5′ 7″, LONG golden hair, gold-green eyes, thin . . . . Yeah, I love elves. But man, when I thought about writing about them and the rules/myths already in use . . . . I didn’t want to follow the status quo. I didn’t want to be yelled at for not following the status quo. I tossed the whole thing, brainstormed, and came up with the Kith.

Once I realized they resembled the trees that they are bound to, the Kith came to me as a complete society. Even the Ashanti formed whole, once I thought out their unique history. (Curious to know what that is? Stay tuned, the Born of Water Novel Companion is in its final stages. It should be available for free by August!) Sometimes, it is as easy as that – sitting back and letting your mind really fly. Most of the time it is a lot of work. The whole thing with the Spheres of the Elements and . . . oh wait, we haven’t gotten to that part yet! Well you haven’t. I know what is coming in Rule of Fire!

Other novels inspire me as well, especially ones I don’t like. Lev Grossman’s The Magicians was not my favorite read. But I did like how nothing went smoothly for his characters: every turn was wrong, every decision a mistake. Like Chantell, I didn’t want a story with a perfect hero, succeeding at every turn. If they are that good, how did they end up in a mess in the first place? Characters have flaws, problems don’t always have easy (or any) solutions. Sometimes life is painful and mistakes are made, even in fantasy. I think this turbulence gives Born of Water depth (no pun intended!).

Images still play a part too, helping to create mood to inspire more ideas. When I was writing about the Kith, I changed my desktop image to a misty forest. And music still inspires me, of course!. The song “This is Where” by The Wailin Jennys speaks to me of the Kith and Lavinia as well. “Measure me by branches, count the rings and take my ashes. Mark the ground where I fell and carry on.” I may be foreshadowing again, but I’m not going to tell you!

For the Southern Shore, I listen to Vieux Farka Toure’s “Fafa.” Maybe it is because the cover has him pictured standing on a sandy dune, but the music wraps around you like warm air twisting up from baked ground as the evening cools around you. That is Rah’Hahsessah.

And this should give you an idea of where and – how many – ideas come from for just one novel!


6 comments on “Seriously, What Were You Thinking?

  1. Music is a big inspiration for me, but it’s more of an after thought. Once I have a seed of an idea, I source out music to go with it, and that music helps me build on that idea – but I couldn’t tell you where that idea gets its start. It’s interesting you mention travelling because some of my stories did come from time spent daydreaming on lengthy car trips, where there was nothing else to do. We didn’t have Gameboys or DSs, or portable DVD players, when I was younger, so we had to entertain ourselves in other ways, and that’s what I did to make the trip tolerable.

    • There were no portable game boys in my youth either. Heck, there weren’t any personal computers back then! LOL So not being able to read and sick of playing ‘punch buggy’ with my older brother (oww!), daydreaming was the best entertainment system available. Actually, I think it is STILL the best entertainment system available. 🙂

  2. Great post, Autumn.
    I’m very much a music fan, yet I find it plays little into my writing; maybe because I’m coffee shop writer, so I’ve just always put up with whatever they had on (country right now, which reminds me of long, car-sick car rides).
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Bruce!

      Some stories, or parts of stories, have music that draws me in deeper. Others, not so much. But I think if I was at a coffee shop, I’d have my iPod playing (especially considering the current selection at yours)!

  3. I write on my netbook and wear earphones so I can listen to my music anywhere. I also have an MP3 player I can use too. I write on the bus, in coffee shops, at the library, at home, wherever I get a free moment and music helps drown out other potential distractions. My husband says I have the musical tastes of a 17 year-old boy, so you can just imagine what I listen to (alternative rock and indie folk-rock – not rap/hip-hop).

    • Your musical tastes sound fine to me! I bet we have some songs in common. 🙂 Of course, my music collection runs the gamut from Celtic to modern withstood in just about every nation (got some great Russian and Middle Eastern tunes) and time period inbetween. The question “What is your favorite band?” is painful to me! Too many good ones to choose.

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