This is an easy post for me to write. Family, seasons and yearly events have always played a huge role in my writing.
Family as character models
My entire family are characters in my first-published novel, The Bones of the Earth (thanks, Bruce, for suggesting a topic that lends itself so well to plugs!) The main character, Javor, is a blend of my two sons: he looks like one and acts like the other. It was actually a bit of a struggle to maintain this as I was writing, when I pictured one son performing all the actions that I wrote, remembering to make him think, speak and react like the other son.
Several other characters are based on people I know, or on combinations of them. Austinus and Photius are two mystics that I modeled on all the professors I had in university. And Lepidus, who appears in Part 3, is modeled after the guys in high school who knew exactly how good looking they were.
Naturally, I wrote myself into it, too, but none of the family and friends who have read it have figured that out, yet.
Events and seasons also affect my writing. I have written stories as Christmas presents (yes, I wrote “Christmas,” and I don’t care whether it’s politically correct) for my family; I may publish one or two one day.
They’re not the only examples. My story Dark Clouds was inspired by a Hallowe’en challenge in 2011, and it’s been relatively popular on the web. Its sequel, What Made Me Love You?, was a Valentine’s gift to my wife. The Graveyard is the third published installment in The Mandrake Ruse, and I wrote that as my Hallowe’en story this year. (The Mandrake Ruse will be my next novel once I finish my current work in progress, my National Novel Writing Month project, a parody of Fifty Shades of Gray called One Shade of Red.)
Seasons feature prominently in The Bones of the Earth, as well: it begins on the night before the summer solstice, and ends on sunrise of the following summer solstice.
I find inspiration all around me: from the people around me, stories in the news, events and occasions. I have thought of so many novel-length stories, I don’t think that I could manage to write them all down if I quit my job and did nothing but write. (Given my sales, I would starve to death soon after).
Even though we write fantasy, I think it’s crucial that our stories remain grounded in the world we share with our readers. How else can an audience connect with our stories?
Seasons, events and people are shared touchstones; while your fantasy world may not have a Christmas or a Valentine’s Day, every culture marks key points in the year with some kind of event or celebration. I’m not the first to point to the number of cultures and religions that have a celebration featuring light during the time of year with the longest nights. Spring, autumn, equinoxes — these are times that everyone, writers and readers, know and can share.
And isn’t that the point of writing stories — to share experiences with each other?