by Jill Williamson
Where do your story ideas come from? I've shared some of the ways I have brainstormed new stories by combining two completely unrelated things or coming up with a "What if?" question. But there's always a little more to it than that.
I'm going to be totally honest here, okay. So, no judgment. *grin*
My first book (which became The New Recruit) came from my attempt to copy the format of Harry Potter. I made all these charts, trying to figure out exactly how J.K. created such a brilliant thing, and I tried to copy the "formula" of the books. So I had a male main character, who was orphaned, who found out he was chosen for something special, who had to go away for training, who made two friends: a boy and a girl. Yeah. All that's still there, but one of my super cool critique partners talked me into changing Arianna from being British. This was a good move because she was way too Hermione-esque. *head desk*
My second book was the sequel to my first book. So, The New Recruit 2, which is getting an overhaul right now, because it was so desperately terrible. I'm talking REALLY BAD!
My third book, Emily of Big Lake, was inspired by Anne of Green Gables. I was watching Anne one night, enthralled by how much I truly loved it, and I thought, "What if this story happened in current day?" So, I came up with a contemporary Anne and Gilbert and Diana and Marilla and Rachel Lynde. It was totally fun to write. But it didn't really capture me to the point of finishing it. I filed it away.
My fourth book was inspired by Alaska. I thought it might be fun to write about some of the things I experienced in my childhood, but I did this in a very non-me way. The story was called Seagulls are Plain, and it was about a girl named Nauja, which means seagull in Inupaiq. Nauja lived in the Alaskan bush (the exact place my uncle lives), and she gets the chance to move to Wasilla (where my family went for groceries) and live with her cousin and go to school in "town."
Since Najua wants to be a fashion designer, she jumps at the chance. She is in seventh grade, and joins the FCLA where she gets to do creative clothing design competitions. (All this FCLA/clothing competition stuff happened to me in junior high school. I even put my own Home Ec teacher in the book, and my high school bff Kim, who gets a crush on Nauja's older brother Amaraq, which means wolf. TMI, I know.)
I miss Amaraq. He was one of my first favorite characters. So fun. I really like this book, but it's totally normal. Amaraq is Inupait, yes, but he is not a werewolf. And Nauja is not a vampire. Since the book is not spec fiction and I am now a spec fiction writer, the book stays in the file until I'm a millionaire and can do what I want.
I got the idea for my fifth book when I was going to pick apples with my sister outside of Rochester, New York. We passed farm after farm after farm, and I thought, "What if there was a farm that grew people? Clones? It could be called Jason Farms!"
That book got published eventually and is called Replication: The Jason Experiment, and now has a groovy new cover with a really buff kid on it, who I think must be Iron Man since Martyr wasn't that buff. I'm just sayin'. This book was a NaNoWriMo book. I wrote it on the month of November, 2007. That was pretty sweet. I was in a hurry because of the fantasy novel I was dying to write.
I was walking my kid in the stroller one day in Burbank, California when I got an idea for my sixth book. We came upon a house that had burned down. And there was a tree in the yard. And the part of the tree that hung over the fence was leafy green and rustling in the wind. But the branches that were inside the fence were charred black. Dead. And I thought to myself, "What if there was a land that was half cursed in darkness?" And I booked it home, pushing the stroller at light speed, and I Photoshopped the tree you see below. And that was the very first hint of Bloodvoices, which became By Darkness Hid and it's sequels, the first of my books to be published. Sweetness!
Then I was at women's Bible study one night, listening to Beth Moore, whom I adore. Such a fun lady. And she was talking about Daniel and how he was only a teenage boy when Jerusalem was conquered by Babylon and how he and several other young, handsome royals were taken captive to work in the the Babylonian palace. And Beth said, "Imagine some teen boys you know. How would they have held up in such a place?" And I thought to myself, "Yes ... How would they have held up?" And that thought started the book that became Captives.
So, sometimes it's part of your life, like me in most of Seagulls are Plain, which is probably a really bad title, by the way. Sometimes it's an attempt to emulate an author you admire, like me with The New Recruit and Harry Potter. Or it might be a random thought that crosses your mind, like what if there was a farm that grew clones or something you see, like a half-charred tree. And if someone says something to you that sparks an idea, that works too.
There is a small part of me in every story I write, but that doesn't mean that all my stories are inspired by my life or by real people I know. But every story you write comes from somewhere. Ideas are everywhere. Are you looking? Are you listening?
What are some of the stories behind your stories? Care to share?