Where do writing ideas come from?

Author Robert Rees asks the question; where do writing ideas come from?

Much of my university life was spent realising that as a scientist I was unlikely to reach the heights of my childhood heroes – Newton, Maxwell, Feynman and many others. Not only was I in the company of some truly exceptional scientists who far outshone my talents, but I was also getting singularly fed up with having to go to chemistry practicals in the afternoon, thereby missing sport and many other enjoyable activities. Luckily, for those to whom science had become a chore, there was a small yet perfectly formed alternative course dealing in the History and Philosophy of Science. And although an element of attendance laziness remained (I was known as the ‘enigmatic Mr Rees’ in the faculty). I found the subject compelling, so much so that I continue to follow it to this day.

One of the areas which intrigued me about science was discovery – that moment of intuition when a scientist suddenly finds he can understand with clarity something that no one else has ever realised. The philosophy of science had plenty about how things are explained, but could never really cope with the moment of discovery. Indeed – not many scientists could either – they attributed the intuition to dreams, accidents, in fact to anything that bore no explanation. The hard work came later, in testing the idea, and reconstructing the logic behind that initial flash of brilliance.

I feel that writing starts with a similar notion. Some trigger in the mind sets off a chain reaction that arrives as an idea for a plot, in a fashion that is explicable only after the event. So in my case, I can track the genesis of my plot ideas back to a few sources, but I could not for the life of me explain how they came together. I was driving around the Seychelles, and noticed a game of cricket being played on a little square of grass hewn from the jungle surrounding it. This was unusual, as cricket in the Seychelles was practically unknown at the time. The date was around the mid -2000’s, and after twenty-five years in the City, I was ready to move on to something else. But I had not considered anything in particular. These two thoughts dove deep into my unconscious and stayed there for some time.

It was after seeing the film ‘Cool Running’ some four years back, about a team of Jamaican bobsleigh riders, that the idea suddenly re-emerged. An ex city gent, finding himself in the new cricket league in the Seychelles, seemed to me like a situation that could produce a funny story. And I have always liked Dad’s Army.  So now, I thought, if I were to add some lunatic characters, in a good situation, with a plot, I would have something to work with. And even better, this took place at about the same time as the match fixing scandals besetting cricket, which gave me my crime story.

When laid out like this, it almost sounds like the tale was waiting to be created. Just like a scientific theory, the events in the best books make sense, feel like they have to occur, and characters react as they must. But of course, it is nothing like that in the beginning. Just a few ideas jousting with each other in the dark recesses of our minds. Maybe we are just the lucky interpreters of our unconscious.

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Check out Robert’s book A Season in the Sun A perfect summer read.

 

Writers: How to Be a Fairy Godmother

In this latest guest blog post, Rebekah DeVall the author of When Your Melody Fades gives us some tips on how to be inspired.

Fairy Godmothers got all the good stuff. Seriously. You don’t see pretty capes or magic wands sitting around anywhere besides a costume store, do you? And if you do, they’re most certain to be counterfeits.

Figures, when we writers need all the magic and bippity-boppity-booing that we can get. After all, we’re expected to pull full worlds and stories out of thin air, aren’t we?

Now, my fairy godmother is out somewhere today, but she’s left me a note giving me her Top 3 Tips on How to Be a Fairy Godmother.

 

  1. Steal for all you’re worth.

As somebody sometime said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

Did you really think the Beast’s enchantress (from Beauty and the Beast, of course, what other beast do you know?) just invented a mirror for him out of thin air? Ha ha. Yeah right. She stole the idea from the Evil Queen’s fairy godmother, fifty-seven years ago, in 1937 to be exact.

Be a fairy godmother. You see a worldbuilding aspect you like in someone else’s work? Steal it. Just make sure you cover up your tracks. Fairy godmothers don’t take kindly to the theft of their ideas.

 

  1. Choose a time period.

Use your gifts wisely. If you must bippity-boppity-boo a magical object or gift out of the air for one of your damsels in distress (ahem, characters), make it time-appropriate. Cinderella was given glass slippers, not neon pink stilettos.

A modern-day damsel in distress must not be given the art of drawing on cave walls—unless you intend to lock her up in a cave somewhere, in which case you deserve whatever grief she gives you.

This includes their names. Fairy godmothers aren’t just called to bless a baby on their birth, they’re often called to christen the baby too.

Cinderella was christened Ella. Christening her Apple or Montana would have been a dreadful mistake. Though Rapunzel’s name was ridiculous in its meaning, it fit her time period, as did Charming for the prince.

Be a fairy godmother. Name your people according to their time period.

 

  1. Storm castles.

Fairy godmothers are too often envisioned as being weird old ladies who give gifts—or curses, remember Ella Enchanted—to little girls and nothing more. That… isn’t always true.

Fairy godmothers have affected royalty for many ages, far longer than most care to admit. They raise kingdoms, demolish kingdoms; begin wars, end wars; bring to life and send to death. They stare fearlessly into the face of battle and of death and laugh.

Be a fairy godmother. Bring your people—your characters—to the brink of death and back. Take them to the depths of the deepest ocean—and don’t be afraid to let them drown.

Raise kingdoms and demolish them. You weren’t given that magic wand—I mean, pen—only to whip dresses and slippers and pumpkins into existence.

Give your stories meaning. Bring them to their peak, drop them to their deepest depths. Don’t fear danger. Don’t fear adventure.

Be a fairy godmother. Be brave.

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Susan Perrow and the Healing Power of Storytelling

In this latest guest post writer C. East discusses the power stories have to heal.

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 This morning I listened to an interview with Susan Perrow on 702 ABC (Australia) ‘Conversations with Richard Fidler’. Perrow is a passionate writer, storyteller, teacher trainer and parent educator. Listening to her tell her life and career stories inspired me to tell others about this incredible talent and her unique work. She’s known as a ‘Therapeutic Storyteller’ and believes in the healing power of stories.

Stories have been an integral part of humanity’s existence, probably since we could produce intelligent speech, to communicate in oral tradition; knowledge, wisdom, belonging, danger, safety, hope and many more, which have enabled us to survive and thrive long before modern times.

Some indigenous people’s use the oral tradition of storytelling otherwise known as; ‘dreaming/songlines’ to First Nations people in Australia. For First Nations people of Australia they used storytelling to teach each generation the lines they would walk as nomadic people, where to find water, hunt for food, sacred places, healing places and their own laws and culture.

In a modern context, storytelling is just as vital to our existence, surviving the rigors & stressors of modern times and thriving in these circumstances, requires more joy and hope perhaps than ever before.

There are stories for; explaining death to children, giving hope to adults & children alike, encouraging imagination & learning, and stories to distract from our busy, fast-paced, stressful lives. Slowing down to read a book, is a simple pleasure which most people can enjoy.

Towards the end if the interview Pellow detailed the power of storytelling in one tale as she briefly recounted an opportunity given to her by Norway, after the bombing in Oslo & mass shooting at a summer youth camp in Utøya in 2011, when 77 were killed, 69 of those youths and 319 injured by Anders Behring Breivik.

Norway asked her to write a story for children ranging from primary school age through to high school age, it was to be read on the children’s first day back at school since the attack over the summer, they wanted a story to instil hope in the children after what had happened, as every child in Norway would have been privy to what had occurred. It was a big responsibility and Perrow didn’t feel adequate for the task, but did some research anyway, which sparked the idea.

She came across information on the marches the Prime Minister of the day organized for every major city to march with roses, citing “we are going to answer hatred with love”. And so they did, every person from children and babies to 80 year olds participated, they marched together each carrying a single red rose, which were carried through the streets and then left in the town squares.

She also discovered that Norway has a royal family and castles, the whole fantastical ideal for a fairy-tale story.

Perrow said she had a vision of a rose, a rogue thorn and falling petals, so combining this and the Norway culture of royalty, “The Rose and the Thorn” was born.

Teachers read the story to children and children started their school year not in fear or grief, but in hope. Teachers said children drew pictures of the story and spoke about it, it was exactly what was intended and shows how the right story, at the right time can give you what you need to be happy, to be healed, to change your mindset, and perhaps even your life.

You can listen to Susan Perrow conversation with Richard Fiddler here:

http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/conversations-susan-perrow/8495006

More about Susan Perrow can be found on her webpage:

http://susanperrow.com/about/

 

Description and other monsters

Description and other monsters

In this latest guest post, Aiden Meyer discusses how to write descriptions and the importance it has on a story.

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Oddly enough, description does a lot more than just describe things. Think about this: “The sky was gray.” It’s the simplest, blandest description you can come up with, and yet it does more than just say that the sky was gray. If the sky is gray, the sun isn’t shining, there might be a chance of rain or snow, the atmosphere might be heavier, the world might be bleaker. What I’m getting at is that description doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Let’s see how it impacts everything else and how to make it come alive in the reader’s head.

Senses: This is probably the first lesson in description, but it’s worth keeping in mind. Since the world is being witnessed by someone, keeping only to sight limits how much you can immerse the reader into your world. Having wonderful visual descriptions is great, but it’s in the smell, in the hearing, in taste and in touch that your reader will feel your world. It doesn’t mean you need to have your characters licking lampposts all the time, but trying to incorporate all senses can really pay off.

Motion: This is how you bring the setting to life. Having dynamic elements in your description will make the world feel alive. The flickering of a light, servants rushing around, tending to their duties, a flock of birds heading south, grasshoppers jumping out of the characters’ way. It gives the impression that there’s more happening in the world than just your plot. When everyone and everything move independently, the world feels real, not a static playground for your characters.

Interaction: Having characters interact with the environment, especially during dialogue, can be a great way to use description. Not only does it break up dialogue and lessen that talking head feel, but it also helps your descriptions feel less like a list of traits. For example, you can make a character stir the fireplace and throw a log into the glowing embers while he speaks. When the characters interact with their environment, both become better for it.

Cause and effect: Things in the setting need to have an effect on the POV character. If there’s a horrible smell in the air, the character needs to have a reaction. What that reaction is depends on the type of character, but they need to react somehow. The heat should make them sweat, fan themselves. A cold breeze should yield a shudder and so on. Make sure your environment affects your characters, and their actions change the environment.

Entire books can be written on the topic and this is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should have you on your way. Experiment, practice, and keep working on it!

Find out more about Aidan at – https://www.aidanmeyer.net/

Check out his novel here- https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ82L75

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GIRL UNDER THE GUN

In this blog post my fellow Firebound author Rob May talks about his new novel; Girl Under the Gun. Check it out today!

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When I wrote my epic fantasy trilogy, Reckoning of Dragons, I tried to bring the excitement, pace and plot twists of my favourite thrillers into the mix. So when I sat down to write an actual modern day thriller, I thought I’d flip my approach on its head, and supplement the car chases and gun fights with some classic fantasy elements.

So Girl Under the Gun has a lot of things you might recognise from your favourite fantasy trilogy: a young hero takes her first steps into a wider world; an experienced warrior finds his jaded worldview challenged; an old conflict is re-awakened; and a trail of secrets leads to a hidden treasure, while several factions with conflicting motives stalk and fight over dangerous new territories.

If this sounds like an odd mix, don’t forget that The Lord of the Rings could arguably be described as a chase thriller: everyman Frodo Baggins is pursued by sinister agents all through the book, from his home in the Shire right to the entrance of the Crack of Doom itself.

Before I started writing, I couldn’t decide if I wanted an old-school, tough protagonist, like James Bond or Jack Reacher, or whether to feature a resourceful fish out of water, like Robert Langdon or Christopher ‘Fluke’ Kelso (from Robert Harris’s Archangel, one of my favourite thrillers). In the end, I went for both options: LJ Hardwick is young literature student, who has never left England, while Mark Grant is a soldier-turned-spy, whose reckless, unconventional approach to missions has earned him the nickname the Game Breaker.

But LJ is smart, fast and adaptable. The word of spies and secrets might just be the future that best fits her growing potential. And for Grant, finding solace in new friends and rightful causes might finally put the brakes on his untrammelled aggression.

Of course, since Girl Under the Gun has the same twists and subversion as Reckoning of Dragons, you won’t find the answers to any of those questions until the very last page …

 

Girl Under the Gun is out now, for the special price of 99c/99p for a limited time, or read it FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

http://amazon.com/dp/B06Y1F9CWP/?tag=robmay-20

Or get in touch via my website, and I’ll send you a free review copy.

http://robertwilliammay.com

Finally, for fans of Reckoning of Dragons, book one of the follow-up series, Empire of Dragons, will be out in August. Sign up to my mailing list for more info!

http://robertwilliammay.com/newsletter/

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As an extra incentive to sign up to my mailing list you will receive a free copy of my latest book: The Nightblade. Sign up today and claim your free book!
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Being A Fantasy Reader

In this guest post author and book lover, Claire Buss discusses being a reader of fantasy.

Today is World Book Night. A perfect excuse to spend the evening curled up with your favourite book which is an easy ask for a book lover but what World Book Day really wants to do is encourage non-readers to pick up a book and have an adventure. That’s the great thing about reading, it will take you somewhere you’ve never been before or if you’re lucky, take you back to explore it all over again. Often readers of fantasy get a bit of bad rap – there can be mocking and sometimes you don’t want to admit that you read sci-fi & fantasy because it puts you in a pre-determined box but on this day of book celebration I think we can stand loud and proud and shout to the stars that we read fantasy and it’s brilliant.

Or to put it another way – isn’t all fiction fantasy? Because it’s fiction therefore it’s not ‘real’. When you read that chick-lit novel about girls doing lunch and talking about their love lives you may sit wistfully wishing you could be a lady wot lunches. It’s no different to me wishing I could go on a quest in a magical land. My imagination just requires a little more immersion, perhaps.

It can be difficult for an avid reader to entice a non-reader to pick up a book, especially when you stumble over the intricate plot twists of sorcery and sword fights. But think about the books that brought you into the genre – I mean I can go as far back as The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, talking animals in Farthing Wood by Colin Dann and The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy. These aren’t hard-core fantasy tomes. They’re magical children’s books and what a great way to get kids reading by giving them a little bit of adventure. I mean, Harry Potter wouldn’t have been the sensation it’s been without the reader’s ability to immerse themselves in an alternate reality.

Not only am I an avid reader – of all genres but with a particular liking for fantasy & sci-fi – I am also an author. My book is hard to define, it doesn’t really set within a predetermined category. It’s listed under sci-fi because it’s set 200 years in the future but there are no aliens or spaceships. It’s dystopian because there has been a mass extinction event, we learn how humanity coped, adapted and now tries to break free of control. But it’s hopeful and in general dystopian novels are bleak and literally end of the world. And it’s not about a plucky group of teenagers. Instead it looks at the relationships of couples and how they cope with massive life changes. Being a new author it’s hard to get readers at first so you turn to friends and family, most of whom said “Oh I don’t read Sci-Fi”, however once I convince them that The Gaia Effect is not hard-boiled sci-fi, they should try it, they might be surprise and look, it’s such a lovely slimline novel with great cover artwork – how can you say no? Then they read it and text me, telling me off for making them cry. Success! All reviews from family and friends start with the phrase ‘This is not my usual genre’ or ‘I don’t normally read Sci-Fi but…’ and I think that’s the key, if you can just get a non-reader to try something new they might be surprised.

Let’s not forget that genre is an invention of the publisher to make it easier to categorise books and not a request from the reader. I don’t think about genre when I recommend books to friends and family, I think about them and choose books to fit, overriding any objections of ‘I don’t read that genre’ with reminders of all the previous excellent recommendations.  Once we’ve managed to get sporadic readers picking up our novel and getting to the end, our next challenge is to ask them to write a review – even a simple star rating is enough, every little helps.

Find out more about Claire and her book on the following links –

Website: www.cbvisions.weeblycom

Facebook: www.facebook.com/busswriter

 

Are you an author and want to spread the word about your book or writing habits? Get in touch with me at matthewolney9@gmail.com
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