I had a real ‘aha!’ moment the other day – the sort where inspiration strikes, not the sort involving breezy 1980s Scandi-pop. And it seemed interesting enough as a piece of writing process that I thought it worth sharing.
I was struggling with novel writing. I’ve had a couple of stabs at this before. A year and a half ago I even completed a first draft, and though by the end I knew it was fundamentally flawed, the experience was a useful one. But to write a novel means finding an idea of such awesomeness that it’ll keep my attention and drive my motivation for months on end. And that was what I lacked. I had several ideas, but none of them had that vital zing.
Then I listened to an old episode of Writing Excuses (an awesome podcast on sf+f writing, I heartily recommend it). One of the hosts mentioned an idea that fantasy and sci-fi are just trappings, and that the same story could be told in different settings. I don’t agree with this 100%, but something about it really hit home. Maybe I could try taking one of my ideas and change the trappings.
That was when the inspiration struck. On the one hand I had an idea with great character dynamics, but a setting that would require more research than I have time for. On the other hand, I had a setting I know back to front, but for which I’d never come up with a decent story. So, combine the character dynamics of one – the core story – with the setting of the other – the trappings – and what did I get? Something I’m really keen on, that’s what. The character dynamics will have to change a little to fit this setting, showing the limits of that ‘just trappings’ hypothesis, but fundamentally it works. I can tell the same story in a different setting, and it’ll be better for it.