Seven sources for story … where do writing ideas come from?

 

 

Where do ideas for writing come from?

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Last November, 2016, while I was busy working on a manuscript of poems about one room school houses, another idea intruded. Within a few days, I was writing a science fiction long poem about two characters adventuring on an alien planet. The sudden urge to write this story surprised even me.

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'horizon' Nov 10 2016 (2016_12_30 00_28_35 UTC)
‘horizon’ November 10, 2016 … one of the first drawings I did to accompany the story. The date says how early my ideas about Meniscus began to gel.

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Looking back, I can identify several precipitating factors:

  • For the previous three or four months, I had been thinking, off and on, with no intention of ever writing it down, about how humans might survive on an alien planet.
  • I have always been interested in science fiction; first on TV with series like Star Trek and Firefly; then in reading of the various Star Trek series, and books by Douglas Adams, Orson Scott Card, Stephen King and many others.
  • I keep a file of older writing – including a few pages of my scribbles from the 1990s about character encounters on an alien planet.
  • My writing group, Fictional Friends, planned to hold a Saturday workshop in sci-fi and fantasy and I had nothing new to present.
  • The weekend before, for the first time in a decade, I participated in a Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game.

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With this background, I wrote the first chapter of Meniscus:Crossing The Churn and read it at the Saturday writing workshop. I think my friends thought I had lost my mind. Three weeks later I had completed most of the first draft of Crossing The Churn.

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Some of my own interests and knowledge became basic to the story:

  • my knowledge about edible wild plants.
  • my interest in parkour; I have arthritic knees but I have watched practitioners of parkour in Halifax and I have never forgotten the impressive way that they move through the landscape.
  • my interest in geomorphology and landforms. One of the first things I did was create a map of Meniscus and much of the plotting and writing was done with the map in front of me.

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meniscus march 2017
Map of the part of the planet where the story unfolds

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Now, eight months and three published books later, other writing demands are tugging at me. So I will take a break from the Meniscus Series for a few months (four more books are in draft form and I intend Book Four to go live in January 2018).

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Writers are inspired in different ways, but my experience tells me that ideas flow from six places:

  • Keep the ideas that float around in your head; jot them down.
  • Keep older bits of writing you have done; someday they may become part of something bigger.
  • Keep having new experiences; you are never beyond learning something new.
  • Join a writing group; their encouragement or incredulity may urge you onward.
  • Mine your own skills, experience and interests.
  • Read, read, read, in a variety of genres.

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These six points only scratch the surface of where stories come from.  I think there is an important seventh point.

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In each of us are basic principles and beliefs we hold important. On the surface, my Meniscus stories are fanciful adventures on alien landscapes. But deeper motivators are at work: the desire to build strong, independent female characters; concern and respect for the human condition; the need to champion diversity; and distain for those who would enslave people and minimize their importance as individuals. I would like to think that these ideals and others like them are the basis of all stories. They are certainly the underlying motivations behind my writing of the Meniscus Series.

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Best always,

Alexandra

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