Where Do Stories Come From?

Close by, my Matthew had recently discovered – and devoured – the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini, and is presently listening to an interview with Paolini.  One of the first questions, as there always is, was asked: “Where do your ideas come from?”

Where indeed?

There are some books I read and find them clearly to be branches from the inspiration of other novels, and other still come from asking the question: “What if?”  The ancient Greeks invoked the muses, a practice that continues today as those with writer’s block complain that their muse is silent.

A friend of mine and I used to joke (okay, talk seriously) that for the two of us, we never meant to have a story.  Rather, we have the idea of a character in our head, and the character builds and grows stronger until they have a voice of their own, and with that voice, a story to tell.  Each character has an individual story, but as more of them grow, their stories intertwine, and for me, that is the novel.  My best example of this is Fate – the story has gone through dozens of transformations (it was originally titled The Circle of Magic) and most the characters have faded (Sean and Jessica alone were strong enough to endure), but they still scream in my soul until the words began to fall into place and I knew – I know – when something is off, and I’m writing something wrong.  And I write and write it again until everything falls together properly.

And then I go back and write it once more for consistency.

That is my method.  It’s a chaotic method, without plot webs or intentional lessons.  But my stories come as much from dreams as culture and history.  Others set out with a specific lesson in mind.  Others just write and write and write until their fingers fall off (non-literally).

I am constantly fascinated by authors – even those I don’t care for – sharing their origin stories.


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