In today’s post, I wanted to share a personal story about inspiration in creative writing, and how we can hope for it, and lay the groundwork, but we can’t force it.
It’s interesting how sometimes a story just needs time to settle…. A lot of time, in my case.
I’m feeling “inspired” today to talk about my original idea for “The Crimson League.” I don’t know if I’ve ever done that on this blog. I got the original idea Freshman year in college after a dream. I wanted to write a story set in a different world about a resistance group fighting an evil sorcerer, and I wanted some characters to have magic, others not to. (That all ended up being a big part of my final novel and trilogy.)
I liked the idea of magic in Herezoth being symbolic of whatever strengths we possess that we sometimes wish we didn’t, or whatever strengths other people have that we wish we did, because we don’t fully understand the investment that goes into cultivating talents we’re unfamiliar with on a personal level.
That’s where the similarities between the first idea and the finished story end, though. I originally wanted to link magic to the elements. And I also was dead-set on writing a portal story.
You know…. I wanted the main characters (at least two or three of them) to come from our world. That way, the readers could experience Herezoth through their eyes. Herezoth would be just as foreign to them as to the reader…. Just like Harry Potter when he “discovers” the wizarding world at age 11.
I thought that was the only way I could make this story work. I named my protagonist Lucia Jedword. I tried my portal idea, and fell flat.
I ended up writing another novel based on an entirely different idea, a novel I’ve never done anything with, because it’s awful. After that, three years after my original idea for “The Crimson League”–three years–I was spending some time at my aunt’s house. I was looking for a new project and wanted to give Herewith another shot.
Right before I went to bed, for no reason at all as far I could tell then or tell now, I understood out of nowhere what I had gotten wrong.
- My story needed a protagonist FROM Herezoth. One intimately connected with, personally invested in the world.
- I knew immediately, immediately, that I needed to name her Kora. I just knew that was her name…. from the Spanish “Corazón,” which means heart. I needed maybe a minute to give her the full name Kora Porteg.
- I understood how she would be the fulfillment of a centuries old legend no one really believed anymore. I originally wanted Lucia and her friends to fulfill a legend, and I immediately, upon envisioning Kora, knew how I needed to adapt the legend I had originally construed.
I started writing what became the first draft of my novel the next morning and never looked back.
WHY THREE YEARS?
I look back now and wonder, why did it take me three years to figure this out? HOW? It’s not as though the solution I came up with was genius or anything. It’s a pretty obvious fix, an obvious follow up to what I first tried to do.
I just know I’m glad I didn’t realize it right away. I had a lot of fun writing my first, awful novel, and I don’t think I would have been mature enough as a college freshman to write the story I ended up writing and am still reshaping into a second edition.
Writing my first novel honed my skills a bit, to make me able to write a first draft of a second novel that had potential. Also, a lot of the struggles and challenges I faced in grad school, as I was writing my Herezoth trilogy, deeply influenced it in ways that never could have happened if I’d written the novel before then. I can’t believe how much shallower and how different the story and characters would be if I had written my trilogy earlier in my life.
I’m not sure why I felt moved to discuss this today…. It just made sense. I’m curious about whether other people have had moments of crazy inspiration about a plot or a character like I did at my aunt’s house, when the idea for Kora just hit me fully formed. I mean FULLY formed.
I’m also curious about how long other writers have waited for inspiration to really act on an original idea. What say you?