Story, character, setting, and flow – where do these ideas all come from? (Yes, flow might be an odd choice for this, but hold on, I’ll get to it.)
At the point of writing this blog post, I’d say I’ve written:
8 Complete books (1 trilogy, 4 books that each start their own trilogies, and 1 standalone)
6 short stories (15-30k words each, so maybe not so short)
2.5 books (of a 9-book series I had in my head) that will never see the light of day (seriously, how could I have ever written anything this poorly?)
1 book of poetry (also terrible – I am not a poet)
4 outlines for other books I want to write
Dozens of X-mas cards
All in all, probably somewhere around 1.5 million words (most of them bad). Only the trilogy (Against the Night) is scheduled to be published at the moment, but all of the above are very different from each other, with one caveat (I’ll get to it shortly). Just talking about the completed stories (books and shorts), the ideas for these things came from all kinds of places.
I’m a very visual person, so most of the inspiration comes from things I see, like scenes in movies or anime. I’ve also spent far too much time playing games of all sorts (both table-top and video games), so plenty of sparks have come from things I’ve seen there. Speaking of table-top games, I have to say my start as a storyteller came from GM’ing/DM’ing for a group of friends who was patient enough to put up with some of my infuriating stories – and also completely invalidating days of work by making a choice I hadn’t foreseen.
(Thanks Tony, Trent, Kyle, and everybody else who joined one of the sessions I ran.)
Back on topic.
Most of the time, these different mediums give me ideas for a scene or a setting in the story, and then things build from there. For example, the motorcycle in Akira – who wouldn’t want one of those bad boys? That’s what I had in my head when I planned X’s bike, though it didn’t turn out to be the same at all. For another book of mine (Blood Dancer), I needed a vehicle that would fit the unique world it was set in. Something that moved differently, and not just another car or bike. Inspiration again came from anime, this time from the Tachikoma’s legs in Ghost in the Shell.
One more anime example, but this is going back to flow. First off, flow for me means how a book reads, how the story moves from one paragraph to the next, and how the action within the scenes plays out. To a certain extent, this will also dictate how the sentences are structured. My book, Spark of War, is probably the most action-oriented of my library. I wrote it to be about the action, and for that, I needed something that stood out. I already had the basic idea of what I wanted it to be, and how I wanted my main character to ‘get around the page’, but I have to say that watching the anime ‘Fire Force’ really opened my eyes to what I could do with movement. This really led to an evolution for Spark of War, and my writing style as a whole.
(Small aside, the animes for Jujutsu Kaisen and Kimetsu no Yaiba also do some really cool things with the flow of action scenes. Well worth the watch if you’re looking for inspiration.)
As for the caveat I mentioned, well, this is the only example of where I’d say I straight up stole ideas – from myself. Remember that 9-book series I mentioned that would never see the light of day? Yeah, one of the reasons is because I’ve ripped out cool ideas I had there to put into other books. I’ve put stuff from that series into Against the Night and Blood Dancer primarily, but small parts have slipped into my other work as well.
Finally, one more source of inspiration is music. Sometimes it’s the words in a song or the impression the tune leaves. Not always, though. My book Cloudwatcher is heavily inspired by Taiko drums and their raw beat. When I was living in Japan, I went to more than a few Taiko shows / demonstrations, and they always made me want more – so I built an entire fictional world with something like Taiko as the central point.
Anyway, this blog post went on way longer than it should have! Feel free to leave your sources of inspiration in the comments (or recommend some good anime I should be watching).
(PS – You’ll find more information on my other books in the Works in Progress section, under Books, as we get that filled out.)