Catherine Spangler kicks off THE IDEA BOUTIQUE
It’s great to be a guest blogger on The Idea Boutique. Thank you, Heather, for inviting me. I would love to share where the ideas for my stories come from, but it’s not that easy. For one thing, the writing process isn’t highly structured for many authors. For another, a lot of the process is done in the subconscious (which is always working on something), so many of us have no clue how we got from Point A to Point B.
My books always begin with characters (my stories are more character driven than plot driven). My first book, Shielder, started with Nessa dan Ranul. From the very first, I pictured her as an outcast, because she wasn’t physically perfect. From that point, I started asking myself, “What’s her story?” The book evolved from there, but it was flavored by my personal experiences.
I believe we’re all formed by our life experiences, by the books we read, the movies we watch, all the things that go into our minds. I can still cleary remember certain movies and events from childhood that made a big impression on me (the movie Thirteen Ghosts, which scared the bejeebers out of me, and the day John F. Kennedy was shot, when the first man walked on the moon, etc.) So the stories begin with a plot idea or a character, then flare to life, flavored by the experiences we’ve had. And those experiences form our life themes. We all have life themes. I’ve got a blog entry on this very thing at http://catherinespangler.blogspot.com/, if you want to explore this more.
Most authors also have themes in their writing, and it's usually a spillover from their personal lives. We may not be aware of our themes (I’m usually not). After I wrote Shielder, one of my critique partners said, "Cathy, you wrote about the Halocaust!" I was surprised, because I hadn't consciously tried to do that. But when I looked back at the story (a race of people being sysematically destroyed by another race), added that to my Jewish heritage, I had to conclude that was indeed what I had done. Another one of my themes is spirituality and the meaning of life. I've been interested in metaphysical topics since I was very young, and read all sorts of books on spiritual paths, meditation, astrology, Tarot, etc. Sure enough, that overflows into my books, especially my latest projects--the Sentinel series, based on Atlantis and reincarnation (book one, Touched by Darkness, will be out January 2007); and my novella, Street Corners and Halos (about a girl who "dies" in the Halocaust, and is turned into a vampire by an SS soldier). Once again, I started with the characters: A mother trying to protect herself and her son from a horrendous past; a young woman embittered by the loss of her family and the cruel twist of fate that left her a vampire. Once I had these characters in my mind, the rest of the story flowed from there, fueled of course (and on a subconscious level) by my experiences and interests.
Clear as mud, right? There’s no right or wrong way to create. We just have to go with the flow. I wish you many wonderful books to read and experience.