Evolution of an Idea

One of the most asked question writer’s hear is “where do you get your ideas?”. I can’t speak for all writers, but I’m usually hit over the head by my muse–you remember her. She’s the evil one that often suffers from the condition of “ooh, shiny!”–with an idea that has to be written NOW! Sometimes, a story in the news will catch my eye. Then there are those weird dreams that I make note of and put them in a file. Some will eventually become a story or at least part of a story. That is exactly what happened with the idea fragment that became Designation: Frejya (Augment Wars 1).

I did some research when I sat down to begin writing this book. The story rambling around in my head felt familiar, almost like I’d written it before. But it wasn’t in any of my usual files where I keep old work. By “old work”, I mean those stories I wrote years ago that went into file folders to hide in the closet or under the bed, never to be seen again. Nor was it in any of the so-called draft story files on any of the multitude of thumb drives, external hard drives or old writing computers that are still capable of booting up if not doing much more.

Hmm…so why did it sound and feel so familiar?

I started looking deeper. I went to the scrap files. Those files where I had a sentence or two, maybe even a paragraph of two and there is was. It started back in 2012 or 2013 with just a couple of sentences.

I was five when they came for my brother. . . I was thirteen when they came for me.

That was all. Well, other than a note I’d left myself saying I didn’t know what in the hell this was supposed to be. Mystery? Fantasy? SF?

I filed it away and moved on to other plots that sang instead of made me want to hit my head against the wall because I didn’t know what genre it was or, to be honest, pretty much anything else.

Then, a couple of years later, this less than a hint of a plot reared its head again. In a file with a 2015 date, I had this:

I was five when they came for my brother. Two men, one tall and thin the other short and stocky. Both wore uniforms I had never seen before with lots of medals shining on their chests. Mom cried. I’d never seen her cry before and Dad’s hands shook as he read the paper the tall man handed him. Then, with tears in his eyes, he told Mom there was nothing they could do. Before I knew what was happening, Aiden was gone and I haven’t seen him since.

I was thirteen when they came for me

Okay. That’s a bit more to mess around with but it still didn’t give me much in the way of what the heck is this. Except. . . Myrtle the Muse being evil as she is so prone to be gave me a hint. My note to my future self contained the words “military fantasy”.

WTF?!?

That was my reaction then. I don’t need to remember typing those words. In 2015/2016, military fantasy was so far off my radar, much less outside of my comfort zone, as to be non-existent. As a result, this slightly expanded piece of whatever was filed away again. Forgotten, at least by me. But not by Myrtle.

Fast-forward to last year. I sat down one day and started considering my next five or six projects. Most I already had lined up on paper, outlined or rough drafted. But one story popped up that I didn’t recognize. Of course, in the back of my mind, Myrtle was laughing hysterically as she poked and prodded me. I had the title: Designation: Frejya (Augment Wars 1). I quickly had the cover. Yes, she made me go draft up a cover.

The woman clone pod / 3D illustration of science fiction scene sOkay, I’m starting to feel a bit more comfortable about the book. But I still didn’t know what in the world it was supposed to be. Myrtle, being her normal unhelpful self, directed me to the old files. I read them, read them again, and started cussing. How in the world did the cover she forced me to make have anything to do with military fantasy?

Or what initially sounded like a 13-year-old protagonist?

Especially when I don’t write books with that young of a main character.

Yes, I cried a little. I threatened my muse with dire consequences.

And she continued to laugh until she got frustrated with my wailing and took over my hands and typed out the following:

I was five when they came for my brother. I was thirteen when they came for me. At twenty, they sent me to war, an AI embedded in my brain to make sure I didn’t remember my past or question my orders. Not that they told me that part.

And that was their mistake. They might have enhanced me, trained me, but they didn’t break me and, with Menhit in my head, I am about to become their worst nightmare. . .if they don’t kill me first.

The Ter’anzils have invaded and enslaved innumerable star systems over the centuries. Have they finally met their match in one of their own creations?

Okay, I started feeling better. I still didn’t know about the “fantasy” part of it. But there were finally some definite science fiction elements there. That was something I could wrap my brain around.

So I started drafting out a basic plot for the story. As I did, I realized a couple of things. When the initial idea, that single sentence, came to me, I wasn’t ready to write that kind of a story. Subconsciously, I knew it. That’s why I made my notes, filed them away, and kept coming back from time to time to add to them. Now, with some of my series coming to an end, I’m ready to take on a new project.

Better yet, I’ve been having a blast writing it and I can’t wait for you to read it.

So, the answer to the question of where do your ideas come from is anything but simple to answer. Inspiration comes from any number of sources and it can sometimes take years to go from that small seed of an idea to a full-fledged story and, yes, there are times when it never goes beyond that first idea.

That said, never throw out those ideas because one of them might just become your Designation: Frejya (Augment Wars 1).


Quick note here because I’ll do a separate post later this morning. Destiny from Ashes (Book 8 of Honor & Duty) is now available on Amazon. I will be available soon on other major storefronts.

Colonel Ashlyn Shaw is on a collision course with an enemy determined to destroy her and all she holds dear. Honor demands she not turn away from the upcoming battle. Duty requires her to do whatever is necessary to protect her command and her home system. The Corps and her family stand with her, ready and willing to do whatever it takes to finally bring this war to an end.

But when the enemy turns out to be closer than she thinks, how will Ashlyn react? Will this finally be what breaks her or will it see the might of the Fuerconese Marine Corps raining death and destruction down on all who would stand against Fuercon and her enemies?

Honor and duty. Corps and family. These are the hills upon which Ash and every Marine in her command will live and possibly die as they fight to protect Fuercon and her allies.

20 comments

  1. Yeah. That’s a fantastic start… and I get this.

    The little voice with its haunting couple of words, thrown out at you when you don’t know what they mean, when you’re doing something else, when the thing those words and the image they summon throw at you isn’t even in what you consider your bailiwick.

    Over the past couple of years, I’ve written (and am now revising) five novels back to back to back that started when my mind’s eye threw me a scrawny old guy in a bad suit standing in front of a South Florida apartment in an absolute downpour, greeting a female cop I’d never imagined before with the words… “Your grandmother left you this.”

    Five-hundred-thousand-plus words later, I’m hooked so hard I’m not sure I’ll ever want to write in any other world again.

    1. Allow me a moment to fan girl squee. “SQUEEEE!” Now, breathing deeply, thanks.

      Your scrawny guy and his greeting has me wanting to read the series. Do you have a timeframe for them yet? I want to throw some more money your way. Please.

      1. Awww. Thank you for the squee.

        Timeframe…

        I’m planning or releasing one every four months, but I’m now revising all five (I’m in early-book-two fixes this morning) going back-to-back-to-back to maintain consistent style and worldbuilding, and I’m focused on reining in my love of going all “girls-gone-wild” on the plotting, and trying to stick firmly to the main story. Once revised, I have to get them copy-edited, bug-hunted, get covers for them, and then do the releases, while writing NEXT books in the world.

        They’ll be coming out under a pseudonym so I can both test the processes I’m learning for building a new audiences (for my HWC folks) and so I don’t confuse my SF readers or my High Fantasy readers with fairly dark small-town urban fantasy. I’m hoping to have the first book ready to go live, though, sometime between October and December, with the others coming in at four-month intervals after that.

        So… not soon, exactly, but soonish.

        1. I’d prefer now, but will take soonish. It will be interesting to see how your plan works. Fingers crossed for much success.

  2. I tend to read something non-fiction and think, “Hmm, I wonder. What if . . .” Or I think, “What would it be like to be the only person without magic in a fantasy world? How would magic work if it is common in everyday life?” And six books later, we have that story, and a few others, all but one blue-collar fantasy.

    Or a novella that got started after I wanted to wall a best-selling Paranormal Romance (PNR). “Oh come on! How about a vampire that really is nasty, creepy, and ick, and a heroine who really is competent and listens when her gut screams ‘Ruuuunnnnnnnn!’?” And thus the Elect were born.

    1. Oh, I’ve done that as well. Origins started out when I came across an UF where the main character was female, a shifter, a cop and totally incompetent but still managed to win the day because of a man pulling her out of the fire and yet she took all the credit, etc. Oh, and there was no mental anguish, concerns for her sanity, etc., after she’d been turned. She thought is was great fun to be able to be a furry whenever she wanted–and, yes, that’s how she put it. Myrtle the Evil Muse was not amused and hence a series was born.

  3. Right now I don’t have a solid idea farm process. I’m just getting them from weird spots and gluing things together.

    One of the projects I’m debating for the next project was inspired by the time a Never Winter Nights 2 server I was on crashed while we were discussing dwarven cheese. (It was an RP server, I was playing a dwarf, my mother had been making cheese, and we were between things so, if dwarves do beer, they probably do cheese, so I was talking dwarven cheese.) So ever since then, I’ve had it in the back of my head that Dwarves do cheese in the same hyper-serious way they do beer, crafting and all the rest.

    So, that’s a kernel for a faintly ridiculous fantasy story. And because fine food is art, there’s probably some conflict with organized crime going on. But I kind of really love the freedom that a dyson swarm gives the world, so I kind of want to figure out if it’s possible to set it on a Banks Orbital without also losing the feel of a fantasy novel.

    And in that case I could probably use the world I’d put together for the fanfic thing I’m probably not going to write and have a far future version of that as the setting, if I can work out why it would still be mostly pastoral in that region at that point in time.

    Probably need to read up on the development of the colonies and the settlement of the west, and figure out if it’s possible to sand the joints down so this Frankenstein’s monster train of ideas looks like a coherent unified whole on the other end.

    I’m confident the Dwarves like cheese-> cheese is art-> art means crime train will work fine. It’s the ‘we’re really in space’ part that I’ll probably have to break back off and do something else with. Alas electric tree police, we hardly knew you.

    1. Have you ever had beercheese? Husband’s cousins from Kentucky brought some to a get together.

      The plain one wasn’t in danger of becoming a favorite, but the slightly spicy one….oooo. Drooling thinking about it.

  4. Gosh. Ideas are everywhere. I have to kick them into the corners, where they pile up and whine for attention.
    I try to write down a synopsis and file it for later, possible use. I’ve found that if I don’t write a synopsis of some sort, I can’t recapture the idea.

  5. Just dug out my old “Ideas and starts” folder. Counted them an even 100, five of which were the germs from which I’d already written and published stories.

    One of my main sources are books or movies that totally misuse or totally fail to notice an idea that’s a wonderful possibility!

    1. But the two ideas get together and spawn plenty of baby ideas. [Crazy Grin]

      1. As long as they stay in the same story, a positive good. Then the kids might date still other ideas.

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