Novel Writing: Part One – The Idea

There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.
Mark Twain, a Biography

I’m blessed.    For the past few years I’ve had a story bouncing around in my head waiting to be written.  I have scenes that I would love to write.  Characters I hope will be unique and fully fleshed out.

But before I even begin my effort to write a novel I’ve decided to research how others discovered their ideas for their novels.  So I did some research and found this site: .  NPR has asked authors for their secrets to finding insperation for their stories.   I loved Blue Balliett’s description of her favorite sentence and Lewis Buzbee’s remedy for writer’s block.

I am in awe of published authors.  The time and energy to write a novel just seems so monumental.  And the confidence to send your writing out in the world for critique…it terrifies me to my very core.  Anytime I find advise from successful authors, I take it.  I’m currently reading Stephen King’s book On Writing.  My favorite quote reads, “Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, sex and work.  Especially work. People love to read about work.”

This one line has helped me more with my story idea than any other piece of advice I’ve received thus far.  Write what you like.  I am currently enjoying reading both fantasy and stories of soldiers.  I especially love stories about groups of men fighting together.  The bond that forms between soldiers during the heat of battle or times of stress.  The odd relationship between officers, NCOs and the men.  I am especially intrigued by NCOs (Sergeants).  So many great stories have been based off of this concept.  Band of Brothers.  Saving Private Ryan.  Glen Cook’s The Black Company.  Glory.  Miracle.

A few years ago, my story sprung to life in my mind so clearly that I knew I needed to write it.  Characters that were cliched or two-dimensional suddenly breathed.  The setting went from vague to a place as real to me as my backyard or hometown.  The beginnings of a plot formed.

Mine will be a fantasy story at heart.  However there will be no dragons.  No wizards.  No elves or dwarves.  ‘Races’ and monsters will be based off my own interpretation of historic Irish myths and legends.  The setting will take place in a Great Lakes-based frontier newly settled.

At the heart of my story will be relationships.  Relationships between soldiers.  Relationships between men and women.  Relationships between lovers and friends and enemies.  This is where the second part of King’s quote comes in.  I will imbue this story with my own reflections on how people interact.  Pulling from my own life and interviews with soldiers from World War II to the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Now to get working.


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