They say everything starts with a good idea, and since Borrowed Magic came out, I’ve been asked one question possibly more than any other: Where did you get the idea?
I’ve been wanting to do a series of posts on the process of publishing and thought this concept of idea would be a good place to start. After all, no matter how much you study about setting, plot, and characters, it leads you nowhere unless you have a great idea.
In my experience, the initial idea for a book falls into EITHER setting or plot or character. The first book I ever wrote (which I still hope to do a TON of revisions on and publish one day) came from an image in my mind, a scene, a setting. It was the tone of that scene that I wanted to capture. Interestingly enough, that exact scene isn’t even in the book anymore, but the ideas that evolved from it are. The book I’m currently writing came from an idea about a character — a young woman who’s grown up in an isolated religious community. That evolved into this character being naive about so many things and yet so capable and strong at the same time.
Borrowed Magic evolved from a plot idea. I started writing it during the whole dystopian craze. Knowing I was going to start something new, I asked myself what the themes of dystopian were that I might be able to apply to fantasy. The one I came up with was the idea that the world isn’t quite what it seems. In so much dystopian, there’s a clean, shiny version of the world that is presented by whoever is in charge, and then there’s the real world, the dirty one, the one people are actually living in. Once I had a theme, I thought of ideas of how I could apply that to a magical, fantasy world. And that’s where Borrowed Magic came from. The characters all evolved later. As did the setting. It was that one plot point that drove everything — at least at the beginning.
Other people may find ideas in other ways, but for me, the easiest way is to focus on one of the three elements of fiction: plot, setting, or character. Choose one of those that fascinates you and develop it. You’d be surprised at how much can come from one great idea! (more on developing an idea in the next post…)