Hello friends! Today, I really want to get back to talking about the writing process. And I want to take you aaaaalll the way back to the very beginning: the idea stage. I had an interesting conversation with a fellow intern today about building novel ideas, and I thought it would be a perfect topic to bring up on the blog.
Coming Up With An Idea
So you want to write a fantasy novel, right? But you have no idea where to start. You’ve got pieces of an idea, little inklings that swirl around in your head with little connection. Or maybe you’re looking to come up with something entirely from scratch. Either way, before you start writing, you want to have something concrete to work with.
The best advice that I can give is to read. Read the fantasy genre. Read the subgenres that you’re interested in the most. This can help you narrow down what type of story you want to write, what kind of characters excite you the most, and what tropes make your heart dance. The more you read, the more familiar you will become with the genre. Don’t think that only one or two books will cut it. If you’re looking for a good place to start, I would recommend this article for a basic list of several books in different subgenres.
Is Your Idea Writable?
So you’ve got an idea. Yay! Fantastic. Now, can you write a book from it?
Depending on if you’re an outliner or a pantser, what I’m about to say next may not be the best strategy for you to figure out if your idea can carry a whole book. Some people like to jump right in and figure everything out as they go along. But I recommend at least asking yourself a few basic questions before starting.
Do you know enough about where you want to go to write the first few chapters? It doesn’t do you any good to start and realize you have nowhere to go. You don’t necessarily need to know how your story ends yet. Trust me, that will come along eventually.
Are your characters interesting enough? Do they have motivations for doing what they are going to be doing?
Do you have a basic idea of your setting?
Can you see yourself committing to this idea for a full book? Are YOU excited enough to write this book?
Finally, a question you should always ask yourself before writing a book: Can you commit a little time each day to write? This is especially important. Writing everyday helps to perfect your craft and will be key to finishing your story!
Keep these questions in your mind as you’re formulating your novel idea. Most important of all though, don’t forget to have fun! Writing is fun. Creating worlds and characters and plots entirely your own is fun. Don’t lose sight of that.
As I thought about what I wanted to write for posts this week, I began to realize that you, my audience, have absolutely no indication on whether what I say is what I practice.
You have seen no example of my own fantasy writing.
While fantasy is a genre that I recently began writing in, I do have one solid short story in this genre that I would like to share with you. This is a piece that I wrote for my creative writing class last semester with zero prompt and zero direction given. I drew inspiration from the old Greek myth of Hades and Persephone and took a new. more contemporary direction with it. While I had seen this done several times before, I believe I offer a slightly different, slightly darker take on their meeting.
I would love to hear feedback on this piece from all of you, and I would also like to know if you want to see more examples of my work, whether that is solely fantasy or if you want to see some other genres as well. I hope you enjoy!
(I have never written a trigger warning before, so I hope this phrasing is correct.) TRIGGER WARNING: Physical and verbal abuse
Take Me Away
“GET OUT AND STAY OUT!” I landed hard on my back unceremoniously on the back porch, having been thrown from the doorway. Slam. Click. Click. And just like that, I was locked out again.
I sighed quietly and gingerly scraped myself off the wooden slats, stumbling down the back stairs. There was no use arguing with my mother anymore tonight. She wouldn’t remember our fight in the morning. I doubted she would remember anything with all the liquor currently coursing through her veins. No, best to go back to the lake and sleep outside for the night.
It happened too often, the fights, three or four times a week. I can’t remember a week in the last two years where I hadn’t been kicked out at least once. Usually, I would bounce from friend’s house to friend’s house. But eventually, those friendships faded, and I couldn’t keep making excuses about why I came over so frequently. So I finally learned to stock up and retreat into the woods at night. The trees offered cover and protection, the lake somewhere to rinse off and put my hair up before another day at school. It was always there when I needed a place to feel safe.
I learned not to be afraid of the dark.
But tonight, the darkness seemed to draw me in. It was rare that I was kicked out around the full moon. There was too much to be done inside for me to spend time looking up at the sky on the most beautiful nights. But tonight, I had nothing to do but wait until morning. That prompted me to run directly into the woods, down the paths I knew by heart. I headed towards the biggest open area of trees with the clearest view of the sky.
I had no reason to run; the moon would still be there whether I moved fast or slow. But the wind was calling to me. Come to me, the forest whispered. The phantom words resonated within me, and I ran faster.
Little did I know that it wasn’t the wind calling me, but something else entirely.
I reached the clearing within moments. The moonlight cast a pale purple shadow over the sparsely arranged trees. The air stood still. A sense of peace washed over me, prompting me to lay down in the smooth dirt and stare up at the moon.
Heartbeats. Steady and slow. At rest…. At peace.
Another heartbeat joins mine.
I jerked up. I didn’t know if I was imagining things, but I sensed another presence with me. My hand crept to my pocket towards my pocket knife, in case. “Who’s there?” I called out. No answer. I stood quickly and walked forward cautiously where I could still faintly hear the echo of a heartbeat. “Answer me! Who’s there?”
A growl that I could only describe as menacing but playful brought my attention to a dark figure leaning against a tree. The outline of a wide, smirking grin with slightly pointed teeth at the corners glinted at me as the figure stepped into the light. “Look at you… all ready to fight whatever comes your way.” His voice washed over me like the most teasing of breezes. I shivered.
“Who the hell are you?” I asked.
I heard a faint chuckle. “You can call me Infernos.” He stepped out into the light.
He chuckled darkly. “Glad you approve.” Only then did I realize I had voiced my opinion aloud. Flushing, I took my recovery moment to glance over him. The man loomed over me at easily over six feet with muscular broad shoulders. His hair shined blacker than the darkest of nights with what appeared to be tiny flecks of silver. What intrigued me most though were his eyes: a swirl of amber and black that intertwined so tightly you couldn’t tell which color was more prominent. I was inexplicably drawn to him, to the mystery he carried with him.
He suddenly took a step back and bowed low to me. “The devil at your service, sweetheart.”
I shook out of my reverie and managed a laugh. “You expect me to believe you’re the devil? You’re not in the least bit frightening. Just a man with a habit of sneaking up on young women in the night, right? Get out of here, if you know what’s good for you.”
He laughed. Then everything went black. And I mean everything. I stood in the middle of an eternal night, the moon and stars snuffed out in an instant. Then he was behind me, whispering in my ear. “You give off such an innocent vibe, but you’re rather feisty, aren’t you dear?” The darkness lifted in the next moment, the light returning. I dared to look over my shoulder at Infernos behind me.
“I’ve been watching you for a very long time. I know who you are, Kathy.” My breath hitched as he smirked and slowly began to circle me. “I know how much you fight day in and day out, struggling for purpose, for your very existence. I’ve seen the way your family treats you, no better than the dirt on their shoes. Less than dirt. Every word, every near miss cracks you. I can see it…. so close to breaking” He inhaled deeply, like a predator savoring the scent of its prey. “Such a beautiful… beautiful damaged soul.”
I couldn’t help but be afraid.
“Do me a favor, dear, and consider this. What if I could make this all go away? The abusive family, the loneliness… the nightmares?” He came and tilted my chin up to his eyes.
I rubbed my arm with one hand, stalling for time. “At what price?”
Infernos chuckled before locking an arm around my waist and pulling me against him tightly. I was too shocked to move. My heart sped up, and the echo of his pounded in my ears. “Be bound to me. Give me your allegiance. Not as a slave, but as my queen. I can take you away from everything. You will never be alone again.” A sentiment that would normally make me warm felt heavy and threatening from his lips.
I took a step back. He was making my head spin. “I.. I can’t process this.” My chest heaved with heavier breaths. “How do you even exist? I don’t believe this. I don’t believe in a heaven, a hell… hell! I don’t even believe in a God, yet here you stand… ” I couldn’t bring myself to say the word devil. It would mean having to admit any of this was real.
A calloused hand pressed over my heart, and suddenly I could breathe again. His lips press to my cheek. The imprint seared into me, like a hidden claim against my skin. But it didn’t burn like a brand. It was a deep heat that wrapped around me and consumed me. And to my dual horror and delight, I felt safe there. My vision blurred, and my muscles grew weak. My body tumbled.
Infernos was waiting for me, and his arms caught me and swept me against his chest in one fluid motion. “I’ll be back for you, my dear. You’ll give in to me soon. I’ll be back at your lowest moment, and if you’ll let me, I will protect you.” As I drifted off into sleep, he whispered one final thing. “Just say the words, and I will take you away from here.”
I dreamt of darkness and safety.
I woke up in my tent in the same clearing.
I trudged back home in silence, returning to my mother’s harsh shouting and a long list of punishments for ‘not coming home last night’. The routine is always the same. Life continues on as usual. Well, almost as usual.
I couldn’t stop thinking about that night in the woods. At first, I thought I had imagined the whole encounter, a result of the stress no doubt. But the tiniest part of me wondered if he was real. He felt real. But eventually, I resign myself to the facts of my hallucination and squelch the last bit of hope inside of me that I could be rescued.
Until a week later when everything came to fruition.
My stepfather chased me down the stairs, narrowly missing my head with the glass in his hand. I fled. I nearly made it out the front door when my arm was wrenched behind me.
“Did you think you could get away with it?!” he screamed. “Keeping money from your mother and me?! Writing in that damn journal of yours. What were you doing?! Writing an account to give to the police?! Who would ever believe you?” He twisted my arm further and further, straining the muscles to a point of deep pain.
He threw me backwards. I stumbled, and he came after me again. “Do I need to teach you another lesson, you dumb bitch?” he shouted in my ear. I tried to stand my ground, but I had never seen him this angry. I involuntarily backed away. “Don’t run away from me, girl!” I watched his fist fly at me…. and then nothing. The next thing I knew, I was on the ground, vision blurry and in complete shock. Hot liquid ran down the side of my face, tracing my jawline.
Nothing I had done up to this point, nothing I had mustered and survived up to this point could have prepared me for this moment. When I hit the ground, all I could think was this was it. I wanted out, and I wanted out now.
A clearly defined snap echoed through the room, and instantly, everything went silent. My stepfather moved in slow motion, reaching behind him to grab another glass bottle, presumably to throw at me. My mother seemed to be yelling at the top of her lungs; her eyes bulged out of her head. Whether it was at him or me, I would never know.
Infernos leaned against the wall in my kitchen. I wasn’t even surprised. Of course, he promised he would be there at my worst moment to offer me one last choice. But he didn’t seem as gleeful as he did then. His mouth was drawn in a tight line, and his eyes flared dangerously. He looked pissed. I shivered in the wake of his anger coming off him in waves.
He stood at my side in a flash. I looked up in a daze. I must have looked frightened because I almost notice his anger receding the slightest bit. His hand touched the side of my head, and in a flash of heat, the blood seeped back into my head as the wound closed. It leaves a thin scar, a memory of his actions and a reminder of why I am where I am. He leaned in close to my ear and said plainly, “Say it.”
I looked up into his eyes. Behind the fury and the sternness, I saw something else. Something protective, more human. It was faint, but compared to this… maybe it would be enough.
I had hesitated too long, apparently, because he growled and hissed again. “Say it.” He turned my chin up to him. “Say it. Let me take you away from here.”
“Now,” he commanded with a growl.
Then, the choice became clear. I don’t think there was ever any other choice for me to make. The temptation for somewhere else, for anywhere else, for safety, for protection, was too strong to overcome.
“Tu spondeo mi spirit,” I whispered.
In a flourish of his hand, the world sped back up again. The glass bottle flew from my stepfather’s hand to where I had been on the ground. But it didn’t matter anymore. I was already gone. Gone, on my way to somewhere I desperately hoped wasn’t its own trap. I clung to Infernos’ hand as we rapidly spun through space and light and dark, and things incomparable to all that I have seen, plunging down into another realm.