Sunday, 23 October 2011

Idea soup

I'd sort of promised (silently and to myself) that my next post would be a review, but as I'm juggling 3 reads at the moment (I know - never a good idea) and am nowhere near finishing any of them... well, here we are.

I've been giving some thought lately to where story ideas come from - and I will admit it's probably not from a purple castle run by pixies or the strings of the Devil's guitar. But what inspires a story idea can be something profound and intangible, a real-life event, or even just a waft of an unfamiliar scent - and probably varies a whole lot from writer to writer.

I have had this idea for a book bouncing around my brain for a few months now, and the idea for it came from watching Husbo playing a video game called LIMBO. In case you haven't seen/played it, it's about this little boy who enters the shadowy world of Limbo to find and rescue his sister. It's a puzzle game, and there are lots of creepy nasties waiting in the gloom to do creepy, nasty things to the little boy. Yes, it's pretty dark, but it's also kind of funny in a twisty way.

The book idea doesn't actually follow the plot of the LIMBO, but it was that dark, sinister-looking imagery used in the game that set the idea on fire. I often find it's an image or a song that will spark a story for me - which is exactly what happened with my very first novel.

This first one (not HELLFIRE, which I've mentioned in other posts) was a novel I wrote about 2 years ago, but never really did anything with. It wasn't that it wasn't any good (at least, I don't think so - but then, y'know, I'm biased) but I don't think I had the silky skillz then to do justice to the story. So it's simmering away on the back-burner until I've finished my current project - then I will make it ROCK.

But - tangents aside - this novel evolved from one short, tense scene that just seemed to spring out of nowhere for me, and the rest of the story grew around it until it looked nothing like what I'd thought it would from that first glimpse. Here's a lil bit of the MS - it's called PURGE - which is that tiny fragment of an idea that kicked off the whole thing (and sorry, this probably won't make much sense out of context!):

The cracked opening created a suction that drew in a thin river of dust across the floor. The shorter man extended his arms, and the doors slowly parted to the full width of the door frame, revealing a dimly lit interior.
            They stepped in, towards the source of the light. It emanated from two green cells at the base of a cylinder which rose to the height of the ceiling. The tall man looked at his companion’s face for some sign that he had been expecting this, and saw him kneel to feel around the cells for a concealed mechanism.
            Almost instantly, a tidal wave hit them. The cylinder’s casing opened outwards, releasing a surge of tepid liquid which engulfed them and swept across the surface of the floor, hissing steam as it hit the freezing air. The taller man staggered backwards as it hit, while his companion stood his ground, unfazed.
            They remained motionless for a second, seeming hardly to breathe until all around them was still again. As the taller man turned to ask what was happening, the beam of his headlamp swept across the floor, glancing over a wet object which had been ejected from the now empty cylinder. Seemingly in response to the light, the object jerked to life, vomiting over the already sodden floor and gasping for breath.
            ‘What the…?’ he gasped, and collapsed unconscious at the two men’s feet. The shorter man grabbed his wrist.
            Noah,’ he muttered to himself, too low for the other to hear.
            The taller man looked to the other, then at the gauge strapped to his wrist, which was vibrating rapidly. ‘Well, that was new.‘

This scene will probably change pretty drastically when I go back in to do the re-write, but I think that idea-nugget will always be the cornerstone of PURGE for me.

HELLFIRE was different in that it was inspired by an album called 'What it is to burn' by the band Finch. They very quickly became my favourite band, and almost as quickly broke up in January this year. My sobbing was loud and heartfelt over that.

Still, I'm finding that quite strange things inspire me. It's not like I look at a leaf floating on a puddle and have some profound revelation about the meaning of life that I simply must write down before it's lost to the world... er, no. Maybe stories about dragons and robots and demons won't change the world, but these are the kinds of stories that make up a big, fat part of my life, and I like spending my time with them. Does that make any sense at all? Probably letting my inner-crazy show a little, there.

So, what inspires you? Whether it's for your own writing, or the inspiration you take from the kinds of books you like to read - let me know, I'd like to hear!

Kat out x x

BTW, the next one really WILL be a review. There, it's in writing now, so I can't pike out. Unless I come back and edit this post later.

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