"Welcome to Japan, folks. The local time is . . . tomorrow."
- from 30 Minutes Over Tokyo, The Simpsons, Season 10

Monday, August 18, 2008

On the Origin of Stories

This is modified from my original post to the Fangs, Fur, & Fey LJ community.

I think my favorite stories to work on are ones that come to me in pieces, where I get a glimpse of something here (like a character, an image, a title, etc.) and I get a glimpse of something there. For a while I think these glimpses have nothing to do with each other--and for the most part they don't.

Then something happens where I need to work on an actual story (rather than filling notebooks with random notes), and all these different, previously unconnected pieces just fit together.

So I can start with an opening line ("An angel and a demon can never be friends."), an image (all the fishes gathering at spawning time), a title (Dragon Rose: A Dragon's Love Story), a character (Pai's drawing, Rose and Striker from role-playing games), or a "what if . . ." (What if you made this a sci fi?, What would it be like to live in a world where . . . ?, or What if he didn't know that she [his girlfriend] was the supernatural he's supposed to be hunting?), but usually one of these isn't enough to get the full story. Also, I mostly rely on the "what ifs" to fill in the missing pieces of character and plot.

Because I know the origin of Pai's story the best, I will use it as an example of how one of my stories came into being.

When I was in 11th grade, I drew a picture of a girl wearing a Chinese-style dress, wore a cape, and had a sword. I named her Pai after a video game character I used to always play at my friend's house, but for the life of me can't remember the game. At the time, I think I had some notion of turning her into a superhero.

A few years later, I got this idea for a "magical girl" story (which is a Japanese manga/anime genre about a young girl who gets magical powers and can be like a superhero). Around the same time, I wanted to write about a character who had a sleepwalking dream, much like my own experience. So I named this "magical girl" story "Nothing Else Matters" in memory of the boy I had the dream about.

The story didn't really go anywhere. Fast forward a couple years to my creative writing class in my last year of college where I needed a short story to write. I had planned on working on another short story, but I got this image of a teenage girl holding a sword after a long battle with blood running down her hands, but not from the actual fighting.

My mind placed all these things together, so when it came time to write the short story (which was really chapter 1 of my new WIP), everything just fell into place. The short story was titled "Esper" (a type of magical girl who uses psychic powers or has ESP), though the title of the book changed to "Bleeding Hands". I didn't like "Bleeding Hands" as a title, because while it captures that image I had, I don't think it sounds good, plus I wanted to continue with the Metallica-themed title since I was dropping "Nothing Else Matters". So the new title is "No Leaf Clover" which I think fits the theme or the events much better.

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