I write fantasy stories because ideas for them keep popping into my head, almost always when I am in no position to write them down or record them. Life’s ironic like that.
When I’m half-awake is a classic, that’s when ideas for dramatic situations come to me, cliffhangers without the set up that my still partially dreaming mind begins to colour in haphazardly. If the imaginings of this semi-conscious state persist until I am fully awake and continuing to actively daydream the images I woke up with and fashion them into something concrete, then I have a story idea… if I bother to write it down that day, or the next. If I don’t I run the risk of losing it, but the most persistent ideas keep coming back until I make sure to record them.
One of the ways these dreamy imaginings impinge upon me is to mug me with dialogue. I’ll be in the shower and a spoken sentence will ring out in my mind. A conversation starts and I follow along, enjoying the story I’m telling myself, but the trick is to not get too analytical, to just let the two characters (it is almost always just two) fight it out (and it is almost always an argument) until it either comes to a resolution, or peters out on its own. What normally happens is the conversation runs along very fluently until I have the smart (read: foolish) idea to re-run it from what I might recall as the beginning, and look for different emphasis, or try to make a different point. This most often kills the fluency of the speech and characters stone dead, (and I also often lose exactly where the conversation started, if it has meandered on long enough before I decide to interfere too much, so restarting means chopping the conversation into sections and thinking about how each worked, and what the whole point might be, hopefully before I get too frustrated at losing some parts that felt great the first time around and that I now can’t quite remember) but sometimes, just sometimes, the conversation deepens, becomes richer, and threads attach to it, linking it to the dreams of settings and dramas I have had at other times, and a window into a world is created. Again, I have to remember to quickly write it down, or it will be lost. Many random conversations that occurred when out walking, or washing dishes whilst looking out the kitchen window (another favourite) have been lost because it was so vivid I feel sure I’ll remember it later, but when I finally try to recapture those half-forgotten thoughts they become elusive, or irritating cardboard cut-outs of the cavorting characters they had been before.
But then again – some scenarios stick with me and keep coming back until I write them down, and when I do, they either show themselves to have real potential, or remain lost fragments in search of a story to fit into. There’s an old salt miner’s tale that remains a hollow fragment, still looking for the spark that will turn his story into a book of the future. For over a year, maybe more, I would occasionally entertain a pair of tremendously bitter old rivals, a man and a woman, who would dig up the relics of their shared past, impale them, and throw them at each other with delightful viciousness, always with the threat that this time, one or the other would finally end their rivalry, most likely in the form of some sadistic revenge plot for the many past injuries each had done to the other. Or could they? Did they enjoy their shared pain too much to end it now, after so many years of opportunity?
When finally I wrote down one version of their tirades against each other, a whole story came out, a solid seed for an epic tale of a difficult present (which had never appeared before) for these bitter enemies to navigate, shot through with the painful memories of their often glorious, frequently futile past. It is only five pages long, just over two thousand words, but that outline makes me certain that the story could be told, and be one that would delight me in the telling. The first draft is the story you tell yourself, after all!
And so there is another reason why I write fantasy – because the ideas keep coming, and sometimes (just sometimes) when I write them down, the certainty that these situations can grow into novels is born.
If only it were as easy and as quick to write the novels as it is to have the ideas that originate them!
Good luck to all dreamers and dwellers of the imagination out there. If characters or situations, kingdoms or dilemmas keep cropping up in your thoughts, write them down, and see if you’ve found a new fantasy to make real, at least on the page!