Behind the Books: What ifs, dreams and bunnies. Where ideas come from.
by Becky Black
Dream For Me – my new release with Loose Id – is a what if story. For years I had a scrap of a note in my ideas folder. What if people didn’t sleep? What would the world be like? What if in this world a few people did still sleep? How would they be treated?
So when I started to work on the idea and develop it I knew one of my heroes had to be one of these rare people who did sleep, so I could explore his life in this strange wide-awake world. And since someone like him would be considered a scientific curiosity the other hero could be a scientist who studies him. And, of course, falls in love.
What would our lives really be like if we didn’t have to sleep? On the one hand we could get so much more out of life, more time to learn and have fun. More time to read and watch movies. More time on Twitter… I suppose we writers would get a lot more writing done. But then again everyone would be able to read a lot more, so we’d have to do more.
Thinking the implications of an idea through is one of my favourite things to do when planning a book. In face the premise and setting nearly always come first for me, not the characters. They show up when I start to wonder about what kind of people would do something interesting in this situation? Who’d have the highest stakes?
“What ifs” are great story starters. Chrysalis Cage started out as “What would happen if you lived in a valley that’s just been snowed in for the winter, with no means to contact the outside, and the world’s most wanted terrorist with a huge price on his head showed up sick or injured on your doorstep?” The valley became a moon and the snows of winter a solar storm. But the story all flowed from my ideas of the choices a person might make in that situation.
Other ideas come from dreams. My story Higher Ground came from one where I was part of a group all climbing up the hills of San Francisco to get away from rising water. Liar’s Waltz came from a throwaway remark on a writing forum about figuring out your genre, and how you would classify a comedy about the only gay bar on the moon. In the end the story wasn’t a comedy and it wasn’t on the moon, but that was the tiny seed that grew into my first published novel. Other ideas and stories have come from Tweets and from discussions on Live Journal. Sometimes they sit for a long time in my files, waiting for a catalyst, before catching fire.
Other stories take old ideas and settings and twist them into new shapes. My Red Dragon series is based on the idea: “the East India Companies – in space.” Lots of the ideas for incidents in the stories came from reading up about the shenanigans of the Companies. But most of the ideas for the main characters came pouring out into my notebook during a long journey home from a writers and readers event back in 2011.
As for my zombie story, Patient Z? I just always wanted to write a zombie story…