Inspiration and Original Ideas

While I was researching my posts on fan fiction and derivative fiction, I came across two schools of thought.

  1. People writing fan and derivative fiction do so because they have no original ideas.
  2. People might as well write fan and derivative fiction because there are no original ideas.

The first thought is on the sour side. And does anyone really want to tell Neil Gaiman that his Doyle/Lovecraft pastiche, “A Study in Emerald” is the work of an uninspired mind?

Didn’t think so.

I prefer to concentrate on that second school of thought because it reminds of a certain trope: there are only seven basic plots in literature. If you’ve taken a creative writing class, you’ve probably heard some variation of this. I learned these seven, which are attributed to Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch.

  1. Man against man
  2. Man against nature
  3. Man against himself
  4. Man against God
  5. Man against society
  6. Man caught in the middle
  7. Man and woman

However, there’s a new magnificent seven in town, according to Christopher Booker and his writing manual, “The Seven Basic Plots.”

  1. Overcoming the Monster
  2. Rags to Riches
  3. The Quest
  4. Voyage and Return
  5. Rebirth
  6. Comedy
  7. Tragedy

If you’re feeling worried and/or smug that your plot doesn’t fit into either of these groups of seven, keep in mind that most stories use combinations of these plot elements. Here are some articles with more in-depth explanations.

So, do we throw away the idea there are any original ideas? Of course not. Every person has their own take on a given situation and their own stories to tell. You may have heard another trope: it’s impossible to create in a vacuum. In order to be creative, you need inspiration. What inspire us are our world and the stories we hear. We take what captures our imaginations and turn them into original stories.

For example, George R.R. Martin’s wildly successful series, “A Song of Fire and Ice” was inspired by the English civil war know as the War of the Roses. Lannister and Stark  = Lancaster and York. Students of history will see the similarities, yet the world Martin created is very different than that of medieval England.

The wacky, ultraviolent Japanese movie, “Sukiyaki Western Django” was also partly inspired by the War of the Roses, and in particular, Shakespeare’s “Henry the Fifth.” The world in the movie is also vastly different than medieval England, and nothing like “A Song of Fire and Ice.”

My novel, “Fake” was inspired by wuxia, the literature and cinema of Chinese martial arts. I incorporated some common elements of this genre, such as the Beggar Clan, and created some of my own. My love of Irish music led me to discover the world of Irish Travelers, a nomadic people who are not related to the Romany. I created my own nomadic people, Strowlers. While based on Travelers, there are also key differences. Putting the two worlds together makes for a unique combination that is all my own.

Neil Gaiman took Sherlock Holmes and put him in H.P. Lovecraft’s London. The movie, “The Banquet” took Hamlet and placed him in imperial China. As an exercise, think of a character or real person who captures your imagination and place her in another world. Be inspired, creative and make it your own.

“A Study in Emerald” is available online for free, formatted and illustrated in the style of an early 20th century newspaper.

Speculative fiction author David Drake took a familiar archetype, the grumpy old wizard, and placed him in post-Revolutionary War America. You can pick up the free-for-now eBook from Amazon.

  Old Nathan by David Drake
The forces of evil are poised to prey on the folk of the hamlets and hollows: witches, demons, and red-handed men—but first they’ll have to overcome Old Nathan the Wizard. He doesn’t claim much for his magical powers, but they’re real enough for what they are—and besides, he hasn’t forgotten how to use his long flintlock rifle… Enter the gritty, realistic world of Old Nathan, a backwoodsman who talks to animals and says he’ll face The Devil himself-and who in the end will have to face The Devil in very fact.

Lucinda Brant penned a Georgian romance novel inspired by the arranged marriage of the 2nd Duke and Duchess of Richmond. You can pick up the free-for-now eBook from Amazon.

  Midnight Marriage by Lucinda Brant
Set in the opulent world of the 18th century aristocracy and inspired by real events, Midnight Marriage is the standalone second book in the acclaimed Roxton family saga. Two noble teenagers are married against their will. Drugged, Deb has no recollection of events. Disgraced, Julian is banished to the Continent. Nine years later, Deb falls in love with a wounded duelist, only to later discover it is her husband returned incognito! Can Deb forgive his cruel deception? Can their marriage survive beyond seduction? Meanwhile, Julian’s nemesis plots to destroy them both…

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.

Space Opera

Free Today on Amazon

When I was younger, I was a huge scifi fan: books, movies, comics, TV shows, I loved it all. I still do, though I don’t read much of the genre these days. As a writer, I think it’s important to read many different genres in order to improve my own craft. So, today I took a look at Amazon’s science fiction freebies.

I was interested to find several books by a prolific, well-known space opera author, David Drake. What is space opera? To quote Wikipedia:

Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, usually involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced technologies and abilities.

It has been a popular subgenre, not just in literature but also in television and movies. “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” are considered space operas. I would say its popularity has waned in recent years, displaced by super heroes and dystopia. However, the upcoming Star Trek movie, “Into Darkness,” could rekindle interest in the genre.

At its best, a space opera is a cracking good yarn, that is, a story that loses you in its world and keeps your interest from beginning to end. The books listed below look to be such yarns. Enjoy!

All books listed below are by David Drake.

  Northworld Trilogy
The inhuman Rulers of the galaxy sent three fleets to learn what had happened to the world located by Captain North and the Survey Team he led. Neither a soul nor a message returned. The fourth time, the Rulers sent a single man: Nils Hansen. Commissioner Hansen had a mind that saw the shortest path to each task’s completion and a ruthless determination to do what the task required. The cost – to himself and whoever happened to be in the way – didn’t matter. Hanson’s Special Units had kept his planet safe from the most sophisticated and violent criminals in the galaxy. Now Hansen was being sent to penetrate a spacetime enigma which had made gods or demons of the first humans to discover it. He would succeed or die.

Redliners  Redliners
They were the toughest fighters in the galaxy – until they got used up. The mission: redemption-or death. The troops were walking dead already, so there wasn’t much of a downside. Major Arthur Farrell and the troops of Strike Force Company C41 had seen too much war with the alien Kalendru. They had too many screaming memories to be fit for combat again, but they were far too dangerous to themselves and others to be returned to civilian life.

Seas of Venus  Seas of Venus
Earth is a dead cinder beyond the dense clouds. On a terraformed Venus the land is ruled by savage plants and the even more savage beasts that prey on them, while monsters out of nightmare swim though the globe-girdling seas. Mankind huddles in domed underwater Keeps, living a purposeless static existence—dedicated to pleasure but destined for oblivion later if not sooner. Only the Free Companions, the mercenaries who fight proxy wars for the Keeps, live on the surface of Venus. Their warships course the seas, battling one another in struggles to decide victory or defeat for one day, life or death for a few individuals. The Free companions live till they die with the searing thrill of danger, and their deeds bring excitement and color to the bored residents of the Keeps; but Mankind is doomed unless something changes.

Sea Hag (World of Crystal Walls, No 1)  The Sea Hag
FROM PALACE . . . Dennis flees the crystal walls of Emath when he learns the truth behind the city his father rules. TO WILDERNESS . . . The jungle enfolds him, tests his sword arm with monsters and his courage with nightmares more terrible than any monster. FROM LOVE . . . Sword and spirit can win Dennis a princess– TO BLACKEST WIZARDRY . . . But he can overcome the final evil only at the risk of all he has become–and his soul besides.

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.