Writing a book sounds easy in theory, but there’s always that Great Divide between mind and written word. When I sat down to pound out a fantasy novel, I had a myriad of ideas that I had to streamline into a cohesive story. Where to start? Turns out fantasy art and poetry turned the tide. I’m an avid admirer (not a fan, don’t care for that overused word) of the fantasy art of Frank Frazetta. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, you should stop what you’re doing and Google him. He’s basically the godfather of fantasy art, providing endless inspiration for the generations that came after. One particular series of images that captured my imagination was his Death Dealer paintings.
I wrote a poem inspired by the images about a disgraced knight that made a deal with Death in order to achieve his vengeance. The idea stuck in my mind when writing what would eventually become The Eye of Everfell. The black-armored Reavers that appear in the novel are a definite nod to Frazetta’s work, and the misadventures of Marcellus Admorran were directly inspired by the poem I wrote long ago.
So much writing is the effect of the immortal query ‘what if?’ For example, while watching Lord of the Rings, the question came to mind: What if some of the elves refused to leave Middle-Earth? What would become of them? The answer: they’d be cut off from their immortality. And in their quest to cheat death, they become vampires. And so the antagonists of my story were born: the akhkharu, fallen immortals who feed upon humanity in order to continue living. In the end, many changes were made to differentiate my characters from both elves and vampires, but the inspiration can’t be denied. Asking ‘what if’ can lead to a lot of interesting roads, some of which may lead into a story.
Many other influences touched my story. The character of warlord Valdemar Basilis is largely based on Vlad Tepes (the historical version, not the Dracula character), including the penchant for impaling his enemies on stakes. Many of the cultures will ring familiar, influenced by Norse, Egyptian, Chinese, Native American and medieval European legends and customs. The fun is in melding it all together, making it all work and make sense somehow.
In the end I had a bare-bones story that would eventually become pages, chapters, and finally a finished manuscript. In the end there were many changes that needed to be made, but one glaring error that needed to be corrected immediately: my female characters.
I’ll talk about that next time.
If you’re a writer, where does your inspiration come from? And for the readers: what makes the difference in countless books with similar themes/ideas? I’d love to hear your thoughts.