The back story

Coming up with a good idea for a book isn’t particularly difficult. You might see something through a window in a cafe, or have a blast of inspiration while sitting on a train, a la J. K. Rowling, or while watching a movie, enjoying a minor character or a side-plot far more than the main story. The Idea will grow and sprout, and soon you’ve got a fully formed story in your head ready to roll. Unfortunately, that’s where the easy bit stops. Somehow, in the course of that growth process, much of the actual meat of the story becomes curiously obscured. When it comes time to sit down and start smashing away at a keyboard, much of the initial inspiration has already withered.

For a long while this would happen to all of my ideas. Great in theory, but by about the tenth page I’d already moved onto something else, like an ADD kid in a joke shop. How in the hell do writers have enough patience and mental fortitude to see a draft through to the end? From what I’d read, many authors structure their stories and build a detailed framework before even writing the first word, but that seemed particularly uninspiring to me. If I knew exactly, to the letter, what was going to happen in a story, where’s the fun in writing it? It’s like watching the special features of a movie before the movie itself.

It wasn’t until I was forced to write the structure first that I came to realize that this would become my preferred method.
I’d had an idea for an adventure-fantasy story kicking about for years, having been influenced by a certain movie with pirates in it at the time. The basic story-arc I never forgot, so, years later, I found myself inhabiting a climbing camp-ground without ready access to a laptop. On my rest days from climbing, I set about penning down the idea, fleshing it out with characters, places, side-plots and scenes. For days I’d do nothing but write down silly names, forging from them a good list from which I could pluck at my leisure later on. The one sure thing that interrupts the flow of a session of writing is being stumped for a name. With a list, complete with local dialects and nuances pertaining to certain geographical locations and so on, I had effectively removed the problem.

When I returned to my laptop, the story was all laid out and ready to be written. To my surprise, hammering out the draft to a rigid framework proved to be not only the key to reaching the last page, but also immensely satisfying at the same time. Since then I will not begin a draft until the story-arc is locked in. From there, the overall structure won’t change, though certain elements may get moved, or dropped entirely.

Thus The Adventurer’s Daughter went from a half formed idea squirrelled away in the back of my head, to a completed draft. Having split it into two books, the series will eventually encapsulate four separate stories, the second of which has recently been drafted, while the third and fourth remain murky, only the eventual destinations taken by certain characters being set in stone.

Serabella began as a small aside, more of a side-quel rather than a prequel, to the AD series. In AD, Drakovic Haverfield débuts as a supporting character, and I thought it’d be interesting to explore him a little more. Serabella provides a little back story for the main storyline, and was written as a tester for the online market. Getting published these days is becoming increasingly difficult, as if it wasn’t already, so I decided to go down the dark and lonely e-publishing route. Technically, if we go by reading order, Serabella should come after AD one and two, though as it’s a stand-alone story, it doesn’t really matter.

What I like most about this genre is the proliferation of really good, crunchy bad guys. You protagonist is only as good as your antagonist, and I relish creating really mean, despicable articles that actually give the hero a bloody hard time. A villain isn’t there just to provide a necessary jeopardy the hero has to meet and overcome, nor is he/she there to make up the numbers, to be killed off with a passing nod before the inevitable climax of a given story. Mostly it’s the villains we enjoy watching or reading about, generally because they often don’t have to obey the same laws the heroes do. Anti-heroes, of course, get the best of both worlds.

While Serabella may have a good few of those, Adventurer’s Daughter is a little more archetypal. What things do you need for a good solid action-adventure-fantasy? A distressing damsel as the titular character; a fiendish villain as mad as a cut snake, at least three, but more is always better; an anti-hero type who might be there to help said damsel, but then again possibly not; and of course there needs to be a talisman, some sort of journey that could be classed as a quest, though you’ll not find a fiery mountain here; and certainly a mystery to be solved, and a grand reveal to be…well…revealed. Good, no nonsense stuff we’ve all grown up on.

So. That’s about where we stand as of now. As I get things down onto the screen I’ll continue the updates, or post if something completely unrelated takes my fancy.