All books have beginnings. Some are birthed from a scene, an event, a character, a situation, or a setting. Writers come by these ideas a wide range of ways. I’ve been challenged to tell about where the idea for the book I am currently writing came from. To do that there first is a bit of back story.
Originally I wanted to be a screenwriter. It’s a hard business to break into and when I learned that my agent was retiring and that without a sale it would be near impossible to find another I thought I’d stop writing. But then a scene came along and I wrote it down. I didn’t know what to make of it at first, but after a few months of writing, it became my first novel. A novel that deservedly sits gathering dust, but I am a great recycler. The world I created was pretty good and I had created a long backstory. One piece was my protagonist’s family, in particular his grandfather and great-grandfather. I turned to the great-grandfather and started telling his story. To really know the character, especially since I already know when and how he dies, I wrote a brief biography of him. Ven Zaran ceased to be a memory and became a protagonist in his own right.
The first two stories were a given. Well of Dreams sees him buy a new spaceship and Pirates of I’ab is about him battling pirates. From there it was a matter of what stories to tell. I have a lot, but the most interesting ones are yet to come. I chose to follow his tale chronologically, so his third book covers a tragedy and is titled Interlude of Pain. I’m currently on the fourth book. The subject is a single line from his biography, “Ven is accused of piracy.” The how, the why, the who, all left up in the air. Even the result is somewhat open. I did include a short story of his future in my Edge of Hyperspace collection, but that only shows that he is free, not how this turned out.
I have found several larger story arcs that tie these books about Ven Zaran together. It won’t be apparent what they all are, even when this fourth book gets published sometime next year. But it is those arcs that fill out the story, taking it from the short description of “Ven is accused of piracy,” to the larger and grander story. Ven Zaran is accused of piracy. Shortly after his arrest, he escapes and goes on a hunt for the real pirates. Along the way he is hounded by a Customs investigator, aided by his crew and a figure from his mysterious past, and blocked time and again by someone in power protecting the real pirate. But Ven is not your ordinary trader. He won’t give up until he learns the truth.
So where did I get all that. Well, I guess I can reveal a few secrets. The real pirates are from previous stories. Who, I won’t say, but they are out for revenge. Ven wasn’t framed by accident, it was very deliberate from some pretty big things he did to these people. In their eyes they had good reason. And what fun is a man on the run without some sort of detective on his trail. While I dearly love Les Miserables, this will be nothing like Javert. I’ve created someone more intelligent and able to see the facts. I’ve hinted at Ven’s past, but now I will explore it a bit. Don’t expect any big reveals, only more hints. Some secrets are meant to be kept. And I’ve finally figured out who Ven is modeled after. He’s a cross between Han Solo and Sherlock Holmes.
So, as you can see, the origins of this current story, presently untitled and just going by its series designation of Zaran Journals Book 4, are complex, with one thing building on another. The kernel was the one phrase in Ven Zaran’s biography, but with the depth of the world and story I have created, it has become so much more. Now I just have to finish it.
If you are a writer, how to you take a small story kernel and expand it? If you aren’t a writer, how do you problem solve and come up with a solution to what seems like a simple problem? I don’t think any two of us would do it the same way so it would be interesting to hear what variety of answers you come up with.
Scott Seldon lives with his family in Colorado and works as an IT administrator. Visit his website (sites.google.com/site/scottrseldon/) for the latest updates and to find where his books are sold.
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