Birth of a Story


There’s been a great deal written, including by me, about how and where writers get their ideas. Just the other day, I moaned about how my friend, Sarah C., posted an image that instantly birthed a series of stories. Then there’s Battleborn, currently being put up in snippets over on my Substack. Both of those started me thinking about the Honor & Duty series, not only the inspiration for it but how it expanded into much more than I expected.

Believe it or not, but that series sprang from an story I first wrote when I was in junior high. In that iteration, the main character was Capt. Toby Broadhurst, a space navy captain wrongly accused of a crime she didn’t commit. Worse, she’d been betrayed by her own people and left in the hands of the enemy to appease them and convince them to come to the peace table. To say she had her issues is putting it mildly.

That story was directly influenced by Lesser’s Jungle in the Sky with a touch of ST:TOS. I even wrote several sequels to it. And I do mean “wrote”. It was all done longhand because this was before there were laptops or even desktops in every household. It was also long before Honor Harrington or Kris Longknife or others with strong female leads.

Like the rest of the stories I wrote back then, they were relegated to the trunk. Or, in my case, to under my bed or in the back corner of my closet or even–gasp–the trash. But it was always there in the back of my head. So when I sat down to start writing Vengeance from Ashes, many of the plot points and characters popped up.

And they were integrated into the final product, a story that was all mine but was influenced by other books and shows, just like every other story out there to one degree or another.

The stories the popped into my head based on Sarah C’s image are partly influenced by the Honor & Duty series. There are other influences as well, be it just a “feel” I want to get in character relationships (like Ripley and Newt in Aliens 2) or the distrust of the Staff Sergeant by some of the unit, not to mention the uncertainty of the squad’s CO as well as his self-doubt, in Battle for Los Angeles.

I do my best to always make a story my own, no matter what the initial inspiration might have been. When I look back on some of my early writing, I can only cringe. Not just because my craft has gotten better over the years but because I didn’t know how to file the serial numbers off of someone else’s work.

For example, while on an overseas trip, I wrote a quick story, part fantasy, part SF, part Western. Female lead who was taken in and trained by an old hermit. You see where I’m going, right?

Then there was my version of Dune or the Dragonriders of Pern. None of those will ever see the light of day, but they served the purpose of letting me learn how to craft a story, develop characters and figure out how to make a story my own.

There are times when current events also spark a story or at least a subplot. But that is the sort of inspiration that can become a two-edged sword. If you aren’t careful, folks will read in political or social stances you don’t hold and certainly didn’t write about. Or it can age the story and make it difficult for readers a few years down the road to identify with.

In other words, inspiration can be found just about everywhere. It’s up to the writer to figure out how to use it and how to make it their own.

End of lecture. Climbing off my soapbox and getting back to work.

But a quick reminder first. All main titles in the Honor & Duty series are now available through Kindle Unlimited. So is the Sword of the Gods trilogy. You can read more about it here. Check them out if you haven’t already.

Until later!

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