A question we are often asked is how we create an initial idea for a new story. Over the years we have had a very hard time answering this question. The reason we have a hard time is because our ideas just come to us. We could be taking a walk or washing our hands, it doesn’t matter. The idea usually comes from a feeling or a thought. It could be in the form of a single scene or an idea of what the future might be like. No two ideas are alike.
We filmed with Ray Bradbury to be part of final documentary entitled “Live Forever.” During the filming we told him we were having trouble explaining to others how we came up with our ideas, and we wondered how he came up with his. He said his ideas just come to him; “Boom, like lighting. When I wake up in the morning there they are.” He couldn’t help us answer our question. But he got us thinking about how we created our story ideas.
Where did our ideas come from? We began to talk about it and came to an interesting conclusion.
We found that an idea is a very personal thing, and the origin of our story ideas tie into the story of our lives.
We were born eleven weeks premature and until the age of six or seven we were in and out of hospitals. When we were four years old our grandfather died and at eight years old our aunt died. We come from a very small close knit family, so this was especially hard for us to handle.
For as long as we can remember we have created stories. When we were very young we played pretend. Neither of us can remember what we played, but our parents say we played pretend wherever we went.
During our early childhood our father introduced us to science fiction/fantasy. We watched Godzilla and Star Wars. He read to us Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone and took us to The San Diego Comic Con. So it really wasn’t any surprise that when we created our first universe, it was science fiction/fantasy.
We created our first fictional universe when we were five years old. This universe was about aliens in another galaxy. To find them you go to Pluto and make a left turn. It had queens and kings and space pirates. There were bad guys that no matter how hard they tried, never seemed to win. Their magic was real and anything was possible! Over the years the magic became technology. The bad guys became smarter and sometimes would win. Our main characters became flawed and began to make mistakes. But in this universe there was no consistent story line. It changed and grew as we did. It helped us through our illnesses and the death of our loved ones. It helped us understand and work through our lives at the time. We loved this universe, and we created within it for nine years.
Until one day when everything changed.
We are both dyslexic, and in fourth grade our dyslexia became more pronounced. We began to feel bad about ourselves and our self confidence was getting lower by the day. We felt defeated. One day we came home from a bad day at school. We were upset and our dad asked us what was wrong. We told him we were stupid and couldn’t achieve anything. This made him very upset, and he began to think of ways to get us to feel better about ourselves. He then came up with an idea. What if we all wrote a novel together? In the past he would tell us we should write our universe down on paper, but we would always say the same thing. “The world is always changing so there was no way to write it down. And we don’t like to write; it’s hard.” He thought if we wrote a novel, which to us seemed like something impossible, it would prove to us nothing was. So a couple of days later he came and asked us if we wanted to write a novel with him. We said yes, although to us it seemed a little crazy, it seemed like a fun sort of crazy. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen? We loved to create, and we loved our dad. So we began to write our first novel. At first we wrote through speech to text software programs and slowly over time we began to type.
Soon after we learned that we loved to write, and we wanted to write forever.
So what does this have to do with the origin of our story ideas? Well, as we began to look back at our lives we saw traces of it within our work. At the time our dyslexia was becoming more pronounced and every day at school was a battle. It felt like the world was changing around us and we had no control. In the Strand universe creatures begin to rapidly evolve. Places that were once safe now were dangerous. Our main character, Steve Cutter aka Strand, tries to shelter his niece Anna from the harshness of the world. But he cannot, he has to let her see the world for what it is. This was our fathers struggle. He says it still is.
We began to see our novel as a personal metaphor. That every part was extension of ourselves, more so than we first thought.
It is a combination of everything we experienced and dreamed about. The places we had been, or wish we could go. The way we wished the world was, or the people we strived be. As we thought more and more we realized that story ideas build themselves for years in our subconscious.
What it comes down to is one thing, we love it. And that love makes us follow those small ideas down the rabbit hole, farther into our imaginations to worlds we didn’t even know were there.
“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” – Ray Bradbury