Saturday, June 19, 2021

Writing: What Was the Inspiration for "Familiar Feeling"?

The following appeared on my blog on my Good Reads Author page.

A common question from readers and writing articles is: where do you get your ideas, and what inspired you to write that?

I've been thinking about those questions as I try to approach my next Big Idea. When you're writing for yourself, you can scribble a few paragraphs whenever an idea hits you and revisit it whenever you want. But if I want to sell something that I write, I have to be a little more focused with the ideas I develop.

And so I thought I could revisit some of my prior stories. Where did they come from?

The lead-off story in my book In A Flash 2020 is "Familiar Feeling", which takes place at the Carrowmore School for Magic and Wizardry. Honestly, I wasn't trying to recreate Harry Potter or Hogwarts. On the other hand, I did want enough details that you could imagine walking up to the front steps or strolling down to the lake.

The story came from the title as much as the other way around. Many years ago, playing Dungeons & Dragons, a group of us started a new campaign. Just about everyone was a multi-class character, so there were several magic-users. Probably in the first session, one character said he was summoning a familiar, and before you knew it, every mage had a bird or brownie or something tagging along.

And then there wasn't much more to it, and they didn't get mentioned a lot after.

I wanted to write a story about a wizard and his or her familiar, but then I thought about the experience of summoning one, and how there could be more to it. It should be a big deal. And it would be a bigger deal if a group of mages were to have a special summoning ceremony.

From this came the idea of having it of having it at a school, the details of which were still to come. I thought about a shy boy named Thomas who summons something really special and shades of Rudoph when all of the others like him now (maybe nothing that extreme). And in creating this, I mentioned some of the other animals, including one girl's fawn (with a "w", baby dear).

Suddenly, I was more interested in her, and rewrote the story of Diana, and her uncle who had been a forest ranger with a bear cub familiar, and the pieces were falling into place.

If you haven't read the story, don't worry. The above isn't a spoiler. In the end, after all the rewriting, the fawn was changed in favor of something a little more, let's say, "magical".

But now I have this school named after a group of monoliths in County Sligo, Ireland, along with a bunch of professors who are more than just pieces of cardboard with names. This is definitely a place I want to revisit, telling more stories about the students who pass through its doors, or one great novel about some major event that happens there one year.

And whenever that happens, you'll know what inspired that!

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