I just finished writing the first draft of a short story, which means I will have to come up with inspiration for a new story. This is difficult. So allow me to walk you through the thought process that got me going.
First of all, I’ve been writing sci-fi short stories and wanted to write something a bit more extravagant, a bit more flamboyant, perhaps a bit less serious. Fantasy came to mind, and in particular magic. I wanted to see if I could write an engaging magic story.
Magic, of course, is still a broad topic. And because I’m writing a short story, I need to choose a particular moment in time where something significant happens. So I cannot do much explaining of the world and its actual magic.
I also wanted my story to be relatively original. I tend to associate magic with Harry Potter and some sort of medieval setting, with wands of wood and glowing orbs. Although I might end up writing something along those lines, I find it more rewarding to mix two concepts that don’t seem to work together. So I thought about magic in the future. Maybe a future technology that’s so strange it’s magic to us, or an old wizard in 2050, or antique objects that suddenly have magical abilities?
The mind continued to race. What are some interesting objects that people, back in the days, thought had magical abilities? After a brief internet search, this is what I found:
- Hand of glory: the decapitated hand of a hanged man, along with a candle made from the fat of the man, was supposed to stop time if properly wielded.
- People used to drink tea from the herb vervain to protect themselves against vampires. It was also believed to have romantic powers, so you bet I ran to the shops to buy some vervain.
- A hoko is a doll that’s given to young, often pregnant women in Japan to protect the mother and unborn child. Don’t know whether this is still being done, but this is both interesting and really scary, considering the doll’s made partially of human hair.
- Apparently, people used to place a dead, dried up cat in the walls of their home to ward off evil.
I decided to stop, because it was veering away too much from magic into folklore (and probably horror). None the less, a lot of weird material I can write stories about. And I feel better primed to be creative.
But I wanted something more surreal still, something in the vein of Terry Pratchett, who wrote about a flat Earth carried by four elephants standing on the back of a massive turtle flying through space. How nuts is that.
So what about objects than can talk? A wedding ring that shouts help every time its wearer touches someone else? A money vault that keeps giving away its code because it likes being opened? A plastic coffee cup that’s saved up enough liquid inside of it to be able to pay for a trip to the cup factory, where it was born?
And I went on. As you can see, the process is chaotic and mostly me following what I find interesting. There is little structure to guide me, apart from the broad topic of magic. Eventually, from this cauldron of vaguely connected thoughts, something will jump out that is interesting enough for me to want to write about.