A little over a year and a half ago, I decided to try a creative experiment. With no prior experience in the field, I wondered if I had it in me to write a book – a full-length novel – from start to finish. The question nagged at my mind like a dare while the very idea of such a massive undertaking thrilled me to the core. So I decided to take the leap.
But before I put pen to paper (or more accurately, fingers to keyboard) I wanted to have an idea. Not just a generic plot, but that perfect, riveting idea that would keep me going long after the honeymoon of inspiration had worn off. To do that, it had to be unique. I could not be limited by “the box.”
I began by considering the type of stories I like to consume via books, movies or television. I’m a geek at heart and there’s always been something intriguing about comic book type stories in which people have superhuman powers. (I think the fascination many of us have with superheroes comes from an intrinsic need to feel special, but that’s just my personal analysis.)
I didn’t want to start with an overused concept as the diving board into writing. So I tried to think about how to put a twist on the typical stories in the genre. What could I do to really be different? And then I asked myself one question that turned out to be the key in spawning the idea: what’s the opposite?
Find the Unexpected
I discovered that one way to break out of the box is to take an idea and turn it on its head. Instead of doing what people expect or following your usual pattern, try doing the opposite – just to see where it leads if nothing else.
For my story, that meant exploring the idea of people with superhuman weaknesses.* The idea instantly struck a chord inside me and I knew it was something I could write about. Since then, the book has turned into a series. I’ve finished my first novel and have two more in the plotting phase. But better than discovering just an amazing story, I’ve found something else in myself – a love of writing. Sometimes I wonder: if I hadn’t had that inspiration would I be where I am today?
What is the norm for you? What’s the opposite? How have you crushed “the box” by doing the unexpected?
*When I use the terms “superhuman” and “weaknesses” together, I typically get a confused stare, and possibly an inquiry of my meaning, if the person is so bold. So here’s an explanation. The protagonist of my story (Empath) has a superhuman flaw allowing her to feel the emotions of the people around her, but not her own. The only time her own emotions appear is when there is no one close by to influence her. The book is about her struggle to live in a world writhing with foreign emotions, especially when she experiences the worst thing for her condition – getting kidnapped by a serial killer.