The Idea Fairy
This post originally appeared on Medium.com.
Ancient Greece had the Muses. Nine goddesses that were blessed with various talents such as art, dance, and music. Their gifts inspired mankind to write, sing, and create magnificent works of art.
There are the ancient Egyptians with their goddess Hathor. She represented joy, love, music, and dance. And don’t forget Seshat, goddess of reading, writing, and architecture. And also Thoth, god of writing, wisdom, and knowledge.
Then there’s Saraswati, a Hindu goddess. Bragi, a Norse god. Kokopelli, a shared southwestern Native American deity. And Lono, a Hawaiian goddess.
I’m sure I could go on and on, but this isn’t a research paper. Though, in doing my five minute research on “muses in other cultures” an idea has begun to form. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the point of this article.
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
How true, Ms. Plath.
Writing is the only career that has ever really called to me. Sadly, up until my mid-twenties I was under the impression that to become a writer I would have to be struck by the idea fairy. And those dang muses weren’t speakin’ to me.
At the age of 25 I had the technical skills, thanks to a fantastic high school english teacher, and two fantastic Latin professors. (For the love! Why doesn’t the english language make any sense until you understand latin? But I digress.) But I had no burning ideas. Then something life-altering happened to our family and I took to writing as a sort of therapy. I wrote 100 pages and realized that maybe others would like to hear our story. Thanks to my father being an author, he has passed some of his connections on to me. I utilized one of those connections and sent those 100 pages to one of his friends in the biz. And she said she liked what I had written!
Here’s where my first real idea came from. Wanna hear what it was? Well, I’ll tell you. My first real idea was, ANYTHING can be a story. In this case, it was literally my journal. I hadn’t embellished or improvised. It was exactly what we were going through at the time. It was interesting because life was difficult at the time and us humans, well, we love a little drama (or a lot.) My life right now is less captivating. Does that mean I couldn’t write about it now? Heck no! It would just take a little more imagination, an embellishment here, a dragon there, and voila! A story for the ages.
This realization has changed how I look at writing. It’s changed how I look at the world really. There’s a story around every corner, in every closet (or wardrobe!) and all we have to do is have the guts to make it ours. (The wardrobe one is already taken. Sorry.) There aren’t any muses who are going to shoot the perfect, best-selling, award-winning idea into our head. We have to look for it. So pay attention to the world around you. Keep a dream journal (those suckers are just crazy enough to make for some pretty epic sci-fi.) And always have a notebook with you. Always! Even if that notebook is on your phone and you’re “Hey, Siri”-ing while you’re in the shower. Some ideas will be garbage, but some will be gold. And some of that garbage can be turned into gold.
Have the guts, and the imagination to get that story you’ve been waiting for. Don’t doubt yourself and be your own idea fairy.
The Chosen One. It’s a trope that many people love to hate despite its pervasiveness across popular culture. If you’re unfamiliar with the Chosen One, it’s a popular trope or narrative device used across books, TV shows, and movies where a character is destined to fulfill a certain role or mission, often because they have unique abilities or traits. These traits are frequently tied to magic, meaning you’ll see this trope a lot in fantasy and other types of speculative fiction, especially those with a young adult audience.
So how do you write well then? Realistically, there are a few things universally considered “good” writing. The story should follow a logical plot where one action feeds into another. The characters should behave in ways that align with their established personalities. There should be some high points and low points and stuff in between. Generally, good writing is also well edited and follows most of the conventions for grammar and punctuation. While you can write well with typos and mistakes, you run the risk of distracting the reader to a point where that good story becomes not so good because it’s unreadable. Ultimately, the success of things like your voice and your characters are going to be up to your reader and you’ll never please everyone. But we can take some steps to ensure we please more people than not.
That’s great—our fiction should reflect the world as it is and that means including people of various ethnic backgrounds and skin tones. But the history of writing about people of color is kind of… awful and it’s important to remember that you can’t just throw in a BIPOC character without giving some serious thought to how you represent and describe that character.