“Where do you come up with your ideas?”

Wow. Good question, to be sure. Back when I first toyed around with the idea of doing serious writing, I asked what publishers are looking for.

Yeah, not so good of a question. I’m not sure which was truly worse: my question or the generic answer. I was told publishers are looking for…wait for it…a good story.

Thank you, Captain Obvious.

But what defines a great story? Is it the characters, the plot, both? And is that all? And let’s not forget this one very important question. Who purposefully sets out to write a really BAAAAAAD story? Now, I’m not talking about writing a tale where the bad guys win, or the hero dies at the end and the readers end up with a really ugly cry. Everyone has a different idea of good or bad, but could you give just a little more advice than that?

Armed with my meager directions, I set about wording. Yes, I do use it as a verb. It is an action; it takes energy and sometimes, an act of God to make it real. I closed my eyes and waited for that spark to kick my muse into gear.

So where do the seed ideas begin? Personally, I was always the kid that wanted to know what happened after the happily ever after. Were they still happy five years and two kids later? “And then what?” My favorite words as a child, ranking up there with the other important big, little word: why. I asked about the character that opened a door and left the scene. Did they do something cool? Was someone waiting for them? From these curiosities, I began to create my own stories.

I have always been a voracious reader and good at thinking on my feet. Combine that with an overactive imagination, and soon, I was starring in whatever book I was reading. I traveled with the Fellowship to the gates of Mordor and I fought the Bugs with Mobile Infantry on Klendathu. I loved pretending how I would deal with all the trials and tribulations as they unfolded between the pages. What would my schedule look like at Hogwarts? Would I trust Snape? And of course, can I ride a dragon?

With all these crazy adventures swimming in my head, I was stunned to have a gentlemanly hero step up when I took to pen my first novel. Not a vampire, not an elf. No misunderstood bad boy here. Nope, when Malakai Vadim reached out to save our troubled heroine, he arrived draped in Armani and Old World manners. In that moment, the Guardians were born. Heroes from ancient battlefields fighting for humanity and free will. I decided they needed more than just to be good with a sword, so they were imbued with powers and abilities. In a word: magic. They could read minds and move at great speeds with nothing more than a thought. And they needed a dangerous foe; manipulative agents driven by chaos and destruction. Enter the Rogue Warriors; minds twisted by the idea that change, violent and explosive, was the best way for humans to grow and evolve.

Now to create a new magic system. It’s not as easy as it seems. So many authors and great minds before me have interpreted how the mystical can affect the physical. Therefore, the challenge was to put my own spin on things. With this concept in mind, I came up with three different directions. After all, we are all made up of physical, mental, and emotional parts. Riding on that wave, I created the Triumverate; Marshals, who could control or influence the physical body; Conduits, who could control or influence the mind; and Channelers, who could control or influence the emotions. Both the good guys and the bad guys, as well as Joe Q. Public walking down the street, could be one of these gifted individuals.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized I could give my world an anchor in history. (Yes, I’ve thought long and hard on this idea.) Here are some possible examples: charismatic orators who have swayed the populace could have been Channelers. For instance, John F. Kennedy could have been a Channeler guided by the Guardians, whereas Hitler would have been a pawn of the Rogues. Got you thinking now, don’t I? Strong generals who lead troops into victorious battles? Yup, Marshalls. Was George Washington supported by the hand of a Guardian, while Napoleon fell under the influence of a Rogue? Einstein and Hawking could absolutely be seen as Conduits, their brilliance guiding the minds of others.

It was great fun to explore these concepts. And once I turned my mind to writing science fiction, now I had the complete freedom to let my “what if’s” and “what happened next’s” run riot. The entire galaxy was open to interpretation, and I am loving the vast opportunities found in breaking every rule. Sometimes, trying to rein in my rampaging imagination can be difficult. Thank the gods for notebooks and blank word documents a plenty. Because, who knows when the next good story idea might pop into mind?