Normal people are rarely interested in my writerly habits, but on rare occasions they are. When that happens, one of the most frequent questions I get is, “Where did you come up with the idea?” Sometimes I don’t remember when or where an idea occurred to me, but in the case of The Wayfaring Stranger, I actually do!
For me, the process of creating this story was definitely a long, slow slog. It was sort of like planting an orchard–you plant the seeds and it takes ages, in this case years, for the seeds to grow into trees and even longer for those trees to bear any kind of fruit.
In 2010 I was inspired by Inception and got an idea for a kind of heist story. This included people with the ability to manipulate spacetime. Like a superpower, only if Superman were to use his abilities to rob the filthy rich and then keep it for himself. This idea went absolutely nowhere, but I never forgot it either.
Then in 2013 a friend introduced me to Battlestar Galactica. I watched all four seasons in about 6 days. I absolutely loved it, and by the time I was done, I was running around yelling:
And that’s when I tried to write my very first science fiction ever. I had always been intimidated by scifi because of the science part of science fiction. I’ve never been very good at coming up with gadgets and BSing scientific mumbo-jumbo and hand-wavium. I’ve always been more comfortable with the philosophical and metaphorical way of thinking that’s usually reserved for magic. Plus, if I get stuck, I can always shrug my shoulders and say, “Hey, it’s magic!” Not really much of an option in science fiction.
But I ended up taking a leap of faith (the faith part was the faith that I would figure it out eventually…). What I landed on was a virtual reality/artificial intelligence type story that quickly fizzled and died, mostly because I knew I did not have the writer’s chops to successfully pull off a story like that.
So I scrapped everything but the title, The Wayfaring Stranger, and started over. After digging through my old writer’s notebooks and rediscovering the idea of super-powered people capable of manipulating spacetime (because of scientific mumbo-jumbo and hand-wavium!!) BAM, story idea.
What really pulled it all together was when I realized I could salvage pieces of my old virtual reality/artificial intelligence idea and integrate it into this new version of the Stranger. This gave me an excellent character and about half of my fictional world was already built! It’s moments like that one that make me feel as if I might have a chance at this whole writer thing…