After reading my novel (old draft, now discarded) for the first time, my brother’s fiancée asked me where I got the idea.
I had no idea what to say.
Of course there were various influences, from Out of the Silent Planet to Stargate, but I can’t rightly say where I got any idea. I can’t say I made it up, either. It’s inspiration. God breathes it at us.
Writing fiction is like discovering a story that is really going on somewhere, but you can’t see or hear it. Writers are simply born with a sort of sixth sense by which they feel the story. Sometimes we are well-attuned to that sense; sometimes the sense lies to us. We know some details of the story automatically, without even thinking about it, while other details we have to feel for in the dark. That’s why there are so many badly-written books. Those authors haven’t fine-tuned their sixth sense.
We don’t control it; we discover it. That’s why our characters rebel and sometimes refuse to do things we want them to. We can turn them into puppets and force them to our will, but that always makes a soulless, wooden story. There are certain restrictions to playing God. If we interfere with free will, we suck the life out of the story. But if we stick to manipulating only certain parts of the story – the weather, or the timing of events – we can move the story forward naturally. We arrange events around our characters’ personal tendencies, like drawing a chalk line around an ant, to urge them in certain directions.
Finally, they arrive at the end – having walked there on their own two feet – where they will discover, Author-willing, their carefully-planned happily ever after.