Despite my devotion to the contemporary/urban fantasy genre, superheroes were never really a writing interest of mine. Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my fair share of superhero stories. But I never really wanted to write one, mostly because I couldn’t think of much that hadn’t already been done.
I’m still pretty sure I’m beating a dead horse with this one, but it begged and pleaded to be written, and wouldn’t you know, I finally decided to share it.
So how did this story take root in my head? And why did it remain there? That deserves a short aside on my process of story-building.
I like to picture my story formation process as a super collider where, instead of ramming particles together in a giant, miles-long circular tube, I’m ramming ‘concepts’ together to see if they can react and make something new. Some writers are tormented by a daily barrage of new story ideas that they have to sift through. I have a writing buddy who, most weeks, tells me all about a new ‘cheater story’ she’s imagining or that she’s started working on. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on the day, my mind doesn’t work like that. I do have frequent revelations of things I want to weave into a story, but they aren’t full-blown ideas. I call them ‘concepts,’ and I consider them the building blocks to a solid story. They can be portions of a dream, or a ‘what if’ scenario, or a feeling I had that I want to translate into something fictional, or a little snapshot scene, or anything, really, that I want to flesh out more, but I can’t without tagging something else to it.
So, when a new story idea is born, it usually means that I’ve smashed the right concepts together, in the right configuration, at the right time, such that they make something I’m really excited about. It’s such a powerful interaction that I can usually remember where I was and what I was doing when I put two and two together. In the case of Casters’ Court, I was cleaning out my bedroom between college and graduate school, and I stumbled across a stack of old story snippets where I’d written (hand-written, at that) a page or two on several various concepts. It was like a graveyard of stories past. Concepts that never found a home. Stories I worked on for years before scrapping. Two sentences in a notebook that I didn’t even remember writing. It was all there. Some of the concepts in the pile included:
- A story about mind readers interfering in affairs at a futuristic race track
- A man at a festival for magical items, seeking revenge on a witch who wronged him years prior
- A group of people I call ‘bluelighters,’ with a smattering of random powers, who have appeared in several stories throughout the years
- My most-devoted story from high school including a couple of werewolves, really smart bald people, and venomous blobs
- People who can dive into others’ minds and see them as landscapes
- Some superpowered college kids running from an evil power-collector
- Immortal pirate sisters searching for their home kingdom of Atlantis AND
- Scribblings from a series of vivid and impactful dreams I’ve tried to string together into something meaningful for over a decade
They started ramming themselves together before I really knew what was happening.
I dropped the slush pile, opened my laptop, and started making the list of characters and their backgrounds screenshotted above (and blurred for spoilers’ sake). At the time, I also happened to be very into webcomics, and I loved the week-to-week publishing format, the intricate plots that could be created, and the indeterminate amount of time available. Specifically (and I’m over a year behind on both of these, so take this with a grain of salt) the plot structures of Namesake and Unsounded inspired my intended outline. A serial, perhaps? Did people do that in print anymore? I now know that the answer is yes, but then, I didn’t care. I was going to do it anyway.
I’d like to say that that was that, and the rest will one day be history, but this wasn’t the first time I’d taken a story graveyard and tried to salvage it. Why did this one take? How did it become a superhero story? There was one more concept that I’d been playing with– a new concept that requires more explanation. Tune in in two weeks to find out where the scaffold that put it all together came from!