You may have noticed Craig, aka C. S. Boyack, hanging around. He has a new book out called “The Cock of the South,” which is his first attempt at writing fantasy. It involves a group of conquered peoples banding together to ensure they have a place in the world. It is set in a Greco Roman environment, rife with everything fans of those stories might expect, so I’m very much looking forward to checking it out!
Today, Craig is here to tell us more about his book and the inspiration behind it in his own words. Enjoy!
Writers get inspiration from many places. When I first started I had to concentrate on things that might be worthy of a story. I found imagination to be like a muscle; the more you use it the stronger it gets.
I get ideas every day now. I’m not saying all of them are gems, but I almost can’t help myself these days. I jot down a few notes in my iPhone app if the idea might have some promise. Some notes languish, some move to the next step.
I get inspiration from the same places as most authors, music, television, movies, other fiction. I also observe things around me. I was fishing one day when a wild mink ran across my boot. Even the mink might deserve a short story one day.
After the observation I like to ask myself questions. I call this purposeful daydreaming. Where is the mink going? Is he running from something, what? Is he late for something? What happens if he doesn’t get there on time? Is he carrying a message? A warning?
These questions help me formulate a story. I keep the fun questions and discard the rest. This is an expanded version of asking “what if?” Before I write anything I spend a little time asking myself, “what’s the worst thing that could happen?” This brings the element of stress to the story and raises the stakes.
You can do it too. The next time you watch the news ask yourself some questions about the lead story.
To guarantee a steady stream of ideas, I use push feeds to keep topics I like coming to me. I subscribe to RSS feeds from sources I like and use Zite magazine every day. My next story could be based upon something I saw on DeviantArt or that lonely snowplow on a country road.
It takes a lot of purposeful daydreaming to make up a story. I used news about how many species are going extinct today and stirred it up with television’s Spartacus to create The Cock of the South.
Personally, I keep quick notes in an app on my phone. These are just a line or two to remind me of stray thoughts. When I keep dwelling on an idea I take out a notebook and fountain pen and expand the idea a bit. If it really sticks with me, I start a storyboard.
This is my first fantasy story. Being true to the genre was important to me. I actually did mountains of research into mythology to spark my imagination. I didn’t want to rewrite one of those tales, so I stole bits and pieces to weave into my stories. I made small piles of index cards. These didn’t all get used, but I like to have notes to refresh my imagination.
It was equally important to me that I was true to the setting. Ancient Rome and Greek mythology are something readers are used to, and I wanted to use this to ground the story. I find that building fences with plot and setting serve as a governor to my imagination. The imagination flows and focuses in a different direction. My storyboard was covered with sticky notes to include more marble columns and bath houses at one point.
When it comes to characters I try to be a bit different. Hercules might be the best hero, but what if someone less qualified had to solve all the problems? I found a lost member of the Southern Dwarves who was raised by humans. His dwarven heritage has been hidden from him, and he lives as a short broad human. Because of his physical makeup the people around him nicknamed him Cobby.
I also wanted the freedom to vary some of the historical parts of the story. I stewed on this for a long time, but in fantasy the world ought to be different. It was a delicate balance to preserve the setting and believably change some elements. I dug deep into mythology and decided that Remus killed Romulus. Rome never got built and the nation of Remus took its place. This allowed me to modify weapons, change trade routes, and still keep some familiarity in the story.
I always try to challenge myself to try something new with each story. This isn’t obvious to the reader, but it’s important for my growth. In The Cock of the South I wanted to use fairytale structure. This is a great way of telling a story, but casual readers might not pick up on everything.
Since this post is likely to be read by as many authors as readers here are some things I included. Cobby is the outsider of three brothers. Each brother represents one facet of the father. Cobby will have to master all three of these elements before he can succeed. There is a scene involving magical gifts from a friend. If you pay very careful attention, there are even seven dwarves together on one adventure. I included more elements, but this is a blog post and you’ll have to watch for others as you read the story.
I love this story, but readers will be the ultimate judge. I hope you’ll give The Cock of the South a chance. I had a great time writing it, and hope you’ll enjoy reading it.
You can follow Craig at the following places:
His blog, Entertaining Stories.
You can pick up a copy of The Cock of the South at Amazon.