Monday, 7 May 2012

The Origin of 'Origin'

One of the questions I get asked most often - now people know that I've written a novel - is 'how do you come up with the ideas?', so I thought it might be of interest to describe the process, using Origin as an example.

The germ of the idea came one night when my wife and I were sharing a bottle of wine. We were discussing various things surrounding genetic modification, and how lifespans would probably be artificially lengthened in the not too distant future, and how this would probably only be available for the rich. This would therefore perhaps create some kind of 'two tier' society, which led us on to create an entire future world in our heads, along with something of a story.

It was more of a pure sci-fi story however, and as this is not a genre I write in, the whole thing was relegated to the 'one day, maybe' file.

When my agent and I were later trying to sell my first book, the feedback we received was that straight action thrillers - unless you were already an established 'name' in the genre - weren't selling. We therefore decided to come up with another story, and so I went away and came up with a few different synopses.

One of these was a re-working of the story my wife and I had come up with some time before, but instead of making it a sci-fi adventure, I gave it a contemporary setting and a more thriller-orientated storyline. I kept much of the back-story of the previous idea, but the new synopsis could be more accurately described as an 'action thriller with a sci-fi twist'.

When I presented half a dozen synopses to my agent Luigi Bonomi, he instantly liked Origin and we decided that I would start work on this one - very exciting, as it was my favoured option, having been playing over in my head for some time now.

Interestingly, although there is almost none of the original story left in the novel, the impact of that evening's discussion with my wife is nevertheless felt throughout, and is the 'skeleton' upon which the new storyline is hung.

I think that this is often how stories originate, whether it's a book, a film, a TV show or a play. First there is the 'idea' - which might come from an article in a magazine or newspaper, an overheard conversation, or maybe something you've seen on the television (or even something that arises in discussion after a bottle of wine!) - and this is what sets the whole project in motion. 

More often than not, this idea might take the form of 'what if . . ?' For example, 'what if the world we think we know is actually a virtual reality construct, and we are really being kept as unwitting slaves?' (The Matrix); 'what if a human girl falls in love with a vampire?' (Twilight); 'what if a young science student is bitten by a radioactive spider and gains its powers?' (Spiderman).

We can see, however, that these 'ideas' are not stories in and of themselves - such an idea is merely an interesting concept, a possible scenario around which to build a story.

And so after you have come up with your exciting idea, then comes the forming of the story itself - something I will discuss in my next post!

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