This week I took on a short story challenge. It was a perfect example of following the carrot and the serendipity that ensues.
Here’s an insight to how my convoluted brain works, how the ideas-research roundabout works.
- The spark: I was given the ‘seed’ for this story: A mysterious journal is found.
I hoped to relate the short to one of my current works-in-progress – a paranormal Victorian mystery I have planned: Wizard of St Giles.
- Starting point: Wizard already had two main characters: one a priest, the other a hunter of the supernatural. I knew I wanted Tesla to cameo somewhere in the story – as his electricity (illegal in my steampunk world) would be a key plot point to our heroes’ tactics.
- Already written: I’d written a short, Blood Moon Rising, introducing the hunter, Martine.
- What to add?: Why not an origin story, to explain how the priest came to his present circumstances. Why would he choose to go down that path?
- Tesla Cameo: I wanted Tesla somewhere in the story. When I started writing The Department of Curiosities I decided steam technology came to the fore as electrical energy had been outlawed. I had a vague idea how this came to be, resulting in Tesla fleeing to America (because of his experiments). I had planned this to be explored in a third series in my steampunk world, The Wizard of St Giles.
- Time for a cup of tea and prepare for story research.
- Serendipity #1: As fortune would have it, these two books were on the library re-sale. Perfect timing!
- Setting: Wizard was set in England. The closest Tesla had been was Paris. Martine is from Paris. Therefore Journal de la Lumière would be set in Paris. No brainer.
- Time for another cup of tea.
- Serendipity #2: Paris is a big city. Tesla lived on Boulevard Saint Marcel in the Latin Quarter where many students and professors stayed.
Ah! One of the characters will be a professor. It was likely he would know and work with Tesla on his illegal (and secret) experiments.
- Further Questions to Answer: Wizard’s priest character didn’t know of events happening in Paris. Why would he go to Paris? What was his connection? What would prompt him to start his quest?
What if… his sister was married to a French professor?
What if he accidentally discovered the necessary technology co-created by his sister’s husband?
What if her husband died mysteriously after Tesla fled to America to continue his experiments? – Cue the supernaturals.
- Definitely time for a cup of tea.
- Serendipity #3: Research facts found: Tesla was Serbian, spoke eight languages (including French). He rarely wrote his own notes, as he had an eidetic memory. He was fastidious and his father was an Orthodox priest.
- Decisions relevant to story: Eastern Europe has a wealth of legends. Perhaps Tesla knew of these, particularly as his father was a priest.
- Serendipity #4. Research on specific supernaturals: What kills them? I chose the Serbian method (in line with legends Tesla may have known from his homeland). The specific wood used in Serbia was Hawthorn – perfect to make the protective crates (explaining why the technology had not been retrieved as yet).
- Hawthorn flowers, also known as Mayflowers, and berries stink! Like the dead. Perfect for olfactory descriptions.
- Time for a celebratory cup of tea with bonus dark chocolate.
A long, convoluted journey finally wound its way back to the priest character in Wizard, providing connections between the characters in Journal de la Lumière and the parent story and hints at the reason why he chose his quest.
I love the serendipity of finding a fact, which sparks an idea, which (in turn) leads me on a trail of discovery. So many of my stories get filled with little tidbits I find on my journey.
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