Nancy: An’ Thar Be Dragons

Darko the Dragon followed me home from the Dragon Ball and has taken up residence in my office.

Darko the Dragon followed me home from the Dragon Ball and has taken up residence in my office.

I, like many readers, am always interested in hearing how authors of my favorite stories came up with the ideas. And I rarely have a conversation with a fellow writer about our WIPs or upcoming projects without at least touching on how/when/where we got our inspiration. I have many friends who carry notebooks or tape recorders with almost everywhere so they never miss an errant seed of an idea that might someday grow into a full-fledged story.

When I’m away from my computer, I use the Evernote program, which I usually access from my smart phone, to capture thoughts until I’ve collected enough information to download into a full-fledged story folder. But even when I’m not taking notes, when I’m supposed to be focused on something totally removed from writing, that part of my brain that always wants to be telling a story collects and stores bits of information that might later show up as puzzle pieces of one or another of my plots.

This happened to me a few months ago when my husband and I attended a ball. There I was in my evening gown with nowhere to stash my note-taking phone, let alone a notebook and pen, watching the pomp and circumstance of this very tradition-laden ball, and all I could think was, “Ohmygod, that’s what I need in that mystery story I’m going to write – a dragon!”

Okay, I should probably back up a little bit here. I love to read (and sometimes write!) fantasy as much as the next girl, but my mystery story is going to be set completely in the mundane world. So when I was thinking dragon, I didn’t mean the kind with scales and the ability to breath fire. I was attending an event called the Dragon Ball. Before your mind runs rampant with images of people running around dressed in Game of Thrones costumes, I should further clarify that this was the annual ball given by the Dragon Soldiers, which refers to soldiers from the Chemical Corp of the US Army.

Around the time we attended the ball, I had gotten to the discovery phase with my half-Danish/half-American protagonist (Nicholai Jens Olafsen, whom the Danes call Nicholai Jens and the Americans call Nicky O but who prefers to go by Nick). I needed to hammer out details of the mystery plot, which was pretty damn nebulous for a story that is supposed to be, you know, a mystery. I did know that Nick’s late Danish father was a famous astrophysicist, and his American mother is a prominent chemist…and there are  Chemical Corp soldiers known as dragons, and a family friend with secret past, and Nick in the wrong place at the wrong time…and my once-nebulous mystery suddenly turned into a workable plot!

I’m a consummate plotter and an even more consummate replotter, so the mystery as I envision it today is likely to change significantly between now and the time I finally write the damn thing. (The romantic subplot, which I worked out months ago, is much more likely to stay true, but what can I say? – no matter what genre I explore, I’m always a romance writer at heart :-)). But somehow, somewhere in that book, there will be dragons!

What’s the most fun idea your creative mind has explored lately? Any chance it will make it into one of your stories?

4 thoughts on “Nancy: An’ Thar Be Dragons

  1. This sounds really fun, Nancy, and now I’m really curious about the dragon soldiers.

    I’ve been fascinated lately by a show I saw on TV a few years back, Extreme Makeover. They took a woman and gave her a boob job, a tummy tuck, a fanny lift, cheek implants, chin implant, crowned her teeth, and they took an inch–an inch!–off her nose. Before they started, she was a homely woman, and that’s putting it kindly. When they finished, she looked like a movie starlet. In the reveal scene, her husband was waiting for her at the bottom of a sweeping staircase in his brown polyester suit, along with their pre-teen daughter, who sported the nose mom just got rid of. Ever since I saw it, I’ve wondered how in the world she ever went back to her old life. So that’s my next book.

    • I remember that show (or at least something with that theme of plastic surgery, etc.). I always wondered if it was like winning the lottery, which often has the unfortunate effect of doing more harm to the winner’s life than good. Especially in the case of the daughter looking like the ‘before’ picture, there must be devastating fallout in trying to go back to ‘the old life’. Perfect fodder for a book :-)!

  2. (-: Dragons are a great metaphor. And if I remember right, there were a lot of dragons (dragon’s blood, anyway) in alchemy, which was in many ways the precursor of modern chemistry. Great big booms, and fire blowing out the labratory, sounds like a dragon to me.

    I tend to get good ideas when two ideas ram into each other. Most often, it happens from something I’ve read — I may be reading a fantasy, and then come across an article on global warming or underground storage facilities, and boom. A setting is created, and all I have to do is come up with characters to live there, a conflict for them to battle over and the plot (oh, god, hardest part is the plotting for me).

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