Friday, April 22, 2011

The Undiscovered Country....

Sunday night, Collin and I watched Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. We've seen it many times before, but I admit we'd never watched many of the Special Edition DVD's bonus features until now.

Watching cast and crew as they discussed the inspiration for and evolution of the story, I found it very similar to how I develop my novels. Everyone connected with Star Trek VI knew this would be the last film featuring the cast of the original series. They weren't getting any younger, and joked that their last theatrical outing should be called The Search for Geritol.

As they were trying to come up with a plot, world events handed them one: Chernobyl. From the Soviet nuclear disaster came the inspiration for the explosion on the Klingon mining moon, Praxis. Like Mikhail Gorbachev, the Klingons initially rejected offers of outside help. Finally, however, realizing they could not survive without it, an olive branch of sorts was extended to the Federation. Of course, James T. Kirk was the only one who could be sent to escort Chancellor Gorkon to the peace summit...for the same reason that, as Spock put it, "Only Nixon could go to China." 

Though Gorkon was initially inspired by Gorbachev, there was also a bit of Abraham Lincoln in the Klingon chancellor: his beard.

Many authors start with a character. Others start with a plot. I wish I could say I have a formula. I don't. With Chasing the Wind, inspired by the news stories on cloning and stem cell research, my protagonist didn't even show his face until the third draft. It started out as a completely different story--that wasn't working. I was about to give up on it when the Connor character came to me in a dream. It was like finding the missing piece of a very large puzzle, and once he was in place, everything came together--after another six drafts!

An Army of Angels has been a long labor as well, in spite of the fact that this is a sequel to Chasing the Wind. In fact, I'd originally interwoven Alex's story with Connor's, until I realized the finished novel would be longer than War and Peace!

Final Hours, on the other hand, was inspired by events that have not yet happened: the two near-misses the Earth will have with the Apophis asteroid in 2029 and 2036. The characters and their story came fast. I wrote the novel in six weeks.

When I wrote my third novel, A Time for Legends (soon to be re-released in e-book format as The Unicorn's Daughter), it was originally supposed to reach its climax in Amsterdam. The US air strike in Libya (which took place as I was writing the book), however, seemed much more timely and exciting.

Timing is everything for writers!

Check out the books' respective blogs:


  1. Nice work. I like the metamorphosis that seems to be taking place in your mind. LOL.

  2. Connor came to you in a dream? I think it's a prerequisite that authors need to pay attention to dreams and keep a notepad on their nightstands.

  3. Interesting how our ideas come to us. Love this blog, Norma. Well, anything with Star Trek is A-OK with me anyway. I will suddenly see a story start to unfold with the main character.

  4. Many nights go by and I either can't get to sleep because I can't shut off my mind, or else I end up waking up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep because I can't shut off the old brain...Sometimes though, the words just flow out of your pen/fingers and when you go back and re-read what you've written, I often forget that particular passage and think to myself, "That's a great line! I don't remember writing that!"

    BTW, I think I've been calling 'Army of Angels' City of Angels...I apologize...But, I still can't wait to read it!

  5. More to download in my Kindle.

  6. Interesting how your ideas come and lack of a formula works although dreams are good too.

    I usually have an idea of what I what to draw for a card and then start doing quick sketches to see how it can work out if not then I must start all over again. Somewhat similar to your rough drafts.
    For a drawing or painting it is always just what I see at the moment.

    Great post today.

    cheers, parsnip

  7. I always start with a story idea, but the outline just can't come together until I've created a good cast of characters.

  8. Writing a sequel, in which you already have your main characters in place, is turning out to be a whole new process.

  9. Surprisingly, yes. The first book went through so many changes, it was like dominoes--changes in the first necessitated changes in the second.

    The most difficult part was that Alex is the kind of man who could only be pushed to commit murder under the most extreme conditions. Since he's executed at the start of the book, I had to make sure the reason was believable.

  10. Excellent blog on the writing process, Norma. I like the way you've drawn parallels between your own work, real life, and other genres.

    And as to the movie, they could have also called it "Search for the Eyeglasses"

  11. Actually, they could have, since Kirk sold his antique eyeglasses in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home....

  12. That's what I thought after I wrote that. Star Trek seven could have been about the Enterprise heading back in time to steal the glasses to prevent a temporal incursion that would have torn apart the space time continuum...


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