My decision to write a book wasn’t this instant light bulb moment. It was an idea I toyed with for some time. Truth be told, several years before this decision, I imagined that I would write a book one day.
Back then, I was only reading nonfiction. I was in my early twenties, and I thought I had become too grown up for fiction (George R.R. Martin changed this perspective for me – a conversation for a later post). After all, what was the point of investing hours (which could translate to days or weeks) reading something that would teach me nothing? So I would write nonfiction, I told myself.
There was always a conundrum though— what do I write about? After all, I thought, you must have either an exciting life or career to write really good nonfiction. At the very least, you need to be an authority in your field or chosen topic. I was still young and learning, therefore I put this book writing idea at the back burner, forgot it actually.
But as I got into my mid to late twenties, my love of fiction was reignited. I was becoming more mature and realising the power that fiction could have. Despite yourself, you become moved by a movie or book scene, even to the point of tears. When this first happens, you are surprised by yourself. You used to laugh at anyone who said Titanic moved them to tears—now you have become that person.
Fiction also takes us to places we could never dream of going. It allows us to live through the characters—feel what they feel. In effect, we experience powerful emotions we don’t usually feel in our real lives. At the very least, it provides a fun escape from real life. And good fiction teaches us about people, life and the world.
So, fast forward to my quarter life crisis—I still felt that I couldn’t write nonfiction yet. But this was also at a time when I was being inspired by books like A Song Of Ice And Fire series and movies like Interstellar.
I now knew what I wanted to write—something smart, believable, beautiful, based on science fact and entertaining. I was falling in love with sci-fi, so that would be the genre. But what would be the story?
You will have to stay with me and be a little patient for the wacky answer.
So, I’ve always been fascinated by ancient monarchy—this idea that a person can be born to have complete power, their only qualification being that they are the son, daughter or relation of the previous monarch. Privilege aside, if you were the heir to a monarchy, you were born to a life of great purpose, a life you didn’t choose or need to fight for, you were truly “special”.
I was so fascinated by monarchies that I would routinely watch television programs on ancient Egyptian pharaohs and European royalty. It was also interesting to learn about the shocking practices which passed as commonplace during those eras.
Then I saw this program on Al Jazeera — The Stream, where new monarchs were being interviewed. These were modern-day people, who had claimed pieces of previously unclaimed land, named them and fashioned themselves kings, princes or princesses. Now this was really intriguing. My mind ran amok.
What if my protagonist wanted to proclaim himself king of a region? Wait, what if he wanted to proclaim himself king of an entire planet (sci-fi, remember)? He would discover a habitable planet, claim it as his own and establish a monarchy.
Great, but what would be the story, the hook? So what, he becomes some ruler. Why would anyone want to read about that? Why is the protagonist doing what he is doing? How do his decisions affect the people in this fictional world? Where is the conflict? Where is the sense of urgency? Where is the desperation, pace and thrill usually associated with sci-fi?
That is when I took out my notebook and began the real work. I came up with characters. I stayed away from the stereotypical villain/ hero dynamic. My book would be populated with individuals who had different interests and ideologies. And whenever the paths of these characters intersected, there would be conflict and violence.
I came up with a plot, and I did some science research. By the time I had solid notes, the idea had morphed into something more complex—irreconcilable from the original.
I will be sharing more on my writing process in later posts. Hopefully, I have convinced you that inspiration can come from the wackiest places and that you don’t need to have been trained as a writer for you to think about becoming one.