Evolution of an Idea


Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes the origins are more than a little strange. I find the evolution of ideas fascinating – maybe because it often happens so quickly, so spontaneously that tracing it out becomes impossible.

I was never that kid who went up to writers to ask where they got their ideas. By the time I met an author, I’d already read advice against that question. Besides which, I hadn’t even reached a point of articulating that question to myself.

But last week, I had an idea whose evolution I can trace easily. So I wanted to share that with you.

It started with this article from tor.com about the character (almost always female) in horror who is the voice of reason or warning. You know, the one who hears a strange noise, or thinks maybe they shouldn’t go into the creepy abandoned house with a history of mysterious deaths. The one no one believes.

It’s a good article.

So I decided I wanted to take that particular character trope and turn it on its head. But how?

The answer I came up with will be fun. A lot of fun, if I can pull it off. But that’s another question not for this post.

Then the next question: how do I tell it? Whose perspective should I use? This became a source of frustration. I could think of a few possibilities that each felt right for different parts of the story, but none of them felt right for the whole of it.

This idea bridged the line between ghost story and fairytale, and in fairytales, things often happen in threes. Which led me to the possibility of telling the story in triptych.

I was unfamiliar with triptychs before one of my really close writer-friends introduced me to it via this amazing story that Nightmare Magazine published. And she’d become familiar with it through one of her instructors at the Clarion workshop last summer.

A triptych in art is generally a story told in three panels or paintings. A triptych in writing is something I still don’t feel like I fully understand, but the basic gist of it is telling a story in three parts.

That means I can tell the story in three voices, like Kathleen does in the story linked above. And I can tell the story in three separate times.

So I have the concept, the characters, and how to pull it all together. Now I just have to write it!


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