I’ve long admired the Big Idea posts that big-time sci-fi author John Scalzi does on his blog, but unfortunately he won’t allow indie authors to contribute, so I thought I’d do my version of the Big Idea here on Jessica’s blog.
In 1993 I moved to Moscow, Russia to begin working at the American embassy there, and I was immediately struck by how palpably different the place felt from any other place I had ever visited. The big coup attempt going on when I arrived (October) certainly helped with that feeling, but it was more than that. The people, the architecture, even the slightly odd colors used everywhere compared to what we see every day helped me feel I was in a very alien place.
Shortly after I arrived a mafia attack happened right in front of me. I was standing outside the hotel where I was temporarily housed, waiting for the shuttle to take me downtown, when two black Volgas screeched to a stop across the street near a row of kiosks. Several men jumped out, ran to one of the kiosks, and sprayed the place down with submachine guns. The shuttle driver, who was standing nearby, glanced at me and decided we were going to leave a little early that day!
The mafia was everywhere in Moscow at that time. I read stories about bombings and murders every single day in the papers, and young men dressed like gangsters even when they weren’t a part of it. A couple years into my tour I witnessed a second attack. I was on top of a building in a run-down student dormitory part of Moscow, watching the sunset with some friends. We began hearing popping noises. I walked to the edge and looked down, and there were two cars parked below and one car speeding away. Two men were standing outside the cars firing pistols at the departing vehicle.
These experiences got me thinking about how much I’d like to capture the atmosphere in a story. However, as much as I pondered the idea, I was only able to come up with a few good scenes, not an entire story. So I tucked that story away in my mind for many years
I’ve always loved thinking about the future, so naturally I am a fan of science fiction. I like thinking about how things might realistically change in the near future, or I examine tropes of sci-fi that seem plausible to me and try to imagine what life might have been like when those trope ideas were in their infancy. Around 2005 I had a series of fantastic new ideas and centered them around a group of Russian scientists working for the military to develop new technology. I loved the ideas and thought they would make a great story…except that ideas alone don’t make a good story. I needed an outside story arc that would allow me to work in the great scientific ideas.
It took another year before I had the ‘ah ha!’ moment. I realized that I could use my long-lost Russian mafia idea if I swapped out their drugs storyline for one in which they steal some of the secret technology from the scientists’ military compound. That one moment made it very easy to work out the plot for what I hope is a very enticing story for fans of thrillers or science fiction.
I’m a slow writer, so it was only in November 2014 that the novel, The Immortality Game, was finally published by Breakwater Harbor Books. Thank you all for reading, and thanks again to Jessica for being so awesome!
Have you had ideas that you feel great about but can’t seem to come up with a full working story? Have you tried combining ideas?
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FROM IDEA TO NOVEL by @tedacross http://goo.gl/1kjAnL #theartistunleashed #writing