First let me say that I have no idea where story ideas come from or what inspires me to write. I can’t speak for every author out there, but I know I’ve heard others say the same thing. We have no clue why or how characters and dialogue and plots creep into our heads, even when we’re doing things as mundane as making some eggs, but they do. That being said, I can tell you exactly where I get my ideas from.
Bear with me. As with life, hopefully everything will make sense by the end, but probably not.
The origin of the name is pretty simple, although the exact eureka moment wasn’t saved for posterity. Maybe it doesn’t stick in my memory because it came together fairly simply. My middle name is Grant. I knew I wanted use that either as my nom de plume or as a character name. I was leaning in the direction of the latter, but at some point in time while I was thinking about USA’s Burn Notice, I remembered Bruce Campbell once had a show called “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.” After that, the character’s name and the series name just locked into place.
As near as I can tell, the actual character traits of Grant Scotland first began forming in my mind somewhere in 2009 and 2010. The first thing I knew about him was that he would be a Philip Marlowe kind of character, except one with more problems and less talent. I was at a pretty low point in my life and it’s possible I wanted my protagonist to be just as hard-luck as me. It’s romantic to think that I wanted to write my way out of my own situation, but that isn’t how it happened at all.
Over the next couple of years, I kept wondering about him and started focusing my reading habits around the kind of man I was imagining. I spent a lot of time with Dashiell Hammet’s Miles Archer, Robert Parker’s Spenser, Glen Cook’s Garrett and, of course, Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe. The noir detective motif isn’t an uncommon one, so there was some other source material as well, but those were the biggies.
At some point in time I realized just how overdone such characters are and decided mine wouldn’t be a detective – well, not a professional, anyway. I think it was about that time that I decided I’d throw a spin on the noir detective theme and make him a spy. I wasn’t up on my espionage reading, so I began digging into some LeCarre and Fleming and… meh. Wasn’t too impressed. I wanted gadgets and disguises, not drawn-out suspense. I wanted Sydney Bristow from Alias. I wanted movie-theatre James Bond or TV Michael Westen. The last one especially appealed to me because of the theme in Burn Notice of a spy with no country, no organization and almost no friends. You couldn’t get much more hard luck than that!
If you look carefully, you’ll notice I pay homage to Burn Notice with an occasional “When you’re a spy…” opening to a paragraph describing something Grant’s doing or planning. I couldn’t resist.
So I had Grant fleshed out pretty nicely. This was somewhere in 2011 or 2012, maybe? All in my head, at this point, by the way. There wasn’t anything to write. How could there be? I still had no world for Grant to inhabit. No plot for him to unravel. I knew I wanted to write fantasy, because it’s a very flexible genre for a new writer and it’s always been one of my favorites. That was when I decided to re-read Glen Cook’s Garrett, P.I. novels. The best way for a writer to start is to imitate the writers he admires. So, I treated it like an exercise and began taking notes on Cook’s books as if I was intending to write them myself. As I did that, I also began to sort out the things I liked and the things I didn’t.
I’ll cover Grant Scotland’s world in another post, because I have a fair number of thoughts about fantasy world building, as do most fantasy writers, I’m sure. For now, I’ll just say I wanted his world to be as close to our own Dark Ages as possible, to emphasize the hard-luck theme. Once that was decided and once I had diagramed a couple of Cook’s plots – which I definitely recommend doing for any aspiring author – then I knew I was ready to start writing.
Hmmm… I also have some things to say about my experience actually sitting down to write, so I guess I’ll save that for a future post, too. Thanks for reading! This was sort of fun for me. I hope it was sort of fun for you.
Oh! I almost forgot. Does it make sense? Probably not, right? It doesn’t make sense to me, either. All I can say is, there’s some kind of thing that started banging around in my head one day. I don’t know what to call it and I don’t know how it does what it does. I just know that it’s still going. I hope it never stops, because it seems like the longer it bangs around, the more ideas it picks up and sticks together. Or maybe it just knocks them into a place where I can stick them together. I don’t know. That’s about the best I can come up with.