The below is a guest post from Scott J Robinson.
One of my earliest reviews was an unsolicited one of Scott’s book “The Brightest Light”, a fantasy piece which I thoroughly enjoyed, and would heartily recommend. Since that review, Scott and I have exchanged various communications, and my respect for his work has only grown.
I’m happy to share his words with you:
The Life of a Story
Written by Scott J Robinson | 27 September 2011
I’ve been writing science fiction and fantasy since before I could read. I’ve always been working on one novel or another. Or two novels or another. Or three…
This was especially the case when I was a kid. I would have an idea for a novel (it was always a novel, never a short story) and write non-stop for weeks. I generally didn’t stop until I had a better idea. And by the time I was in my late teens I had floppy disks full of stories I was crazy about. Some of the stories even made it into multiple files when my trusty Commodore 64 ran out of memory. But it was never love and each story was promptly forgotten when my next crush came along. Those stories taught me a lot of lessons about writing though, obviously, perseverance wasn’t one of them.
But I can safely say that without all those false starts as a boy, I would never have written, Tribes of the Hakahei, a four volume series comprising The Space Between, Singing Other Worlds, When the Time Comes and A Different Kind of Heaven.
Of course, it wasn’t The Space Between back then. In fact, it wasn’t remotely like the story as it now stands, but the seeds are there to be seen.
I can’t remember the name of that once-was partial story, but I remember the concept and the prologue.
Imagine a typical fantasy tavern in a typical fantasy city in a land that has already been conquered by the Dark Lord (he was probably called Qwerty or something similar— I had a thing for stupid names). And out the back is a courtyard where patrons can escape from the noise and the heat of the taproom. And sitting in this courtyard are two historians who have stumbled upon a prophecy that they think will save them all from DOOM.
The prophecy (I spent weeks writing one—it was terrible) said something like “one person from each race will chose themselves and go off on a quest to defeat Qwerty so light could come to the land once more”. The usual thing. So, anyway, these geniuses decide they’ll call for volunteers from the six races (Elves, Dwarves, Trolls, Gnomes, Humans, and some kind of dolphin people) and send them off to save the world. And the historians had also twisted the words of the prophecy to suggest that it would be set in motion in that particular tavern on that particular day.
Little did they know, however, that all their twisting had led them to nothing but a true interpretation. But the six members of the party who would save the world were already in the courtyard. They just didn’t know they were going to be saving anything and they hadn’t actually met each other yet.
The Prologue ended with a line something like, ‘But that wasn’t how the story started at all.’ The plan was for me to then go and tell the stories of how those six characters arrived at the tavern. And then it would carry on from there with some of them getting together and others crossing paths and… If you think it all seems a bit complicated you are right. If you then go and add in the characters of the party assembled by the historians I had 12 main characters in multiple groups doing who knew what.
And I would have been about 12 or 13 years old when I started writing all of this.
Don’t panic though. I quickly came up with a better idea and Qwerty and his evil shenanigans were quickly forgotten.
Now, fast forward to somewhere around 2002. I’m just a bit older and have completed a couple of novel manuscripts and done a lot more writing. And I want to write something BIG.
Of course, I thought about that idea I’d once had, wondering if I could salvage anything from it. The idea had been too big for a teenager and was still too big so I set about cutting it back to its roots.
Six characters from six wildly different races getting together to save the world?
Yeah, but that was fairly standard as far as fantasy stories go. What if I made it science fiction? How would that change it?
It would give me Tribes of the Hakahei.
The first problem was coming up with a scientific explanation for the different races. Once I had that, the background was obvious. And once I had that, there could really only be one story. (Well, obviously that isn’t actually true, but one story immediately came to mind and it was a great fit).
I did research (something I’d never done before) finding myths and legends that I could weave into my history. Robin Hood? Surely someone that good with a bow must be an elf? Machu Picchu stuck up on a mountain for no discernable reason? I could think of a reason. Crystal Balls? Yeah, I can do that. Those hobbit people they found in Singapore? Great. Easter Island? Toss that in the pot as well.
What had started out as a boring fantasy plot (90% of plots are boring—details give them life and beauty) had, 20 years later, turned in to something different. It had turned into something fantastic that was rooted in reality.
You never know where a story idea will come from and you never know where it might end up. That’s half the fun of writing. (Well, if you’re a Pantser, but that’s another story).
Scott J Robinson