As it’s only two weeks until the start of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and today is NaNoPrep Day, I have been thinking about what my novel will be this year. I thought that I would share the process with you – and ask you all to share how you go about generating your ideas.
While tossing around various options for NaNoWriMo I was also idly looking at a spreadsheet that my sister has put together (a very small version of one branch is below). She is seriously into genealogy and has produced a very detailed family tree going back over two thousand years!
I was thinking about the various stories that such a spread of people, times, and places represented. Then I moved on to how these stories could be linked together in some way. In the comments of other Limebird posts I have talked about how I really get into research, and so it shouldn’t surprise you that I spent quite a few hours looking at the lives of some of the people on the family tree. What I wanted to find were events that happened during the 12th year, 13th year etc. of my ancestor’s lives to see if I could hang an overarching narrative on them all.
Then it all clicked!
I have been describing the result as a Young Adult cross between Quantum Leap, Assassin’s Creed and Stargate!
Not wanting to give too much away; I now have a broad outline of The Helix Key series (the first five books anyway) all based upon my own family tree. The protagonist is Shara my granddaughter (as I don’t have any grandchildren she is imaginary) who was born in 2041. Earth is preparing for its first interstellar mission, and this draws her into a centuries-spanning secret.
The King’s Jewel (889AD)
12 year old Shara is sent back in time to inhabit the body of 12 year old Princess Ælfryth (my 36-grands Grandmother). Set during the politically difficult time following the death of Athelstan (King of East Anglia) she has to get the (real) Ælfred’s Jewel to the monastery at Athelney so that it can be found in 1693. She also has to deal with the prospect of getting married to the 27 year old Count of Flanders!
The Magi’s Gift (4BC)
This time 13 year old Shara is a boy (which does NOT please her!) the prince will grow up to be Marcomir III of the West Franks (my 70-greats Grandfather). Due to his father’s (who was an astronomer and diviner) war with the Romans, Marcomir is sent to the Levant where he travels with an astronomer following a strange star.
The Conqueror’s Sword (1055AD)
Shara inhabits the body of 14 year old Muriel Conteville (my 31-greats Grandmother). Her half brother is 27 year old nobleman who will become William the Conqueror. She has to ensure that he finds the sacred sword that he will carry into battle.
The Dissenter’s Scroll (1791AD)
Once again Shara is a boy, 15 year old James Chantrill (my 4-greats Grandfather). He is a labourer’s son who has to brave the mob and save an ancient scroll from Joseph Priestley’s library during the Birmingham Riots.
The War in Heaven (2057AD)
In the concluding book, all of the different threads are brought together and 16 year old Shara has to help protect the Earth as its first interstellar mission brings unwelcome attention.
All of the characters above are actual ancestors of mine. However, you will see from the timeline that I have included my 60-greats Grandfather Odin! Historians say that this was a bit of poetic licence by Anglo Saxon chroniclers – I know different!
How do you go about generating ideas for stories?
Have you used real family members in fictional settings?