Stories come from anywhere. Whether you’re writing a memoir, a children’s book about a hedgehog, or maybe you had a cool dream you want to explore, write what inspires you. Maybe you love fantasy novels and have been searching for a certain plot but can’t find it. Write it. Where did the idea for Laria’s story come from? A very mundane place.
I’ve had many jobs, sometimes several at once. One of those jobs was working for a local artist cleaning her barn and training her horse. It wasn’t a large barn, but it took at least an hour to muck out. That left me with a lot of time to think. One way I’d entertain myself was crafting stories. Some only lasted the span of an hour while others dragged on for several days. One day, I thought, “What about a story of a girl stuck doing chores?” Not a Cinderella retelling, but something more, something with drama, tragedy, humor, and knights.
Thus Laria’s story began. The story of a servant destined to be more. I draw inspirational elements not only from imagination, but real life. Laria is like me in a lot of ways. She’s sassy, smart, loves horses, and doesn’t adhere to societal norms. She’s not content to wear dresses and attract suitors. She just wants to ride her horse and swim naked in the river.
She’s so not like other girls.
When you’re writing a heroine, especially a teenaged one, you have to make them stand out. Even though young girls might not read my book, I wanted Laria to be someone they could look up to. I didn’t want Laria to be a girl constantly needing to be rescued. I wanted to write about a strong woman who was capable of being vulnerable without it defining her character, a girl who directs her own fate even after her freedom was stripped away. It was important for the supporting characters to be equally impactful, even the villains. Some of my villains are inspired by real people, but mainly when I plan out a bad guy, I think, “What’s the most horrific thing someone would do here?” And then I go for it. I love writing villains you love to hate, villains you hope get their just rewards.
While some of the bad guys are bad through and through, I also wanted to depict morally gray characters. There’s nothing I love more than writing a horrific individual that you occasionally sympathize with when they reveal glimpses of humanity. I love morally gray characters myself. Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows, Jamie Lannister in Game of Thrones, Carden from The Folk of the Air series, and Locke Lamora from The Gentlemen Bastards series are a few of my favorites.
When it came to the scenery, I was inspired by one of the most beautiful places in the world (in my humble opinion): the Peak District. The rise and fall of the landscape, the contrast of rocks and lush prairie, and the feeling of timelessness. I drew a lot of imagery from this area of England.
I mean, look how beautiful it is! I want to live there, too.
A big part of the story was inspired by a trip to Edinburgh. A castle on a mountain. A straightforward concept that led me to create Praed Castle, which sits atop the White Mountain. A lot of my inspiration comes from the history of Great Britain, primarily around the 16th century.
The style of clothing, vernacular, and customs are based around this time period. The fun part about writing a fantasy is that you can draw inspiration from real life then put your own twists on it. The setting may be based in England, but from that grew Praed, with its own rules, places, landmarks, history, and cultures.
My advice for aspiring writers when it comes to finding inspiration is to start with what you love. Whether it’s a place, a book, a photo, a person, or an event, make this your foundation. Then make it your own.