Universe, Plot, Characters, and Inspiration

As I embarked on my newest (new) project, Sundering Stars, I started to think a lot about what got me excited about writing and what inspired me to actually sit down and get things down. One does not need inspiration to write, but it certainly is more fun and often more rewarding when you are writing and feel inspired.

Recently, I haven’t been writing (see my previous post, Excuses, for a semi-coherent rambling on that subject). I have no one to blame but myself, as I kept making excuses for why I wasn’t writing because I never felt inspired to write. What has, of late, gotten me back into writing is actually being truly excited about a new project.

What makes this new project different from my old WIP’s (which I by no means will abandon) is that my source of excitement and inspiration is different. With all of my Juxian tales (save Tal’kan, which is a special case) including The Divine Madness of KIngsZigguratsBeneath, and A Deadly Dance, the inspiration and drive to write the novels was based on their shared universe, the Juxian mythos. My Juxian mythos is insanely detailed and I absolutely love it, but I realized over the past few weeks that I was trying to write these novels based on nothing more than the universe. No matter how detailed or well-thought out a universe is, it is never enough to base an entire novel on (a short story, perhaps). What these Juxian novels needed was something of substance; characters and plot. A universe is, in the end, often little more than the backdrop of the story.

What makes Sundering Stars different is that I was not inspired initially by the universe, as my Juxian stories all are. It was the characters which made me want to write, in particular the “female lead” Maria Holstead, who is in my outlines shaping up to be one of my most interesting characters ever. Following the characters came a vague concept of a plot, and (gasp) literary themes! The universe is something I’m borrowing from a forum game I started writing rules for but never got off the ground (which goes by the same title that the project currently does). Unlike my normal approach, the universe is secondary.

This is all revolutionary to me, and I have spent a while developing the world of Sundering Stars now, but for the first time I am motivated by characters and plot. This has gotten me out of my Juxian rut and started writing again. This leads me to the conclusion (that I am sure you other writers have long realized) that characters and plot are the driving force behind any good work, not the world. My Juxian novels were always about characters exploring the world I had created. Sundering Stars will be more about the world exploring the characters.

Now that I’ve had this epiphany, I hope I can keep up the momentum, and after Sundering Stars I hope to return to Tal’kan, which is a character and plot driven story only partially set against the Juxian mythos. It will take me a while to get used to this new character-focused mindset; I am much more comfortable with universe creation!

What aspect of writing drives your motivation? What aspect inspires you most? Character? Plot? Universe? Llamas?

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