I read a great essay many years ago by a famous US Air Force pilot named John Boyd. He had a very interesting life and there’s a great book about him called Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War. Reading that book led me to pursue some of John Boyd’s original writings, including his essay “Destruction and Creation” which was written in 1976. I’d like to credit him and his OODA Loop theory as the origins of the Uddhava in the Mirrowen Trilogy.
“Destruction and Creation” is an essay about where new ideas come from. It describes how we break apart old ideas we’re familiar with in order forge something new, and then break that apart and create something newer still. The process is dynamic and iterative and what struck me about it was that it’s the process I use to create new stories. I think most writers do this.
I read an interview with Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins where she described the origins of her famous story being a mix of the Greek legend of Theseus and the Minotaur that merged with another idea she had while channel surfing about reality TV shows and war footage. The ideas blended together and Katniss Everdeen and Panem were forged.
For me, sometimes an obscure passage in an obscure book becomes the fount of inspiration for a new book idea. I then strip away parts that don’t need to be there and add in other bits and pieces I’ve found, including the characters or personalities of real people that I know. These ideas tend to ferment inside my mind for many years before coming out into a story that you pick up and read.
The process of Destruction and Creation is very messy, but it’s something I love about the arts. There are an infinite supply of new ideas waiting to be found, just but mixing and stripping away things that work and don’t work from legends of the past.
As the wise writer of Ecclesiastes put it, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Eccl. 1:9)
There are always new ways to tell old stories. Discovering something old leads to the creation of something new. And for me, that process never gets old.