As you know, I'm excited to be a part of the Athena's Daughters II anthology and kickstarter.
I'm equally happy to welcome Liz Colter, another author from ADII, here to talk about tone, story creation, and the inspiration for her ADII story, "The Flowers of Cenene."
When I begin a story, I tend to begin with tone. Not always, but usually.
In order, the process is most often a feeling for the tone I want, followed by rough impression of the protagonist, then a setting, and a general idea of the beginning and ending. I'm a "pantser" not an outliner, and so at that point I begin writing. The tone guides me through the story - short story or novel - as I try to evoke and maintain an atmosphere: strange and unpredictable, lyrical, dark, political, noir; whatever I'm shooting for in that piece. I also strive to emulate the things that impress me most about my favorite authors: Gregory Maguire's beautiful use of language, Neil Gaiman and Tim Powers' ability to take me somewhere I wasn't expecting, George R. R. Martin's depth of characterization, or China Mieville's bizarrely unique worlds.
Even once I've settled on a tone for a story, it remains a fairly abstract. If someone asked me to summarize my life I doubt I could put it into words, yet I have a 'feeling' that I associate with the experience as a whole. In the same way, I 'feel' my protagonist. That, in turn, inspires their story.
My original inspiration for "The Flowers of Cenene," my short story in the Athena's Daughters II anthology, was a dream. It was one of the rare dreams I remembered on waking and it carried a strong emotional hangover, though no story ideas followed at that time. A few months later I was thinking about title ideas and, remembering the flowers in the dream, I jotted down "The Last Flower" and the words "cultural and emotional." No specific location had been implied in the dream, but there was a strong other-worldly feel and there had been a distant city, which shaped this into a science fiction story instead of my more usual fantasy. I knew that my protagonist was female and that I wanted her to have a different cultural background than my own. It's difficult to describe the actual 'feel' of the dream, but I knew it had given me my theme and my main character. I began with Allie in a field of other-worldly flowers, and the rest of the story flowed from there.
More about Liz:
Liz Colter lives in a rural area of the Rocky Mountains and spends her free time with her husband, dogs, horses and writing. Over the years she has worked as a paramedic, an Outward Bound instructor, an athletic trainer, a draft-horse farmer and a dispatcher for concrete trucks, but her true passion is her writing. She has been reading speculative fiction for a lifetime and creating her own speculative worlds for more than a decade. Liz is a recent winner of the Writers of the Future contest (V30), and has upcoming short stories in Galaxy's Edge Magazine and Athena's Daughters 2. She has previously been published in Penumbra e-Mag, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, the Fae anthology from World Weaver Press, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, among others. In longer works, she has two completed fantasy novels and is working on a third. Please visit her website at: http://lizcolter.weebly.com/