If the title “A Beautiful Mind” brings to mind the movie by the same name about a crazy, brilliant man, then I chose wisely. Though not a math genius, being an author – particularly a science fiction author – I tend to see the world a bit differently. Friends and family often ask, “How do you make this stuff up?” I find myself wanting to reply, “You mean YOU don’t?”
Like most artists, we see one thing with our eyes and another thing entirely with our imagination. A perfect example; a simple hike through the beauty of Red Rock Canyon thirty minutes from the Las Vegas strip becomes another planet in my mind. The narrow sections our family safely walked through became the slot canyon with life-threatening rushing water approaching our hero and his fellow candidates in Mission Veritas.
Over the past several years, my wife and I have visited a number of interesting caves from Tucson, Arizona to Majorca, Spain to Bermuda. I have always been fascinated by these underground playgrounds. So naturally, with these images fixed in my memory, there had to be a cave on Planet Veritas somewhere!
Even when we are just entertaining out of town guests who come to visit us at our home in Seattle, my imagination finds sparks. A visit to the Chihuly Glass Garden in downtown Seattle proved a well of inspiration. The stunning creations in glass – colors, shapes, patterns –not only gave me incredible photos, but planted seeds in my imagination as well. The steady stream of visitors to the exhibition see Chihuly’s artistry, as did I. However, while I saw beautiful red glass sculpture, I also saw the ruby crystals on Planet Veritas.
People we meet make appearances in the pages of our novels as well. Not exactly – after all it is fiction and in my case, science fiction. Nonetheless, the lasting impression of a scolding teacher manifests itself in an authoritarian drill instructor; the nurturing nature of a school cafeteria worker serves as a kindness model for one who rescues an injured character. Much like actors call on past experiences to allow them to more accurately portray people unlike their true selves, authors recall people and past encounters to add realism to our dialogue and interactions.
My wife is a talented motivational speaker. In her presentations, she uses examples from her real working life and career to illustrate the message she is conveying to the audience. In the same way, everything from my own life – college, Marine Corp, self-defense training, computer software experience, even life as a father and husband – all are tools I call on to craft an engaging story for the reader.
Names often pose the greatest challenge. If you have ever named a child or a pet, you have experienced some of the anxiety that accompanies selecting a name. If you share that task with a partner and have to reach a consensus, then you know how stressful finding just the right name can be! When naming my three sons; the eldest’s name came from The Terminator movie, the middle from a town in South Dakota and the youngest from a beer truck, “Killian’s Red”. Not only is Killian my youngest son’s middle name, but it is the last name of the main character in Mission Veritas.
Some names require research; such as “Veritas” which means truth in Latin. Appropriate since the atmosphere on Planet Veritas plays a key role in the story, Mission Veritas. Other names come from names of towns, the name of a ski run, even the suggestion of friends. I have seen friends do an unofficial survey on Facebook to gauge the popularity of a name or title.
Making up stories is not hard for me any more than speaking to thousands of people is hard for my wife. Each person has unique gifts and talents, mine seems to be in creating a story. Even when my sons were young and I was reading books to them, I would find myself changing parts of the stories. Yes, boredom played a role – how many times can you read the same story over and over again? But mostly it was because both I, and they, found it fun.
Do you have what it takes to be an author? Maybe. Do you imagine alternate endings to stories or movies? Do you find yourself saying, “I would have had this character do X rather than Y”? When you look up and study a sky full of clouds what do you see? Are they just white puffy cotton balls, a charging elephant or do you ponder “How much do clouds weigh”? If you see the world in your own unique way, maybe you have a story to share with us. All you need is a little time, pen and paper or a computer and of course, your own “beautiful mind”.
John Murphy author of new SciFi novel, Mission Veritas.