Inspiration is a feline. It comes and goes as it pleases, with no regard for your plans or your convenience. It demands your immediate attention, and if not given, it slinks away in a huff until it decides you deserve to be graced with its presence once more. But when you do shower it with the care and affection it expects, it will reward you with deep contentment at being its slave.

I call mine Snookums.

While spending the last few months finishing off the edits to my first novel, I’ve also given a lot of thought to what’s next. And now that I’ve finally sent my baby off into the wide world, the obvious answer is a second novel. The only problem I had was deciding what on earth I would write about. I wracked my brains, pleaded with Snookums, and even offered bribes of catnip and dark chocolate. Things were so desperate that it seemed I might have to resort to a derivative work which could garner a rabid following, then be turned into an original work.

And then, trawling through the interwebs one lazy day, I saw this picture of a bee stinging someone’s arm. And I learned that this is what happens to a bee in the seconds after it stings you: Its abdominal tissue is attached to the sting, and is pulled out of the hapless bee as it flies away. The bee does not live long afterwards. In order to hurt you, the bee must sacrifice itself.

Seeing this image, the concept of being unable to hurt someone else without hurting yourself resonated with me strongly. That was Snookums, sinking its claws into me to get my attention. But the idea still required a lot of polishing from there. What kind of story did I want to tell? In the end, I decided on a physical representation of the concept. What if there was a person who had every physical injury he inflicted reflect back onto himself? But that’s not enough for a story. A central idea is well and good, but I needed to increase the stakes. So, what if the person couldn’t kill without dying himself? And what if the person’s previous job—no, his entire definition of himself—was as an assassin?

And from that, the seed of a new novel presented itself. Inspiration is a great beginning, but that’s all it is—a beginning. It’s from there that the hard work begins. Grooming the idea, feeding it so it grows into a fully-blown story, playing with it and sending it scampering in different directions, patching it up when it wars against reality… there’s still a long way to go. But every good book starts somewhere, and Snookums has finally dumped its messy trophy in my lap. Time for round two!

Leanne Yong is an aspiring author who is working on her second young adult novel. Check out her blog at Clouded Memories for more information and a journal chronicling her latest foray into novel writing.


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