Technology Tools to Get From “What If?” to a New World by Kate Corcino
We all have a writer’s toolbox, that internal storage where we keep the tools and ideas that best serve our writing process. In discussions about what to keep in it, we often focus on the things we need for drafting or revising. But for many beginners, it is equally important to have tools that help us START.
For many of us, our stories and story worlds start in the real world. We hear or see or read something that sparks a brainstorm. For example, a recent trip to a struggling city had my post-apocalyptic writing brain fully engaged. Behind the arcing curve of a collapsed wall, I imagined my heroine, crouching to watch action below. In the street-front security of scavenged wood, wrought iron, and chain link protecting a multi-family courtyard, I saw a school for powered girls. And gazing up at the rusting metal frame of an abandoned tower construction site looming high above the curve of shoreline, I what-if’d a group of revolutionaries keeping watch over the little bit of value they’d managed to carve out of a collapsed world.
I am a visual brainstormer. My writing process often begins with processing images from the wide world. The trip was amazing and rich fodder for a storyteller. But what happens to a writer who is bound by economics, health, or the realities of a day job to one city? Are there tools that can help that writer find the same kind of sensory inspiration?
As I started on the first book in my series, all I had was the internet. I used technology to fill in the sensory gap and found it a rich tool for world building. Two tools in particular keep me inspired and dreamy.
The first tool is Google alerts. Google allows you to set an alert for a particular phrase and then will send you an email containing links to new material relating to your phrase. For example, my series is post-apocalyptic. I have two alerts set up to keep me in writing fodder, one for “abandoned places” and one for “abandoned buildings”. My daily emails are a lovely rabbit-hole to fall down—yes, I set myself a timer on my phone!—and I often emerge with a scene or a kernel of a new idea on which to focus research. I’m also building a new world for a separate, “magic punk” world, so I have a new alert for Arabic/Spanish construction and for Babylonian myths.
The key is to figure out where your inspiration is likely hiding. Considering building a water world? Perhaps you could set an alert for “underwater construction.” Your setting is an exotic world of lush dangers? Perhaps an alert for “rainforest travel photos” and “dangerous organisms”? Really, your only limit is in phrasing your search parameters.
The second tool technology provides is Pinterest. This site has been growing in popularity with both authors and fans because it allows you build specific virtual bulletin boards that are grouped by a theme. In the past, my collection of inspirational photos and site addresses were printed to go into a file or be slapped onto a bulletin board above my desk. However, feedback from beta readers and now those who have received ARCs tells me that they are all interested in seeing my vision of the world I built. As readers ourselves, we know that the inspiration of authors can be fascinating. The beauty of Pinterest is that it allows us to not only create a private bulletin board collection for ur own use, but open it up to readers when we are ready, and even to grant permission to readers to add to it as their imagination is fired.
I’ve just started building my two boards, one that is general inspiration and the other that is specific to my book. In the first I pin photos and sites from my Google alert emails that inspire me to keep building.The second I use as an inspirational folder where I “cast” my characters and locations—although I am very careful to follow the links of my pinned photos to be sure they either track back to their original source/owner or they have ownership information included in the text of my pin. Not only is Pinterest a tool for my own inspiration, but it is becoming a great way to bond with and communicate with readers.
I’d love to hear what you think. Do any of you include Google alerts or Pinterest (or combine them, as I am moving toward) in your writer’s toolbox to inspire or build on your own “what if?” moments? Do you have any different ways of using these tools that might help other writers?
All that’s required to ignite a revolution is a single spark rising.
Two hundred years after the cataclysm that annihilated fossil fuels, Sparks keep electricity flowing through their control of energy-giving Dust. The Council of Nine rebuilt civilization on the backs of Sparks, offering citizens a comfortable life in a relo-city in exchange for power, particularly over the children able to fuel the future. The strongest of the boys are taken as Wards and raised to become elite agents, the Council’s enforcers and spies. Strong girls—those who could advance the rapidly-evolving matrilineal power—don’t exist. Not according to the Council.
Lena Gracey died as a child, mourned publicly by parents desperate to keep her from the Council. She was raised in hiding until she fled the relo-city for solitary freedom in the desert. Lena lives off the grid, selling her power on the black market.
Agent Alex Reyes was honed into a calculating weapon at the Ward School to do the Council’s dirty work. But Alex lives a double life. He’s leading the next generation of agents in a secret revolution to destroy those in power from within.
The life Lena built to escape her past ends the day Alex arrives looking for a renegade Spark.
Kate Corcino has been a legal videographer, a teacher, and a law student. She currently lives and works in the desert Southwest of the United States, and she writes romantic speculative fiction. Her debut novel, Spark Rising, placed second in the Paranormal, Futuristic and Fantasy category of the Toronto RWA Catherine Award for 2014. The novel releases on December 15, 2014. She has also released Ignition Point, a collection of related short stories set in the same story world as the novel.