The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of its Parts

One question that I have gotten more than any other since publishing TTB is “How did you come up with the idea for Berserkers and Havocs?” I want to answer this one because I think it is a useful example of how multiple ideas can combine to form something new.

Obviously I didn’t make up the term Berserker. Berserkers are part of Norse legends, although they are very different from the ones I created. I had been familiar with their existence, but in 2007 I attended Orson Scott Card’s Boot Camp in Utah. While there, I stayed at my parents’ house. One evening, my dad showed me some genealogy on the computer and we followed a line where we tapped into Norwegian royalty and thus had the genealogy going back for thousands of years. One of the farthest back was Arngrim “Berserkur” Grimsson. I thought it was so amazing that I was the descendent of a berserker.

At the same time, I had been thinking about different magic systems and had been toying around with the idea of adrenalin magic, where the power was triggered by an adrenalin surge. I put the two ideas together and had my berserkers.

While at Boot Camp, we had to write a story in a day. Mine was called “Old Family Recipe” about a man who discovers his wife and her sisters have magic and every year during the Summer Solstice they have to go and renew a binding spell to keep the world safe from a horrific demon. That was the initial spark that became the Binders.

From there, I paired up the Berserkers and Binders and figured out a way that both of them combined kept the Havocs bound.

As for why I chose to write from the perspective of a 16-year-old girl… well, it started off as an experiment. I wondered what would happen if there was a girl in the “boys club” of the Berserkers. That line of thought led me down a path to the ultimate end of the story, so I can’t tell you much about that without spoiling the surprise. But I knew the main character had to be a girl. I just didn’t know if I could pull it off, not being a sixteen-year-old girl and all. But I did remember what it was like to be in high school, so I generalized what I could and wrote the first chapter of the book – which is actually now chapter 3 where Madison has her horrible first kiss with Josh. I sent out the chapter to my writing group and had overwhelmingly positive response. One of them even called me and said, “You need to write this story. I have to know what happens.”

So, with that I began to write and got advice from girls in my writing group about where I was on target with girl behavior, and where I was off. That was incredibly helpful feedback and it helped me understand Madison and allowed me to give her a unique voice. Which is a topic for another post.

So, bottom line is that I had multiple ideas that were all separate and unrelated. I liked each of the ideas on their own, but once I started combining those ideas together, I ended up with a story that I think is better than the sum of those ideas together.

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