Writers of speculative fiction are often asked where they find their ideas. Pull up a chair, and I’ll tell you where I found mine. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In my case, a picture may be worth 100,000 words.
At the moment, I have four series planned: The Chronicles of Aura Lockhaven, The Geilltiad, Tales of the Sarethian Seven, and one that I’m calling Jenny and Sam. Three of the four began as 3D art renders that I made for entirely different purposes.
Aura was the first, and she still reigns supreme as the queen of my fictional universe. She began as this:
I called this one “Miss Barbarian, July, 2010.” Yep, she was supposed to be a centerfold from a barbarian magazine. Obviously, I did not know what I was doing with DAZ Studio at the time, because this render sucks. Yet, of all the ones I’ve done, this one is my favorite because of what happened immediately after it finished baking on screen. As I looked at it, I had this little mental conversation with myself:
“What makes a woman dance nude in a forest on fire?”
“Well, she’s an enchantress.”
“What does that mean!”
“She’s a sex magician.”
It made perfect sense to me. Yes, I talk to myself. When I answer myself, wonderful things happen.
Within minutes, I named this enchantress Aura Lockhaven; Aura because it’s mysterious and ethereal, and Lockhaven for Loch Haven Park, one of my favorite places in Orlando. Within an hour, I began work on a graphic novel, which I ended up shelving a year later to concentrate on graduate school. That graphic novel provided the foundation for the written series that is underway. One and a half novels later, I have outlines for an additional ten stories, spanning Aura’s first years as an enchantress.
The Chronicles of Aura Lockhaven is based on this one primitive render. The render inspired the character. Once I had the character of Aura, I followed Stephen King’s method of throwing her into an interesting situation and listening to her tell me what she did from that point forward. Aura is still telling me about her adventures.
The Geilltiad is a trilogy that I plan as a spin-off of Aura to provide a backstory for her country. When I transferred Aura from England to the fictional country of Ayrdland, I lost all of that wonderful English history and myth. I had to write my own. Ayrdland was once the Island of Geilltia, and its fall to my version of the Romans is dark enough to warrant a tragic fantasy. It will be my tribute to George R. R. Martin: people will die. Of my four series, this is the only one that has any sort of traditional inspiration.
Like Aura, Tales of the Sarethian Seven began as a render, but this one was more involved and more advanced:
I called it “Barbarian Wall.” The more I looked at it, the more I liked it. I fell in love with these four barbarian warrior women who protected a queen in a strange land. As a fan of The Magnificent Seven, I decided to add three more characters to the team of barbarians, resulting in “The Rat Hunt”:
For the heck of it, I sat down one morning to write the characters’ biographies, just in case I rendered a few more pictures. I spent more time creating their names than I did on any other project, save the creation of Ayrdland and the continent of Sareth. You can read about naming the Sarethian Seven here. One week later, I had an almost 200 page book of tales about their lives and adventures. I named it Tales of the Sarethian Seven.
I decided to place the Sarethian Seven in Aura’s world, but 1,000 years earlier. I wrote the stories as if told by Henry Lockhaven to his eight year old daughter Aura. The tales inspired her to keep trying when her world turned dark. Tales of the Sarethian Seven is on the shelf at the moment. When I need a break from my big projects, I write another tale. Eventually, I will publish it. I’m not sure if I’m going to leave it as a one volume collection of tales, or break a few out into novels.
The final series, which is filed under the working title of Jenny and Sam, had an even more bizarre origin. It, too, was inspired by a single 3D render:
This one is titled “Leopard Girl.” Originally, the character of Jane Syren (the woman in the render) was a model I developed solely to test different skin textures under different lighting conditions. One day, for a lark, I put her in the Jungle Girl outfit. The result left me howling, “She looks like something out of a B-movie!” Click! I added the temple setting, the giant python, and the gorilla with the machine gun. YES! It needed more, and the result can be seen in the final render above. I made it simply to do something funny. You can read the original concept here.
Once again, a story oozed out of the render. The render quickly became a publicity still from the B-movie Leopard Girl. Who were these people? Not the characters in the scene, but the actors playing the characters in the scene. Jane Syren proved to be the central character. I began writing what I thought was a tongue-in-cheek comedy, but Jane had other ideas. I listen to my characters; they know more about their stories than I do. So, Jane’s tale quickly evolved into a dark fantasy with shades of horror. I am writing the novelized movie script, as a pulp magazine series. It fits within the framework of the rest of the novel, as a story within a story. The main story is about latent hereditary witch Jenny (Jane’s real name), a shaman, a sorcerer, and a demon, all at odds with each other on location with the cast and crew of a movie. Yes, I am keeping the gorilla with the machine gun. As an homage to those wonderful drive-in popcorn movies of the 1950s, I’m calling this novel Leopard Girl. This is turning into an urban fantasy, if it can be called urban in rural Florida in 1957.
Leopard Girl has shot to the top of my project pile. Aura is still the queen of my characters, but I want to give her more time to tell me her story. I’m still not sure Jenny’s life warrants a series, although the character of Sam (the shaman) is my first male character interesting enough to carry his own story. We shall see.
I will not be creating any new original renders in the foreseeable future. I do not need a fifth series in my stack of projects! Instead, I will be “illustrating” the stories I have, mostly for the fun of it. That often helps me design a costume or check a character’s appearance based on how I wrote it. I will leave you with a render showing how that works. Besides, Aura insists. The following render is Aura’s portrait, based on how I describe her in the book. The costume isn’t accurate, but I have not learned the knack of designing clothes for 3D art. It’s close enough. Hey, Aura is an enchantress — she can get away with wearing that. She is a far cry from that original at the top of this post, both as a render and as a character.
All names, characters, situations, and artwork are copyright Nathan Boutwell. Don’t even think about it. I have lawyers.