The “seeds” of a story idea

My science fiction story “Little Seed” will be appearing in the upcoming anthology Triangulation: Appetites.  The title of my story got me thinking about the chance experiences, random concepts, and subtle memories that can act as the seeds of a story.  With the right mix of attention and happenstance, ideas can sprout into something wholly unexpected, fraught with meaning.  No wonder one of the most common questions asked of writers is “Where do you get your story ideas?”  (Once I had a story spring from a piece of trivia I read on the wrapper of a snack!)

I can trace the origins of “Venom in the Cloud Forest,” my fantasy story in Myriad Lands: Vol. 2: Beyond the Edge, back to a day when I went over to my parents’ house and they showed me an episode of a travel program that my mom had recorded to show my dad.  She’d saved it because the host was visiting a cloud forest in Ecuador.

Now, being half-Ecuadorian, I’m ashamed to admit that I had never heard of a cloud forest until then.  But what a revelation!  The very name made it a worthy setting for a fantasy story, and by the time they featured a dragon’s blood tree, I was salivating to bring a magical version of this ecosystem to life on the page.  The concept of fever-dreams has fascinated me for some time, and the vulnerability that a fever would create in my main character appealed to me.  And his perspiration would mirror the wet, misty surroundings.

To name my characters, I drew on locations that I had visited or heard of in the Andean region and borrowed some common sounds from their names.  I then researched the flora and fauna of the area, wishing that I could have known about cloud forests sooner so I could have visited one the last time I was down there.  But thank goodness for the wealth of information available these days.

A TV program viewed by chance.  Additional research uncovered and ideas mashed together.  These were my little seedlings of a magical cloud forest.  By the way, after one of my relatives in Ecuador read my story, she told me:  “Once I bought a little bottle of sangre de drago [dragon’s blood], but when I read your story I found out it came from a tree. That I did not know.”  Neither did I, until a fortuitous visit to my parents’ house.