Where do writers get their ideas from?

The second most common question a writer is asked, is ‘where do your ideas come from?’ [The first is: ‘Do you make any money from it?’] Experienced writers don’t go looking for ideas; ideas come to them. An experienced writer just has the knack of spotting what makes a good story … or what will make a good story once it’s been given the right spin … because none of us, if we’re honest, will let reality get in the way of a saleable piece of work.

All editors are looking for an element of action, drama or surprise, even in non-fiction. It’s what catches their attention and makes them pause to read further; and the key to any editor’s heart is originality. Not necessarily a new departure in style or genre, but a refreshing and original slant on a popular theme that gives it the X-Factor!

 The X-Factor

Witchcraft (unlike Wicca) is not a religion – it never has been, simply because it’s an individual’s natural ability that distinguishes him or her as a witch. In other words, a witch is born, not made. It just isn’t possible to learn how to become a witch if we haven’t got these abilities, although it is possible to learn how to hone and develop latent or suppressed psychic talents, under the right tuition. And there is no age limit for these discoveries – in either the young, middle-aged or old.

Wicca, on the other hand, is fast becoming accepted as the ‘new pagan religion’ with its doctrines drawing heavily on an eco-feminine shadow-image of Christianity. This again is nothing new, since Christianity itself absorbed many of the existing pagan festivals and celebrations into the Church calendar (including an identification of the Virgin Mary with Isis), and contemporary paganism is merely reclaiming its own. But in reality, even in the days before the Christian invasion, not all of the pagan populace were skilled in the Craft of witches.

To use a natural analogy, the differences between witchcraft and paganism per se is to liken them to the relationship between the domestic and the wild cat. To the casual observer there is little difference. Just as the similarities between the modern wild cat (felis sylvestris) and the house cat (felis catus) are so great and the differences so few, that it is difficult to establish any authentic genealogy. There is evidence that wild cats have mated with domestic cats and domestic cats can survive in the wild having gone feral, but they don’t usually move far from human habitation and will quickly revert if given the opportunity. The wild cat, however, cannot be handled or tamed; even as a small kitten it is extremely ferocious. In appearance it is difficult at a distance to distinguish a wild cat from a large domestic tabby that has gone feral, but (as with witchcraft and paganism), the subtle differences are there, if you know where and how to look.

For example: Paganism (including Wicca) has developed a very strong com-munity spirit in recent years, with everyone at public events joining hands to celebrate the festivals, organized around the nearest weekend coinciding with a formal Wheel of the Year. Pagans believe that information should be available to all, and that everyone has the right to access all esoteric knowledge. Many pagans are highly suspicious of witches and some will deny that they practice any form of magic at all. Paganism caters for teenagers within the community and actively encourages them to attend the fairs, buy the books and any appropriate accoutrements. Pagans claim to worship Nature in the persona of ‘the Goddess’. The generally accepted pagan motto is: ‘And it harm none, do what you will’.

Witchcraft is not bound by social rules and conventions, only by the personal morality of the individual, and is governed solely by the natural tides. Any form of magical working or spiritual observance tends to be of a solitary nature, or in the company of tried and trusted people. Witches believe that esoteric knowledge should be kept hidden because it is impossible to convey the meaning of the ‘true mysteries’ without the appropriate teaching. Traditional witches are now rarely seen at pagan events, and hold that any ritual equipment will be acquired as and when it is necessary. The witch learns his or her Craft along the way, and pays homage to Nature but in a more abstract form that the textbooks will allow, something along the lines of Blake’s ‘Auguries of Innocence’

‘To see a World in a grain of sand,

And a Heaven in a flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour’

The Old Craft motto is ‘Trust None!’ although it could well be taken from the motto of several Scottish clans: ‘Touch not the [wild] cat without a glove’.

Which path will you ultimately tread?

And what aspect of it will you eventually write about?

One of the first instructions I usually give at a writers’ workshop is to always discard the first idea that comes into your head. And while you’re at it, discard the second … and third idea, too. This is because a hundred other writers will have had an identical thought for an article (poem or short story) stimulated by something seen on television, read in a magazine or newspaper, or heard on the radio. We may not consciously realize that this has been the source of our inspiration but the seed has been planted firmly in the deep recesses of the brain … and this is why reference books can spark off all sorts of ideas.

When thriller writer Sally Spedding was sent the Dictionary of Magic & Mystery to review, she wrote: “I admit that I don’t normally ‘read’ dictionaries, but this one by Mélusine Draco really is as gripping as any thriller. The proverbial page-turner, with its tantalising introduction and often startling entries. Every fiction or non-fiction writer should give this wonderful reference book space on their desks, not only to show what lies beneath our present day, so-called ‘civilisations,’ but also as a conduit to what may well lie beyond. To step from their comfort zones and give their work ambition, fresh interest. A need to take the reader on more unusual journeys. I found myself making excited notes on Podomancy, Cramp Rings and the Angel of Death – and already wondering where these different springboards could lead.”

The Dictionary of Magic & Mystery – compiled by Melusine Draco : ISBN 978 1 84694 462 8 : 3333 entries : 370 pages : Available in paperback and e-book format UK£12.99/US$22.95 : Kindle £4.35

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