Monday, May 31, 2010

Purchasing for My Muse

When Borders sends me a 40% off coupon, I find it nearly impossible to resist. Forty percent off is nearly as good as used-book prices, and I can get something brand new. Thus, when Cody and I headed for Borders today with our 40% off coupons in hand, I expected to pick up a new fiction novel. Maybe Lora Leigh's new Lion's Heat or Jim Butcher's third Dresden novel, Grave Peril, or maybe Warriors edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois with short stories by Diana Gabaldon and Carrie Vaughn.

However, before I'd made it through the door, I found my book on the bargain bookcases in front of the store. The book's official title is The Collected What If? Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been, but it was the large "What If" on the cover that drew me in.

Writing stories, at its core, is following a path of what if. I ask myself the "what if" question a dozen times a day when daydreaming about stories. If this book had some "what if" answers, I wanted to know.

I flipped through the table of contents, and was further intrigued. The book doesn't have answers, but it does have essays written by historians hypothesizing about the changes of history if certain key events hadn't happened the way they did. What if America hadn't won the Revolutionary War? What if the Chinese discovered the new world? What if Socrates had died in battle?

The essay title that swayed me from "this is interesting, I'll keep it in mind," to "sold," was "No Glory That Was Greece—The Persians Win at Salamis, 480 B.C." It was, granted, a decision that had more to do with the fact that yesterday we saw Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and I'd decided that I wanted to know more about the Persian empire and less to do with my specific interest in that particular article. It seemed like a sign to my muse, which had been intrigued by the Hollywood-enhanced Persian culture of ancient history.

I have great hopes for this what if book. I hope that it will spark story ideas and get the creative juices going when I'm plot building. I hope that this will inspire new characters. And maybe, just maybe, it'll inspire me to finally become more interested in research, which would enable me to write the period-piece fantasies that stir in the recesses of my mind.

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