I was trying to figure out the whole backstory of my new independent superhero character, and after racking my brain for something new, something original, I came up with a new name that no one's used before. I've been debating whether or not I should tell you the name, but I think I'll hold off for now, since the name is so important to the character's origin and backstory.
Once I had the name, the origin of the character and how he got his powers suddenly came into focus. It's funny how that works. I didn't expect that, but a lot of times as a writer things come to you in ways you don't expect.
I remember that at the end of my conspiracy thriller novel Honor, the hero was shot and bleeding near the end of the novel, the bad guy standing over him with a gun and about to kill the hero. I sat there for three days not sure how he would get out of it. I'd painted myself in a corner, and I was afraid I'd have to go back and re-write that whole scene. I sat and thought those three days, trying to find some way out. And then out of the blue, it hit me. I knew exactly what had happened and how he would escape. I was so surprised by it that I was sure everyone else who read it would be equally surprised.
You never know how ideas will come to you. It's as random as life can be. But I know that the story is there, somewhere. You just have to give it time, keep thinking through it, holding fast to the knowledge that the story is there. Your job is to write it down when it reveals itself. It's one of my favorite, and scariest, parts of writing.
This makes me think of an exercise I did that led to one of my favorite stories (in fact, my first published short story). I wrote a random scene for a science fiction story titled The Rift (now being released in comics form at www.ComicCritique.com). Then I wrote a second scene for the short story which took place four days earlier and seemed to have no relation to the first scene. Then I wrote a third scene which took place four months earlier, and again it seemed to have no relation to the two prior scenes. I stopped then, looked at the three seemingly random scenes and told myself that I had to figure out how these three scenes related and worked together as part of one story. It took me a while to uncover what was going on, but when I did, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I'd had in writing. The story was there. I just needed to discover it.
I guess that's what writing is. Discovery. We uncover truths buried inside us through our characters. Our job is to throw out ideas and conflict, throw characters into the middle of it, and see what they do. I never get tired of finding out how the story goes. I hope you do to. Trust yourself in your writing - the story's in there. You just need to wait for it and write it down when it reveals itself.