This is my professional opinion: story is more than just a plot.
What if I told you that the secret to a good story is finding the topic that intrigues you, personally?
It is no secret that I enjoy researching subjects that interest me, be it the humanities, history, or even mythology, every story that I create has a starting point, a spark of ‘what if’ interest.
Here is where I find a minute interest, can form a question, and then dive more into that topic.
When I wrote A Dragon’s Destiny, my first fantasy novel after transitioning from the darker crime fiction, I wanted to dive into what I knew from my good ole days of theology—no not liturgy, but the church history behind much of what shaped western society.
With this being fantasy, I knew that I had to take a look into how magic was perceived. Yet, even more, I wanted to make more of a critical view. Many books propagate the stories of the new religion and how it paved its way through Europe and then the world, but not much is shared about the pagans or followers of the more traditional religions. I chose Norse mythology due to my interest in this subject.
History is filled with –isms (racism, sexism, classism, to name a few), and many novels dive into those topics. For me, I wanted to deal with that of misplaced fear and prejudice, prejudice based on that of magic (magic-users versus those who regarded it as evil).
Having found a premise, and a subject of interest, I then dove in like I was rewriting my thesis work. Much of what I uncovered never ended up in the series. It helped me to world-build. It helped me to shape the secondary characters along the way.
Much of my world creation is based on history, mythology, and mixed with my colorful imagination, whereby I can touch on topics, and maybe leave a breadcrumb or two to lead you, the reader, to ask more questions about history, humanities, and mythology, too.
For me, before I can truly begin to create, I have to ask my story questions, figure out my why of the story: why is this story important? Why does it need to be shared? Why are these characters perfect for this plot? Why does this topic speak to me, and what is it trying to get me to deal with on a personal level?
When I can answer these questions, even on a subconscious level, I know that I can then begin the process of meeting and interviewing my characters, crafting them, and listening as they reveal themselves to me.
Yes, for me, a story is so much more than a plot. It all starts with the research.