For the past six weeks since I got out of school, I haven't had much to do. Besides the required check-ups and appointments, I have been reading, playing video games, browsing the internet like a madman, and when I'm not doing any of those things, working on my novel. It's nowhere close to finished, as I'm only about four chapters in. But I'm honestly a little proud since I almost never get that far in written projects, and this one has been brewing for over a year at this point.
I often hear writers and other creative people get asked, "How do you get your ideas?" Since I find the story behind this project amusing, very quirky, and mildly patriotic, I feel like I should share it here, so people can see my mind at work in the most entertaining fashion possible.
The story began in my room, fall of high school senior year. I was sick with my yearly autumnal head cold, and was cordoned off in my room with the iPad, planning on watching some anime. I wanted something light and fluffy, to match the sensation in my head. I noticed some of the seasons of "Hetalia" in my queue. For those who aren't acquainted with the show, "Hetalia," or "Axis Powers Hetalia," is an anime that is very loosely based on World War II. All countries involved(and many others) are depicted as, well, anime pretty boys.
The Axis and Allies. In the front from left to right is Japan, Italy, and Germany; and in the back is England, Russia, America, China, and France. This is a strange show.
I had watched a few episodes between longer anime series while exercising during the summer, but was reluctant to watch it seriously; I could tell that this was one of those media works I would end up obsessing over on a conceptual level, such as Homestuck and MapleStory, which I have also written about. However, I watched the entire third season and part of the fourth that afternoon (to be fair, the episodes were five minutes long).
And of course, I became obsessed. My creative mind was entirely fixated on the very concept of the show. These are countries, but they're also people. What was Vietnam like? What about the Cold War, or America's long relationship with slavery and racism? And so on, ad infinitum. It didn't help that they were so cute. I've had crushes on fictional characters before, but they, come on, just look at them!
This is the freaking United States of America. He is as hyperactive and cocky as you would expect. I think it's the little hair swoop that gets to me.
This is Canada. Everyone thinks he's America or that he doesn't exist. And he's just SO SOFT; look! He even has a pet polar bear!
THIS is the defunct nation of Prussia, which I had barely heard about before this show and now think is as awesome as this character claims to be. He also is often accompanied by a tiny yellow bird.
And this one's Russia. I mean COME ON, it isn't fair. (If you're wondering, that is a cat version of him. There are also mochi/adorable rice ball versions of these characters. Again, this show is weird.)
So, after a month or so of daydreaming about this show, I decided I had had enough and needed to get everything about this show out of my head. Since as an intellectual coping mechanism I take scary things and think about them until they're not scary, I decided to make these beautiful walking paradoxes into disturbing, terrible monsters so my brain would stop being attracted to them.
My first attempt was a fanfiction where a United Nations intern stumbled into the back room where all these lovely fellows met--only to eventually discover they were amoral humanoid abominations who did not respect individual human life in the slightest. Well, except for Canada(...okay, maybe I didn't want to cure myself entirely), who was shunned by the other nations because he wasn't an asshole, and because he "wasn't a real nation" because England created him using the British Constitution(which was some kind of magic source; did I mention in the show England is literally a wizard?) and "Imperia", which I forgot what exactly it was, but tracing the concept to my current usage of it is probably like the essence of national sovereignty or something like that.
That didn't work and never got past the first chapter. Next, I tried to look at things from a more abstract level. So, these attractive people (there are a few girls, not counting the canon genderswap versions) are both humans...and geopolitical entities. How does that work? So, now the "nations" themselves were strange, otherworldly...things that shared a body with a normal human being and fed off of...human governance. That probably made more sense in context. Sometimes, the nation's lust for control and power would overwhelm the human's willpower, causing the nation to leave the human's body and take an abstracted, animalistic form; and that was associated with nations becoming empires.
This idea never really left my head, my mind mulling it over between activities, in the school hallways, and in the morning hours when it was too bright to sleep but not to dream. One of those mornings, as I imagined the conflicts and drama between these characters, I realized---this really had nothing to do with Hetalia except for the characters' names, appearances, and national origins.
Fortunately, spring semester that year, I had a creative writing class. I then decided to strip as much of the fan fiction off of that idea as possible(and honestly, there is still some there) and use it as my creative wellspring for the class. That eventually culminated in a short story that combined that concept with my distaste for paranormal romance, which is forming the basis for the novel I am working on. While the concept and characters I use have shifted, the general concept and idea has stayed the same for almost two years, which is amazing considering the way my mind works.
And in general, that is how I get my story concepts: I see something, whether in media or an odd fact, let it stew in my mind for a period of time, and combine it with personal taste or other ideas I have to create something that seems original enough from the outside. So in the end, I guess I have to thank Hetalia for inspiring my strongest idea to date, even if I made it to push the show away.