On the Inheritance series (Eragon)

Q: How Does a Fifteen-Year-Old Do This?

By Carol Plum-Ucci

When novelists have the opportunity to meet their readers, the most popular question they’re asked is, “How do you come up with your story ideas?” Readers’ eyes loom, full of wonder. Some anticipate a blow-by-blow description of a process, similar to what they might hear from a bridge builder. Others would love to hear what borders on magical: “I was sitting at my terminal and suddenly became overwhelmed by the sounds of mighty, rushing water! The hero, the setting, this powerful plot drove me into another world, and I rarely came back out of until the final page was written!”

The real answer inevitably seems tame, like perhaps something is missing. Christopher Paolini has taken some stabs at answering, such as this one he posted for Teenreads.com: “It took me a month to hammer out the main details of what was now the Inheritance trilogy. Then I sat down, put my tremulous pen to paper, and finally started book one: Eragon. I worked sporadically at first, but as I became more and more engaged with my project, I spent as much time as I could writing.”

The answer interests us–but perhaps because it came from Paolini himself. If he’s like a thousand other authors out there, he finds that the questioners say, “Oh!” politely, but often continue to stare.

Lots of authors take Paolini’s stance, trying to answer the question with as much sanity as they can impose on the process of novel writing. However, we’re aware that when our answers resemble the  …

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