Imagination and the creative process are really quite interesting and mysterious, at least with respect to my writing. When I write, I typically start with an image or a series of images. This is very like the process C.S. Lewis describes that led to the writing of The Chronicles of Narnia.
For Bethany’s Tale, very early on I had an image of one of the scenes near the end of the story. So all I had to do was figure out what happened up to that point – easy right? Even there, though, as I worked through the story, various characters occasionally showed up in the story, uninvited. One of them was Mutari. It turns out, he is particularly important in the third book in the Emradon series, Kateri’s Tale. I’m not sure why he showed up in Bethany’s Tale, but so it goes.
What I often do when writing is sit back and think about what will (or what I think should) happen next. Sometimes it goes along the lines I expect, but other times, the characters seem to decide to go off on their own. Inspiration, in these cases, really does seem to come from outside. This is why the ancient Greeks believed that the Muses (goddesses and daughters of Zeus) inspired them in the arts and sciences.
Possibly the most interesting part of this is, when I am imagining what comes next, there may be one or more possibilities, but they typically sort themselves out until one just seems right. I occasionally go down a wrong path and have to back up, but that happens less often than you might expect.
Imagination – mysterious, but fun.