I just read a beautiful piece of flash fantasy tonight — the kind that makes you jealous and wish you had come up with it — and it confirmed something I’ve been thinking lately: good concepts for contemporary fantasy can be generated by literalizing metaphors.
This was what I did in “State Change” (your soul/spirit is literally an object). And it was also the idea in The Golden Compass (your soul/spirit is literally an animal). It seems that whenever you treat a metaphor as real, there’s the potential for an evocative, moving exploration of the metaphor as fantasy.
This is no doubt old news for many fantasy readers and writers, but it’s still exciting to discover tricks like this on your own.