I think diary entries and letters are great ways to tell a scary story. They are the found footage of literature. There is something terrifying in them because of their closeness to reality, their intimacy to the person who wrote them. The possibility that the events happened transpires a timeless terror: a revelation of a terrible secret, something hidden in our world. What is horror fiction about if not this?
I also love re-imagining an already horrible situation in a fantasy or horror setting. The 1665 plague and the 1666 fire in London were horrors of their own. Perfect bedding for some additional supernatural dread.
The story was ignited by a simple word: pyromancer. I have read it in the Song of Ice and Fire books by George R. R. Martin. The word sounded poetic, and I wanted to write a story about a pyromancer (which was different from the original usage), but I didn’t know how, so I shelved the idea for later.
One of the most asked questions from writers is how we get our ideas. It’s difficult to answer because the process differs every time, at least for me. Sometimes, I need to brainstorm and flesh out several scenarios until I pick one; sometimes, I combine two separate ideas; and sometimes, something just clicks when I’m doing unrelated things. With Pyromancer, I guess, the seed of it was the word itself, and then the combination of the above three methods.
Later that year, my wife and I went to see a very exciting, immersive exhibition of the 1666 fire of London. We don’t know to this day how it all started on that ominous night, only that it started at a bakery belonging to Thomas Farriner in Pudding Lane. His house was ablaze by early morning, and the fire was spreading in the city. This explanation is very vague, with a lot of potential to be expanded upon. The brainstorming began.
What if something or someone supernatural started the fire? What if a pyromancer started it? Someone who was infected with a disease of fire itself, spread by rats which also spread the plague, giving him supernatural abilities and a desire to burn the world down? And what if there was a record of this written into a diary, hiding somewhere for centuries?