During the second semester finals week in my freshman year of high school, I started a story in a thick yellow legal pad. It had no title, but it was about the life of a young boy who goes to live with distant relatives after his older brother murders his parents. He grows up, meets a girl, Fiona MacInnes, whom he falls in love with, and her epileptic little brother, Seoc. It was basically a more realistic version of a previous story--or rather back story--but changing the species of the characters from otters to humans. I hadn't really written about mankind before.
I developed the story through several incarnations. This was accomplished by writing until my plot hit a dead end, then starting over again. On the second draft, I changed the name of my main character from Bradley Elon to Henry Thomas Edmund, permanently separating the storyline from the one involving militaristic otters. The brother, Simon, kept his first name, but in this version, he didn't jump out of the third-floor window after committing matri-patricide, and thus survived to appear later in the story. Still, the story remained essentially the same and quite plotless.
On the fourth draft, I thought I would give Simon a friend.
He was originally from the United States, a bipolar, bisexual runaway with a Catholic father and a Jewish mother. Tall, handsome and intelligent, I thought him up as a bit of decoration, never intending Seymour de Winter to be a major character.
One draft later, after studying the maps of J.R.R Tolkien, I drew my own map and abruptly transferred everyone out of the real world (a place where I had to do, horror of horrors, research) to a world that I knew better: the one I could make up as I went along. It still had planes, trains and automobiles, however. That did not change until much later.
During the course of the same draft, I strung together some random letters to form the word Aechyed (A-kyid) and decided that Seymour ought to be one of those. Aechyeds, for this one draft alone, were nearly-extinct mountain-dwelling creatures that looked nearly identical to humans. Also for this one draft alone, Seymour did not realize he was not human.
By the next draft, Aechyeds were merrows and Seymour had webbed digits and pointed ears. He became green-skinned shortly thereafter.
On a whim, I disposed of planes, trains and automobiles, dressed my characters in tunics and cloaks, and decided to shift the role of protagonist from Henry to Seymour. A few drafts later, Seymour de Winter became a detective.
The rest is history.