Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

“Where do you get your ideas?”

Every writer who has ever lived has probably been asked this question. I got it the first time before I was even published. The answers are as numerous as the stars in the sky. Sometimes there’s a temptation to be flip: “From an online catalog,” but most non-writers really don’t know, and they deserve a serious answer. To those who don’t write, creating people and worlds out of nothing is akin to magic.

Even for those of us who do write, the act of creation sometimes feels like magic. Even if we research and organize and outline first, there are details and turns of phrase and whole characters that seem to spring full grown from our heads without any volition on our part.

For me, my process to date has been that an idea comes to me, I munge on it for a while, grow some characters out of it. I think about what they want and why. I let them start trying to get it. Then (with a novel) I get to a place about 60 pages in where I write down a semi-detailed outline. For short stories the outline is in my head.

But where does that first seed of an idea come from?

  • Questions: What if the bad guys are really the good guys? LIGHTBRINGER. What if two lost civilizations wound up in the same alternate world? DANGEROUS TALENTS.  What would a playboy priest take seriously? FORBIDDEN TALENTS
  • Dreams: “With Heart to Hear”
  • Contests: Write a story that mentions Lubbock, TX: “Night Run”
  • A stray image that popped into my head: “Debts”
  • A challenge: How could something horrible be the right thing to do? “Koomb’s Tunic”
  • Catharsis: How do I get something horrible out of my head? “Falling”

There isn’t much of a pattern for me, so when people ask where I get my ideas, my answer isn’t very illuminating. I just say, “Everywhere.”

Where do you get your ideas?

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

  1. For me because I come from a very rich and wonderful Africn heritage I have to say that my ideas come from God. Then,from the former; walking down the streets of Lagos, Nigeria; there is bound to be a degree of inspiration. I write about how I feel and to a large degree I am an autobiographical writer. I love to write about women and I enjoy the delicate art of creating space and form with words. It is more than a gift, It is life itself.

  2. I think “everywhere” is a very accurate description. Writers notice details, pay attention to strange facts, eavesdrop on conversations in stores and coffee shops … politely and unobtrusively, of course :). To write well I believe we are always looking to feed our sense of curiosity and our constant “need to know” things. Maybe our subconscious mind, or our muse, processes information in storyline and plot patterns? Is it automatic or learned? Do we have a leaning towards thinking that way and then develop it or is it always there and as writers, we discovered it?

    I know I have had stories spring directly from listening to a single song. I’ve repeatedly watched the Lord of the Rings movies, despite seeing them plenty of times, solely because my subconscious seems to solve plot problems and push ideas up out of the creative soup while my conscious brain is fully absorbed in someone else’s very intense tale. That particular story, however, seems to put me in the zone to write the specific types of characters and plots I’m working on lately. An archangel romance series I’m writing sprung, almost fully formed, from just a glance at a dark fantasy painting while listening to an industrial dance tune. I went back and bought the artist’s print that day. Without that serendipitous moment, my eShort introduction to that world, GABRIEL’S RELEASE, wouldn’t be coming out later this month.

    I wonder if we take our muse/subconscious mind’s inner workings, our curiosity, and our processes for granted sometimes? We are used to living with it and carrying it around with us. I imagine that others look at the world in a very different way than we do, and their thought processes are probably just as foreign to us as our idea mill is to them.

    • I think we do tend take our gifts for granted. I also think that creativity is more widespread and takes more forms than we often give credit to. Aside from the obvious “arts” there are people who devise new ways to keep children amused, train pets, do crafts, and fix things. These acts are such a part of daily life that we don’t recognize how wonderful this problem solving is. Even animals do it, but it’s still special.

      Congratulations on the immanent release of GABRIEL’S RELEASE. I’m looking forward to it!

  3. Pingback: WITH HEART TO HEAR is Available! | Frankie's Soapbox

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