“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?