Where do ideas come from? :ponders:

4 08 2009

Weather: High: 88° and partly cloudy. Possible Iso. Thunderstorms this afternoon.

So we all get the question now and then… Where do we get our ideas. Well, Neil Gaiman has said his come from his head. Smart man that he is. (I think I’d like my ideas to come from Neil’s head as well. Solves a multitude of plot search issues. 😉

Harlan Ellison has been famously quoted as saying he gets them from an idea factory in Schenectady, NY. (Joking of course. I suspect he gets them from his head as well. Darn smart authors, concocting ideas from the ether and making up stories on their own! [/sarcasm])

Most authors will make up other whimsical answers to this questin, some will scowl, and yet others will answer truthfully. Ideas have no one source. Sometimes we get inspired by a line of conversation. Or an image we stumble across online. (There’s an awesome website called Musecrack that offers up wildly random but fascinating images, solely for the purposes of inspiring creativity. )

I can only really speak for myself and say that I’ve found the initial seed thought for a story in a variety of places.

The current WIP that I’m almost finished writing was initially inspired from the last minute or so of a music video. (“Animal I Have Become” by Three Days Grace.) I just had a “WHAT IF…” moment that the images prompted and suddenly I was writing a scene, and that scene became a major plot point about a third of the way through the manuscript.  Other stories I have on the back burner & outlined have been variously inspired by other “what if” scenarios.

“What if” vampires could only turn people genetically predisposed for turning. (Inspired by an article on Junk DNA)

“What if” there was a book that could end the world if it was opened? That could literally bring about Ragnarok? (Inspired by a conversation with a friend who was Asatru.)

“What if” the Library of Alexandria’s contents were actually being guarded by an ancient group? (Inspired by my constant question of where we’d be if it HADN’T been burned to the ground?)

So there you have three plots that I’ve already started sculpting into storylines. I get more everyday. I write them down and keep them in a separate journal for later perusal.

The question “What If?” is the best springboard for any idea. If you can ask it, then answer it, you pretty much have the seeds of a story. All you need to do is sit down and plant them. And, of course, have enough interest to see if the answer leads to more questions. It rapidly can turn into a diagram which in turn can yield an outline.

Sometimes our ideas are not new. But the whole “what if” Q & A gives you the opportunity to put a fresh spin on an old idea.

For example, the  general consensus is there is a glut of vampire novels on the market right now. And I’ve had many discussions and arguments over whether the “romantic vampire” has destroyed the “classic scary vampire.” That there are no GOOD vampire novels being written right now. (For the record, I don’t believe we have to only have one or the other. Plenty of room in the coffin for both.) But that’s not going to stop me from finishing my vampire novel. I actually have at least three more vampire themed novels on deck, all with completely different world building involved. Are they 100% unique? Probably not. But my CHARACTERS are mine. And the dialogue, plot and settings are mine. That alone can put a new spin on the genre, granted with minimal rotation.

A second thought on the “vampire glut”: I think this drive to create “NEW and UNIQUE” vampires has kind of stripped every recognizable vampire trait from the characters. Stretch the genre too far and you might as well stop using the epithet.

And finally, IMHO a lot of what contributes to the problem is that many of the vampire novels crowding bookshelves are regular fiction novels that have crow-barred a vampire into the plot, and then are marketed as a VAMPIRE novel. Not really a fresh twist on an old idea there, people. You can’t glue a horn on a horse and expect people to buy it as a unicorn.

So coming back to my initial question, where do ideas come from? I guess the simple answer is everywhere. But the second question that should be asked is what will you do with them when they find you?

Now. Time for me to get back to sculpting my story into something with a workable ending. I’m finding lately, I love my characters so much, that finishing the story almost pains me. But the story needs an ending and the characters need a resolution.


Now playing: Seraphim Shock – Prey

via FoxyTunes




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