Friday, May 18, 2007

Where do I get my ideas?

I build them.

I can't say how tempting it is to end there, but I won't.

This is one of those perennial questions that all writers get and it's surprisingly hard to answer in a way that satisfies both the person who asked and yourself. But here goes.

The intial fragment of an idea for one of my stories or novels could come from anywhere, old research, a dream, a conversation at a con, two apparently unrelated words clicking together in my head. But that's not a story, that's a starting point. The real work happens when I take that moment, whatever it is, and start sticking bits onto it and asking, "well yes, but then what happens?" Or, "all right, that's cool, what else can I throw into the stew?"

Goblin + laptop isn't a story, but it popped up in my head as interesting combination of concepts. Make it a laptop that becomes a goblin and is the familiar of a sorcerer and you start to get there. Add that the sorcerer is a hacker who uses code to cast spells and combine it with a parallel worlds story where the worlds are accessed as you would webpages using the medium of the goblin/laptop and you have the seed of the WebMage books.

Where do you get your ideas? The idea of the month club? Burbank? Dreams and portents?

4 comments:

Sean M. Murphy said...

This morning I heard the word "Stardust" in a song, and began thinking about a world in which someone was killing off Hollywood's finest and cremating them to sprinkle their ashes as a form of dark magic. It's a seed. Some germinate and grow, but you have to tend them and give them food, water, and TLC. If you're lucky, they';ll grow up to be Audrey 2.

Douglas Hulick said...

I'm coming to realize I get my ideas from other ideas. I'm a "what iffer": what if this had happened instead of that? What if this kind of character was in this situation? What if I tired to write this story in that voice/style? What if I took a fragment of this person's concept/story/premise and warped and tweaked it beyond all recognition?

Chance words or randomly connected images/concepts have never done it for me. I seem to need to approach it right away as a puzzle, with several pieces in hand. Often these pieces take the form of a character concept, the image of a scene, a snatch of dialogue I want to write, even a desire to play with a specific concept or story type.

Naturally, there are exceptions to this method for me, but they are just that - exceptions. I gotta have bits and pieces to play with to make something.

I blame LEGOs.

Erik Buchanan said...

You can get ideas in Burbank?

I get flashes; an idea, a theme, a scene. Some of them I write down, some I let simmer. Eventually, if I think about them enough and put together the pieces they become a story.

The best ones are when the concept seems to appear full cloth, then all I have to do is fill in the details.

Anonymous said...

I get a few tidbits here and there that don't seem connected, usually 'aha' moments while reading non-fiction or getting irritated at fiction or movies - character, plot piece, setting.

Then I wake up one morning with a full page or two brewing in my head word for word - I go over it and rework it in my head, then have to write it down or lose it.

I spend a long time picking up more little tidbits that I can tell fit with that piece but not how. I play with them, trying to figure out how they go together and what the story form is, writing lots of false starts of 2-5 pages, reading random things that seem similar in terms of the themes or emotions. I'll get really frustrated and be about to give up on it, and then have a vivid dream or series of dreams about how all the tidbits are connected in some unexpected way, be able to write down the overall plot and themes, and rewrite from scratch.

-CJD