Thursday, May 5, 2011

Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?

A lot of authors hate this question.

I don't. I kind of love it. Well, maybe not THAT specific question, but I love when fans ask where an idea for a certain book came from.

Listen, I can't write without an idea of what I'm going to write about. It's really hard for me to sit and type descriptive paragraphs until I figure out what a scene is going to be about. I need to know where I'm going so I can figure out how to get there.

Which is why ideas are so important to me.

Now my ideas don't come from one place, and they usually don't come in one tightly wrapped package. They come from several places.

The idea for THE EVIL THAT MEN DO came from my mother's stories about visiting my grandmother--who had Alzheimer's. It also grew out of listening to some of the kids at my school talk. And viewing GODFATHER II.

WHEN ONE MAN DIES came from picking and choosing bits from some of my short stories. And an incident that happened to me in a bar once. But all of those ideas get smoothed into one neat tagline, eventually.

The thought process is so interesting to me, however. I love looking back and figuring out where a story came form. Why was this story so important to me? A lot of times, it takes so long to write a book, that an idea that was important when I started the book became unimportant by the end of it.

But I love dissecting that. Much more that I like writing perfect grammar (sorry, couldn't resist). :-)

So what about you, authors? Do you like the idea question? Readers, do you like knowing where ideas come from? Or does it take some of the suspense away?


Sean Patrick Reardon said...

I love knowing the idea(s) of how a short story or novel came to be. I think it really adds to a short collection when an authors gives a brief explanation of how the story came about. Stephen King does this and I love it, but I don't read it until after I finish the story, to avoid any potential spoilers.

John McFetridge said...

I like the line from Francis Ford Coppola who said that the idea is the question and then you make the movie to try and find the answer. He added the punchline, "You try and tell the money guys that," but that's another reason books are great, you have a question you can just write the book to find the answer. Or not find it.

That's where everything starts for me, with questions: why would someone do that? How did they get to that point? How will that turn out?