Tuesday, January 22, 2013

So, Where DO You Get Your Ideas From?

Writers hate this question, and I'm not really sure why.

It's a hard question, and that probably has something to do with it.  It asks a writer to go deep into his or her thought process and try to trace the seeds of a story--No wait.  That's not right.  Because, the problem with the question is, it's not specific.

If you really think about it, writers have no problem talking about where they got an idea for a specific novel.  Look at Patti Abbott's blog posts "How I Came to Write this Novel/Story," that's generally the same damn thing. 

But still, where did you get the idea for this novel, is a deep question.  It's what we in the education business call a "higher level thinking" question.  Because the idea for a novel can't be traced to one place.  It comes from several places, personal experience, education, watching the news, and observing your surroundings....

But, an aspiring writer might want to know this stuff.  And I think it's something we should talk about more openly.  At least after your novel/story is published, so as not to spoil things.  I think writers can learn from each other, and fans can be enlightened by this conversation.  It teaches us process, it teaches us a different way to look at our own writing.

Writers, I implore you, when this question comes up, talk about it.  Don't shy away from it.  I think it can lead to interesting conversations.

So... um... where do you get your ideas from?  Or at least your latest idea?


sandra seamans said...

I think most writers hate this question because for them there are so many ideas swirling around in their heads that they don't understand why a new writer would ask such a silly question.

I believe what most people, when they ask this question, really want to know is how to find an idea that will make them successful. And for that, there really is no answer. Nobody knows what's going to hit it big. We just put our heads down and write hoping for the best.

For my part, I post what I call story cupboard pieces on my blog where I toss out ideas that might work for a story.

Dana King said...

I agree with Sandra. We're tripping over ideas all day. Just pay attention. Take everyday occurrences and try putting ulterior motives or different consequences to them. Read the paper. (Internet, wherever you get your news.)

The hard part is finding a good idea that matches up with how you write. Three writers can come up with an identical idea, and write three completely different books from it, two of which may well stink because what the story needs didn't mesh well with how that writer tells stories.

I threw away 2/3 of a novel last year because I finally realized the premise didn't match the protagonist I'd chosen. Now I'm working on what is basically the same idea, but in a different universe, and it's going much better,

Al Tucher said...

I don't like the question because I don't know the answer. My Diana Andrews series started as a mental picture of a man and a woman standing by a car parked on the shoulder of a deserted highway. Thirteen years, forty short stories and six (unpublished) novels later, I still don't know where it came from.

Graham Powell said...

It's a difficult question. Sometimes the germ of an idea gets worked over so much that it's unrecognizable in its final form. Ideas (mine, anyway) need a lot of work, and as part of this process I usually have to go back and revise the premise. Sometimes nothing of the original idea is left.