Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ideas. Where do they come from?

A while back I had a reader ask via Goodreads where I get my ideas.  Well, it's a funny thing.  Part of me wants to give the old speech about 'the stork brings them' or 'they come from under cabbage leaves'... Oh wait, that's babies. 

I really don't have an answer for where ideas come from.  Not mine anyway.

Sometimes, I'll see something on the news and it'll spark an idea.  I have pages and pages of those in a file on my hard drive.

Sometimes, I'll see something on a fictional program or in a movie, and riff off that.  My first book was sparked by the movies Armageddon and Deep Impact.  I didn't like seeing Bruce Willis die and I sure as hell didn't like seeing the eastern seaboard destroyed.  So, I fixed it.  My second book came from something I saw about The Year Without a Summer (the year the supervolcano wiped out Tambora and threw so much ash into the atmosphere, they really didn't have a summer in places that ought to.)

A few times I asked myself a question and the story idea comes out of the answer.  For instance, Wish in One Hand is the result of my asking myself what kind of urban fantasy I could write that would be different from what's already out there.  Genies!  Of course, by the time I actually finished the book, Sonya Bateman was out there with her genie books.  And now there are others.  But I still think mine's pretty different. 

Then I asked myself what I could do with the genies to make the story more.  Genies are, by their nature, slaves.  What if my heroine is a freed genie who helps other genies get free, too?  And then I upped the stakes.  "What if there are people who don't like her running around freeing other genies?" "What if something is killing genies to prove a point?" 

I guess there's the real answer to the question - where do my ideas come from?  They come from 'What if?'  My brain is always running through possibilities and scenarios of how things could be different with a simple twist here and a zig there.  LOL, probably why I have a tough time sleeping.  My brain needs to shut the hell up long enough for rest.  But as they say, there's no rest for the wicked. 

I hope that helps answer the eternal question - at least about me.  Not sure what other authors would give as their source of ideas.  What do you think?


  1. Yup. "What if?" pretty much always plays a part. In my case, I'll hear a song. Read a book. Catch a news report or TV show. Overhear a conversation. Iffy, my Muse, (aka my imagination) grabs on and starts running amok. Sometimes I get a story. Sometimes I get fragments and belly laughs. But I ALWAYS end up with more ideas than I can write.

  2. I think there is an idea fairy. She transports ideas from the great factory in idealand, and pops them into your brain at odd moments. Then she or a deputy watches to see what you do. Good is writing it down and working it into the current project. Acceptable is writing it down, then running to catch the bus. Just barely acceptable is writing it down with enough detail so you'll remember later. Anything less is a failing grade, and the idea fairy makes fewer trips to your brain.

  3. Dreams, news, overheard conversations... I agree with Silver; there are always more ideas than time to use them.

    I adore Keith's idea fairy. The best ideas are the ones I can work into my current project!

  4. I like the "what if" and the "idea fairy" as concepts but I think it's what you do with them that makes you a writer. You creative types can actually process that "what if" and make something of it. Like you with the genie world, J D Robb's future world in the In Death series and Lynn Viehl's Toriana series. It's the mind that moves on from what if to books like those that's so tremendous.