Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Where do you get your Ideas?

This is "the" writer question. I mean it's not the only one, but almost always writers are asked this question and invariably they either say they don't know and lapse into some kind of quasi-mystical explanation about the magic of the universe and planets aligning or they say "everywhere" which is true, but pretty damn vague.

I haven't yet started networking to attract more readers to this blog, so it's a pretty small reading audience right now, but I'm going to ask "Where do you get your ideas?" And I'll also tell you where I get some of mine:

I think when people ask this question what they really want is a charming anecdote. How did YOU get THAT idea. I'm not sure it's meant to be as general a question as it comes out, but maybe it is. Anyway...I find that ideas come in all sorts of forms. I've had a few ideas come to me in dreams. Practically entire primary plot lines on a few occasions have arrived this way. Add a couple of subplots and voila. (It's not that simple, I have to take out the dancing monkeys of course...unless they add to the plot, but you get my point.)

This past year for nanowrimo (National novel writing month: http://www.nanowrimo.org ) I was going to try to bring back a dying corpse of a novel I wrote which was on the third draft and not getting any fresher. I was feeling pretty apathetic about it because let's face it, some novels are practice novels. Not everything can be fixed. Maybe I should say, not everything can be fixed at this time. There might come a day when I'll be able to fix that one. I like to remain adorably optimistic about it.

Anyway...I'm derailing here...So it was three days before nanowrimo and I was driving down the road and practically an entire plot fell into my head. I saw this beautiful old house I've loved since I was a kid and then this story started playing out in my head. And I had a basic idea. I fleshed the idea out into an outline and formed a mythology to get me through the first draft and away I went. It needs some work, but it's the cleanest rough draft I've written.

Some ideas come to me in pieces, and those can be fun. You get a tiny piece of the puzzle over here, then at another time and place you get a completely unrelated idea and then those two ideas get together and have coffee and decide they'd like to go steady. That's always fun. Today I had two different occurences, one involving a seemingly bland statement on a message board and another involving a cat, and from that two characters came up to me and were like "So yeah, we want to get together for coffee, do you think you could hook us up?"

I tend to write all my ideas out in a notebook, and date them and label them and do insane fussy things with them, because we all have our little quirks. And I like to make a note of how I got the idea because I'm quite sure that at some point when I have a published novel out, someone is going to ask me, "Where do you get your ideas?" And I'll have a charming little anecdote, at least for that story.

So that's me, or at least a couple of recent ones. What about you? Where do you get your ideas?

6 comments:

Liz Kreger said...

Good question, Zoe. I think I get my ideas from everything around me. A comment my daughter makes, an article I saw in the newspaper and/or magazine (when I have time to read them), or something I saw on television.

Seems like a writer gets ideas everywhere. At least I do. They may not be good ideas, but something is cookin' upstairs. LOL.

Zoe Winters said...

:) I think when you're actively writing that the ideas come more freely. The two things that came together today to give me probably my next two main characters for the novel after I finish this one, probably wouldn't have if I hadn't been writing.

I think we train our brain to start thinking a certain way.

Edie said...

Zoe, ditto what Liz said. I've also gotten ideas from songs. Sometimes I don't know where I got them from. When I walk my dog and my mind is in the "open mode", things just come to me. I may not use them, but they come, lol.

It's a good idea to write down where they came from. I just scribble my ideas down and throw them in my idea file.

Zoe Winters said...

hey edie! you found me here. woot! Do you like this format better than the LJ one?

Michelle said...

Zoe, this is so funny because I just finished reading One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson (not as good as Case Histories, but still good). In it, one of the protagonists is a cozy mystery writer, and he waits for people to ask him where he gets his ideas, and keeps up an internal monologue about it. It really amused me. I wrote a blog about this on MM ages ago, and it still applies (The Invisible Thread Theory, if you have time to waste), I get my ideas from songs, other stories, films, documentaries. Sometime just by asking 'what if?', like in my current WIP. I am quite prolific in the ideas department :). I think I have about 15 or more books outlined.

Zoe Winters said...

I've never read that I will have to add it to my reading list. It sounds very funny!