Writers are often asked where they get their ideas. What is their secret? Well, I tell ya. Lean in real close. A little closer. Ready? There is no secret. No, magical unicorn horn hiding in a desk drawer. No, mathematical equation.
The idea comes from anywhere and nowhere at the same time. Sometimes, it’s a simple event that leads the brain down a path. Other times, it’s just being still long enough for the right and left hemispheres to talk to each other.
Most of my ideas come from a question. It all starts with “What If.” And my best ideas often come from “Wouldn’t it be funny?” (The answer is normally no, not really funny, but a good story.) It’s what you do with these questions, these thoughts, that make the difference.
Right now on my hard drive is a folder titled “Other Projects.” Inside that folder are several word documents. Each one has a single question at the top. As the answer or the story that stems from the question materializes, then I start that story and watch it grow. See, ideas are seeds; you have to nurture them to create stories. Sometimes they are gems and sometimes they are duds. And, I find, the questions you can answer instantly have no life, no depth.
Stephen King’s book, On Writing, discusses this better than anything else that I’ve read. And in my non-expert opinion, I agree with him. (If you are a new writer, I highly suggest that you read his book. Heck, if you are not writing – it’s still a great read. Even if not a fan of his other books.)
The novel that I recently finished stemmed from one of those questions of “Wouldn’t it be funny?” The story actually has nothing to do with the exact question. It was merely the banana peel that I slipped on to fall into the story. But had I dismissed it when the thought occurred, Iron Thirst would not exist.
The newest addition to the “Other Project” folder came from a question that attacked my brain while I was driving. It came out of the sky, and hit me like a lightning bolt. I actually swerved the car. It started with a tiny little question, and by the time I was driving home, I was ironing out backstories for two characters who have begged to see this question answered. Will it produce a story worth reading? Won’t know unless I write it.
When an idea hits you, what do you do with it? Do you save all of them or do you wait for the one that truly inspires? What are your methods when starting a new story?