Writing Wednesday – Where do you get your ideas from?

It’s supposedly the question every author dreads – “Where do you get your ideas from?” And I suppose some authors dread it because it can be hard to explain the process behind brainstorming and writing and rewriting and so on. But guess what? It’s not a question this writer dreads. In fact, I’d be more than happy to explain where my ideas come from.

Where do ideas come from? Everywhere and anywhere, obviously. I get my ideas from magazine articles, TV shows, other writer’s books, day dreams, nightmares, and random words. I’ve got a million ideas flitting through my head at any given time. The problem for me is not where do the ideas come from, but how quickly can I catch them and pin them down? And then what amount of work will I have to do to bring an idea into fruition as a story.

I go through story ideas like nobody’s business. At the start of each month, I have to come up with between 4-6 ideas for the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast, and I have to come up with them fast. I hate working in a void when I write, so each month I pick a theme for the upcoming month’s stories. For October, I always go with some sort of horror theme, which means I just spent the entire month of September writing five horror stories, and each had to be different from the last. To make things easier, I refined my theme idea to “Lustcraft” and worked on homage stories based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I made a list of all the Lovecraft I enjoyed, and when a few Edgar Allen Poe story ideas snuck into the mix, I went ahead and included them too. It seemed fitting to me, since Poe was a source of inspiration for Lovecraft. Once I had a viable list of stories I could play with, I took the originals apart and had fun putting my own spin on everything from the Dunwich Horror to The Tell-Tale Heart.

But that was last month, and this is this month, which means I’m now working on November’s stories. Since Thanksgiving falls within November, I decided to write about gatherings, because Thanksgiving is always when people come together (to eat turkey, if nothing else). Then I pulled out my handy-dandy notebook and came up with a list of all the kinds of gatherings I could think of – weddings, funerals, parties, spring break, migrations, spawning grounds, etc. No idea was too stupid, too vague or too boring to include. At some point, a couple of these ideas spawned more specific images, and I wrote notes about those. Over the course of the last few days, I’ve continued to make my list, play with ideas, and make notes until I’ve come up with a total of 5 story ideas for the month. Now, at this point, I’m ready to move deeper, spending a day developing each individual idea in my notebook and then when I have a slew of notes and lines of dialog and description, I’ll move to the computer and start banging out a story.

I have a week, sometimes less, to write each story. I’ve found that if I do the prep work in my notebook, developing my idea and writing up all those notes, then when it comes time to sit down and actually write, the process is almost painless. I’ve managed to write entire stories in just an hour, if I do that prep work. If I don’t, and the idea is still rather vague, then I may spend all week agonizing at the keyboard until I finally get the story fleshed out and onto the screen. The stories that I’m prepared to write are usually shorter and more concise, ideal for the podcast. The stories that aren’t prepped tend to be longer and harder to write, though I’ve turned out some amazing pieces by starting with only the vaguest of ideas.

I admit, I am much better at coming up with ideas for stories than I am at coming up with ideas for art. I can write a story at the drop of a hat, but I’ve had a lot of times where I’ve sat down with my drawing pad and pencils, looked at that blank page and gone, “Duuuuuuh… what do I draw?” I’ve finally started keeping a little notebook to jot ideas in, using the same process I use for the podcast stories. I’ll be interested in seeing how this works out over the next few months. Who knows, I may turn out more art!

If you’re having trouble coming up with that initial idea, consider starting with something general first (like the monthly theme I use for Heat Flash), and then narrow it down from there. Don’t reject ideas out of hand because they seem stupid or unworkable. Sometimes your brain will combine the stupid with the unworkable and come up with the masterpiece. And maybe get yourself a notebook you can scribble in, something that doesn’t have to be pristine and hold only the best ideas, but can take every single crappy line your brain tosses out. All that crap is fertilizer for story ideas, and you never know what will grow out of it.

And that’s where my ideas come from.

About Cynical Woman

Cartoonist, Artist, Geek, Evil Crafter, Girl Scout Troop Leader and Writer. Also, a zombie. I haven't slept in I don't know how long.
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