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Friday, October 16, 2009

Inspiration - new ideas

I recently completed an author interview for my short story, The Temptress, that is coming out next week and one of the questions was about where I get my ideas from. I think that this must be a common question that most writer's are asked because it keeps coming up in my conversations so I thought I would write a post about my methods of finding ideas.

The whole concept of new ideas and finding ideas is very interesting to me. I remember as a teenager never having a problem coming up with new ideas...probably because I wasn't bound by any rules or laws that would stop me from dreaming and creating...as a teen I had endless ideas, and the more bizarre the better as far as I was concerned...who cares if it didn't make sense or wasn't logical or possible...if it worked for my story (which were almost always about witches or vampires) then I wrote it.

Once in university reality seemed to step in...the world became too real and the ideas stopped flowing. I just couldn't come up with a plot to save my life...it was true writer's block to the extreme but at the time I didn't care. I had been denied entry into the Creative Writing program at my university...they didn't take genre writers...and I was neck deep in literary essay assignments...plus, I had convinced myself that I probably wasn't very good anyway...so I simply stopped writing. FOR FIVE YEARS!

But the nagging feeling never went away...you know, that feeling that you get when you leave your writing for too long...for me it's like someone is constantly poking me in the arm, reminding me to get back to work. Essay writing seemed to dull the constant poke for a time but eventually I knew that I needed to get back to writing fiction...it had been too long. I was terrified to start because I simply did not have the ideas anymore...I didn't know what to write about.

After I graduated and moved on to the real world, the ideas started flowing again and the stress of searching out the story, the plot, vanished. I can pick up ideas from where ever...sometimes it's a conversation I overhear, sometimes it's something on the news or a fantasy or scene that pops into my head that just won't leave. Sometimes it's a what if question that presents itself...like in The Temptress...what if a boring lecture could be transformed into a sexy story about a college boy who falls in lust with his professor...who happens to be a vampire?

You know, things like that.

So when I start a new project it's usually as a scene...I write out the scene as I see it and then build the story around it. For example, the short story I'm working on now started as a scene with a vampire hunter who finds herself coming out of unconsciousness to be asked by a vampire if she can fight...he gives her her sword to do so...

So I wrote and wrote and wrote and then realized that I really didn't have a plot for this story...I wasn't sure what would happen to my heroine and my hero. I let my mind stew over it for a few days (which is what I used to do while in university when I needed a thesis for an essay...I would let my mind stew for a while) and suddenly it just appeared for me...a whole plot popped into my head while I was eating dinner...and why? Well, because I asked myself...why does he have to be older than her? Why can't the hero be younger, less experienced...in need of help? And there it began.

So in other words, I work a little strangely. I realize that it is not a reliable method of writing and I probably should be a little stressed about it, there could come a day when the ideas stop flowing again. But it seems, when I comes to writing, eventually my brain figures it out for me...because I truly believe that our brains never stop thinking about a problem, even in our sleep, our brains keep rolling it around and around until a solution presents itself. So when I have a writing roadblock, I remind myself of it everyday. I keep it in my focus, on my mind...I think to myself throughout the day...how am I going to do that? and then suddenly my brain works it out. It is very mysterious and wonderful and I hope that never stops.

What about you? Do you have a method for plotting your ideas? Do you have an idea bank that you pull from...or are you more like me and work on the fly?


  1. I think that there's idea's out there everywhere and its just a case of finding a way to tap into them. Is there?

    Well yes, perhaps I should say that the idea's are out there for people with the perception to see them. After all anything that gets you to think and ask questions has potential plot idea's behind it. It could be a line in a song lyric, it could be an article you've watched in the news. Its just a case of finding a way to access it into the brain and then see where you want to take it.

    Like you Angela, I've had an idea kicking around for a couple of years at the moment but I keep finding problems so it goes onto a back burner, yet a while later, back it pops with a suggestion that will fix that problem. I think with most people its a case of not just finding the time (although thats an excuse as you can find time to do bits every so often.) But I think with most people its more a case of its a skill that they want instantly, they don't want to spend time slogging over the words.

    Anyway back on track. Idea's can be found anywhere, its just a case of conditioning the brain into picking things up which can then make there way into the plots that you create. What may be useless at the moment may be of use later on so find a way to log those idea's and when you get time look through the place where they are and see what grabs you. If you keep putting idea's in you'll get a ton of them out and the more you exercise as well as condition the mind, the better you'll get and soon be wondering how you'll ever find the time to get them all explored.

  2. I'm an 'on the fly' kind of writer.

    The ideas come from nowhere and I never seem to run dry on them. I write the high level concept down for fleshing out later.

    I tend to pull an idea from the pile based on what excites me about a project.

  3. Most of my ideas come from a single scene that just pops into my head, usually when I'm free associating, like in the shower or just before I fall asleep. And I build from there. Or sometimes I'll see something that just triggers a story idea. Like I once wrote a short story about aliens watching Earth, because I saw a weird plant growth on the canyon wall while sitting in traffic.


  4. Sometiems, I just have a concept and I jot it down so I don't forget it. More often, I "see" the short story complete with characters, setting and what happens to the characters.

  5. I did a short post on inspiration recently too(with a longer one coming probably next year).

    My inspiration comes from a variety of sources. Avalon's Return came from a what if scenario that popped into my head. Pretty Souls came (oddly) from the hubs and me joking about how a tagline from a TV show was the same as the tagline for a book series I read (Elite Hands of Justice - "Saving the world so you don't have to" - if anyone is interested). Later books in the series were inspired by songs that brought scenes to mind. This year's NaNo was inspired by a piece of artwork. Stories in the trunk have been inspired by events that have happened to me (child-birth complications and PPD), things my kids have said, my kids obsessions, things someone said at conventions...

    The list of things that inspire me is endless. I am really good at the inspiration part. I'm still working on the perspiration thing (darn 99% :P)