Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Second to the question, “Where do you get the time to write?” is the question, “Where do you get your ideas?”

I’m not going to lie; I am one of these people who can’t seem to get away from my ideas. I get a host of ideas from off the wall places. Fragments of remembered dreams, snatches of conversation I overhear while I’m out… nothing is sacred. Sometimes I’ll think about a subject and a light switches on and I think, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…”

Chances are that you have a lot of ideas, as well. Then, you either discard them as not interesting, or too convoluted, or too close to something else. That happens to me a lot as well. I’m constantly rejecting ideas as boring, or not enough to stretch out over the length of a book. Part of the process of writing is selecting your idea. Just any idea isn’t going to be enough.

I also have some secret weapons in my arsenal. They’re my sounding boards. One of which was a friend of mine from early college years. He was incredible at generating ideas. This translated into plots for live action role-playing games. We collaborated seamlessly, just having the natural chemistry of two compatible minds. One day while visiting, I asked him for an idea for a story. As natural as breathing he sketched out the bones of a story that he had dreamed up, but wasn’t going to write. It was brilliant, and I loved it.

It was also the hardest short story I’ve written in quite a while.

My other sounding board is my husband. He is the kind of person who cascades, whose mind grabs a direction and goes full force. He’s a godsend when I’m stuck. He will line out five, six, twelve different possibilities based on the information that I’ve given him. He would be an excellent author and write amazing books if he could find the motivation. Fortunately he hasn't, and this leaves me with an excellent solution generation system.

Strange as it may sound, writing prompts are another great way to get ideas going. Recently an anthology put out the call for stories starting with the phrase, “No shit, there I was.” This prompt yielded me two stories. I had to start the second when the first looked like it would become a novel! Two stories from one prompt, what a savings.

One thing that I recommend is to keep a notebook or a computer file reserved for when the good ideas hit. It becomes your own somewhere that you can go to when the brain is thin on ideas. Writers tend to save up ideas like magpies collect shiny objects. You never know when a cast off idea becomes the next great novel.