Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Where Do Ideas Come From?

From where do writers get their ideas?

“From everywhere and anywhere” is often the simplified, stripped-down answer. And for the most part, it’s true. Anything can spark imagination. Everything, in the right combination, can be a source of story. But for me, I’ve found my stories’ origins depend on what part developed first.

Take plot, for an example. If an exciting event or excruciating climax is the crux of my story, a dream is nearly always is the source. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because an instinctive sense of safety underlies the most volatile of dreams. All I know that I, who hates conflict in real life, will usually let a dream run its course, the stranger and more implausible the better. And once awake, I find those implausible and strange twists often have the makings of an interesting story with a little reshaping.

Premises, on the other hand, pop up when I am very much awake and alert, usually when I’m elbow deep in biblical studies or engaged in conversation about complex concepts. What can I say? The incongruent, the paradox, the mind-bender concepts fascinate me—especially when a level of impossibility is involved. And the more “impossible” I’m told a thought is, the more I want to write a story to prove them wrong.

If character comes first, emotion is key. When I am moved deeply, often by a movie, I like to understand why, and creating a character through whom I can explore that emotion is a logical step for me.

These, of course, are not the only places my ideas come from, especially during later stages of brainstorming. Research, personal experience, observations of life, spring-boarding off of other’s ideas—these all contribute. But if you could dig all the way back to the beginning, you’d probably find a dream, a mind-bender paradox, or a deep emotion at the story’s core.

1 comment:

Robin Lindsay said...

Great post. Ideas can spring from anywhere. Interesting that you mention dreams as a source. A couple of my story ideas came fully developed from dreams as well.
Though normally they spring out of reading a history book and wanting to 'experience' that history by writing something fiction inspired by it. Impressions received from movies, other books, even music, all give me ideas too.
Most annoying thing is when ideas come when I'm stuck in the car and nowhere near a keyboard...