For the next couple weeks, I’m giving serious answers to the questions in my humorous post The Top 10 Things People Say to Writers, and How You Should Respond. So when you’re tired of being snarky this will help you give some constructive–and helpful–answers to your non-writer friends and family.
On to number six!
6. Where do you get your ideas from?
This is such an impossible question for me to answer, especially if it comes from someone who doesn’t write. People who don’t write probably think ideas manifest fully formed, in their entirety, and are sparked by one thing–but nothing could be further from the truth. When I write, I’m mostly making stuff up as I go along. When I get an ‘idea’ for a book it’s really just a nebulous notion of something I kind of want to shoot for–but I might end up completely off target. Also, books are a series of ideas, that come from all sorts of places, and it’s hard to identify just where sometimes. Explaining where the seed of story came from might be easier, but again, it’s not always one place.
For me, I also find ideas in the storytelling itself. It’s how my brain works. If you don’t write, it’s difficult to explain how the act of writing is actually an act of creation that unfolds hand over hand, and I’ve been doing it for so long that’s how my thought patterns work now. It takes practice, and it takes time.
My funny reply on the list: I could tell you that, but then I’d have to kill you. Hmm, there’s an idea for a story…
A more constructive answer: Ideas come from a lot of places, and there’s a lot of ideas that go into one story. Some come from things I’ve seen and experienced. Some come from dreams, or fantasies, or other stories. Some come out of absolutely nowhere. But they don’t all come at once, and I’ve never been able to see an entire story from the beginning. That’s the great thing about writing. It surprises even the writer, all the time. Ask me where I got a specific idea, and I might be able to tell you.
What about you? How do you answer this oft-asked question?