“Where do your stories come from?” A couple of people had a problem with this question in a discussion on Facebook today. One woman thought it was the worst discussion question ever. She said that our ideas come from our heads, and that it was the kind of question asked by an interviewer who hasn’t read the book. Another person agreed, saying that he expected the question from someone who knew nothing about fiction; that it had no single answer.
Whenever a guest on this blog talks about how he or she got his ideas, I get a huge response from readers, so I know it is a good topic — and one I never get tired of discussing — so I was surprised by the responses on the Facebook forum. I truly never understood why writers hate to be asked where they get their ideas, where their stories came from, or how their stories got started. I always thought it was a perfectly sensible question, and now that I am a writer (and published) I know that it’s a perfectly sensible question. Sure, ideas come from our heads, but how? And why does one particular idea take hold when others don’t?
Of course there is no one answer to the question — that’s the beauty of it. Your answer tells who you are as a writer. If you can’t answer it, there is a chance you are one of those writers who can sit down and write without thinking — just let the story flow. If you can answer it, you are probably a writer who needs to know the story before you can write. Either way, it does not negate the validity of the question.
For me, a story usually begins with a series of ideas or a combination of events. For example, after reading Albert Zuckerman’s book about how to create the blockbusting novel, I decided I wanted to write such a book. But stories of major ideas and ideals, personal upheavals and changes generally take place during times of great strife, and so I needed an extraordinary setting for my story of women with “a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up, and beams and blares in the dark hour of adversity.” Not wanting to write a war story, I searched about in my mind and finally settled upon an epidemic so severe that the entire state of Colorado had to be quarantined.
There is no way anyone can have learned that simply by reading my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire. The evolution of a story is completely separate from the story itself, and the evolution begins with an idea. And where did my idea come from? I created it from the wild stretches of my imagination, reasearch, and lots of hard work.
So, where do your stories come from?