“Where Do You Get Your Ideas?” Silly Question, or Not — continued

A couple of days ago, I posted a bloggery about the question that so many writers hate to be asked: where do you get your ideas? I always thought it was a perfectly sensible question, and now that I am a writer, 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?

For me, a story usually begins with a series of ideas or a combination of events, but that initial idea is only the first of many. A novel is composed of thousands of different ideas — each scene, each description, each sentence is an idea separate from the original.

For example, There is a scene in my WIP where the hero kicks over a rock and a volcano is born. I’d like to take credit for being so imaginative, but it really happened. In 1943, in Michoacan State, Mexico, a farmer hit a stone with his plow and uncovered a small hole. Steam came out of the hole, the earth shook, and Parangaricutiro Volcano was born. In two weeks, it grew to two hundred feet high, and flames, rocks, and lava were erupting from it. In my story, it takes only minutes for the volcano to grow, and a day for it to grow to two hundred feet, but is that hardly more fantastic than the truth.

Another example: we have a lot of native roses around here, a flat yellow, or red, or red and yellow rose that smells like oranges. In one scene of my WIP, the hero is so dehydrated that when he smells the orange and goes in search of what he thinks is an orange tree, he is devastated to discover rose bushes.

Where do you find all the ideas that you need to complete your book? Do they all come from your head or do you buy them on Ebay (a joke, and one that I borrowed from someone else.). Do you integrate your real life experiences? Do you go searching for ideas, or do they come searching for you?

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9 Responses to ““Where Do You Get Your Ideas?” Silly Question, or Not — continued”

  1. PJ Says:

    I’m an avid reader and only an amateur writer, but I get my ideas from the many books I’ve read. I try to make it my own by combining the elements that I would have added to the story and real life events that I observe or hear about. To me the stories come alive. It’s like watching the movie inside my head and I have to put it on paper. Often even I am surprised at the way the story turns out. Of course I have some idea of where the plot is going when I start, but the specifics come later.

  2. knightofswords Says:

    Dreams and intuition start things out.

    But later one thing needs to another. Diana Gabaldon explained the process best on a forum some years ago that happens to me the same way. We go on line to research fact ABC. While reading about ABC, we inadvertently come across fact XYZ, something we’ve either never heard of or never considered. XYZ then turns out to be something very important: it spins the plot off in another direction or maybe supports something we already are doing.

    Amazing synchronicity. It goes hand in hand with seeing things multiple times after somebody brings them up. Then they appear everywhere.


  3. Sheila Deeth Says:

    My Gran used to say “Someone’s walking over my grave,” when she got a weird feeling. I think I get my ideas from weird feelings, so maybe she’s walking over mine.

  4. Pat Bertram Says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds this an endlessly fascinating topic. The obvious answer: “Duh, ideas come from my head,” turns out not to be quite so “duh” after all. The synchronous and serendipitous ideas that fall into our minds while researching and writing have been called “gifts from the library gods” though I can’t remember who said it.

    Sheila, what an image! But why not?

  5. Dr Robert E McGinnis Says:

    Writing truly is a gift from the next world. We delve into our own subconscious and pull out a book. For some of us, it takes years and for others, like myself, I dream a new book every night. Last night I found myself on a strange planet where people eat only vegetation as there are no animals of any kind. The first person I met was a very thin, hungry, scared young lady who was about to get the beating of her life. I will let you guess the rest of the story, but it was a humdinger.

    Pat, thanks for inviting me to become your friend, I am sure it will be a lot of fun. Life has so many twists and turns and none of us knows what is coming next.

  6. Suzanne Francis Says:

    I use my personal experiences in very oblique ways. Most of the settings I use come from the places I visit on a weekly basis. Living in New Zealand means I have a wealth of amazing vistas stored up in my head. More ideas happen when I start writing. It’s like turning on a tap, from a trickle to a flow. But my dreams are too weird to use, even in my fantasy books.

  7. Marian Youngblood Says:

    nodding my head as I read your posts & some replies: and I have empathy with what S.King calls his ‘Muse Guy’; but I was shocked the other evening to learn that my subconscious had been in there meddling, giving me material I hadn’t consciously filtered: when I re-viewed (a favorite) ‘Independence Day’ a rather classy action movie, imho, the subtitles told me Jeff Goldblum’s name was Levinson, which I had attributed to my Wash.D.C. genius-with-humor, George in my (imminent, positive affirmation) novel ‘Shasta’. I had absolutely no idea I had cribbed it!
    Love your topics, Pat; how you get the time………. 🙂

  8. Jennifer Cookson Says:

    Which used to tell people that he bought his ideas from an antique shop?

    I am always amazed at how different people can get a variety of ideas from the same event. I am a dancer and dance teacher, and thrive on the diversity of interpretations my students derive from the same subject.

    Interesting blog.

    Jenny C.

  9. burlesque performer Says:

    writing true is a gift from above!

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