Craft – Ideas into Words, or where do you get these crazy ideas?

Okay, true confession here. I get really weirded out when writers tell me they have a hard time coming up with ideas. I mean, that’s what makes you want to be a writer, right? Because you have all these story ideas in your head busting to come out? (if this isn’t the case with you, you gotta tell me . . . what drives you to write if not the ideas?)

For me, ideas come from everywhere. Sometimes a scrap of song lyric just hits me and I go “whoa. They didn’t mean it that way, but it would be so cool . . . ” Other times, it’s a fairy tale that I’d love to see done differently (LAMENT and BALLAD). Once, it was because I was trying to write a short story for a contest about lycanthropes, even though I didn’t do werewolves, and dreamt about werewolves all the next night (STILL WOLF WATCHING). One of my novels that’s in synopsis stage is from a blank e-mail I got.

The big thing for me is “what if?” I’ll see something and I’ll say “what if x happened?” It’s why I love waiting at airports. All those weird characters walked along and the what if game becomes super fun. “Why is she hurrying? Who is he calling? Look at those shoes, aren’t they strange? Why’s he wearing them? What if . . . ”

And I’m off and running.

13 thoughts on “Craft – Ideas into Words, or where do you get these crazy ideas?

  1. Years ago I used to write poetry and start with a line from a song. I used to read the poems out loud to friends and they’d end up in tears. Emotion is the best lead-in for me to write.

    My life has been full of emotive experiences I use this experience to write. I write narrative non fiction with spirit and I’ve a voice that tells the story, but I’m only able to do this because I can reason, create, play with ideas, and my observation of people.

    Ideas are great, thinking is great–isn’t this our greatest gift? I’m not published so maybe I’m speaking out of place, but I’d have thought ideas were the easy part, and writing professionally, or emotively would be the challenge … thinking out loud.

    I’m learning here. Thanks, Simon.

  2. Lurker here…

    The ideas from stories usually come from a tiny germ of a scene that I watch over and over in my head, and the rest of the story spins out from that. I don’t think of them as “what if” type of nuggets, but that may simply be the difference in the kind of thing I’m writing (mostly romance and fantasy romance). I’m obsessed by characters and what they will do in a given situation. I get a person or relationship in my head first, and the plot grows around that.

    Do your “what ifs” usually begin with events and plot?

  3. Do your “what ifs” usually begin with events and plot?

    Nope — I think they’re probably closer to what you’re thinking of. They start out really small and interpersonal and grow from there.

  4. My ideas…seep into my head, I suppose. I’ve never really focused on *where* they come from, I’m just so grateful that they do! :}

    I think most of my ideas have started as a scene, a feeling, a compelling sense that *here* is a story that must be told. And then the characters start appearing, and conflict blooms, and the story unfolds one layer at a time.

    And sometimes the ideas come as little bursts of light that I try to catch and collect in a jar, like fireflies. One bit at a time as I try to fill my story jar. 🙂

  5. I don’t play the ‘what if’ game so much with writing. I play it with other people. It’s a lot of fun to trade off elaborate stories about the people around you (though you should probably make sure you can’t be overheard by any of them…notthatIknowanythingaboutthat…).

    A lot of first lines pop into my head, and the story follows from there. Usually the first line doesn’t stick around once it’s got the ball rolling, though.

  6. Sometimes I play the ‘what if’ game, but sometimes my ideas come from the most random places. Most of the time I can’t even remember where I got a certain idea, just getting the idea really gets me excited and takes all of my attention. I’m always getting ideas and then I write them down before I forget them so that I can use them later. 🙂 No idea ever starts the same in my head, either. 🙂

  7. All of my ideas FEEL really different to me. Even if they come about in a similar way, it still feels like they were born in an entirely different one.

  8. Exactly! Each one feels so different, even though they’re sometimes similar. It’s weird.

  9. my ideas are sort of like that perfect little snowball that rolls down the hill and gets covered in dirt and sticks and rocks.
    course, the percolation/accretion’s my favorite part of being alive. seriously. everything gets funny and spongey.

    you know, i don’t think i’ve ever sounded so much like a crazy person in such a short time.

    but really, to be fair, i’m going through the percolation thing right now. only it’s lacking story. just characters and characters. i had to sit down and write something immediatly, before they got too many friends. i mean, it’s been less than a week and there’s…seven of them.
    i have a serious issue with number of characters.

  10. Seven is a lucky number though.

    And I like the idea of plot as a giant snowball that’s picked up crap rolling downhill.

Comments are closed.