“Where do you get your ideas?”
A question all too familiar to most writers, whether they are seasoned professional with a hard track record of novels multi-pubbed in many foreign languages or the aspiring writer who has just — mistakenly– shared their aspiration to a career of full-time writing.
This is a common question for two very good reasons; 1) people are genuinely interested in how your process works or, 2) the can’t think of anything else intelligent to say to someone who makes their living as a writer. After all, full-time author isn’t a real job, is it?
Happily or sadly, dependent on which side of the argument you fall, people do make a living at nothing but the writing.
So back to the question, where do the good ideas come from?
They are all around us. The good ideas are in the people we know and those we don’t know, the folks we’ve grown up with and those we pass on the street. The good ideas are everywhere if you know how to mine them out of your everyday life.
What will you do when faced with a life changing decision? What do you think the people you know really well– your nearest and dearest do, when faced with a life altering choice? Would they sacrifice one loved one for another? Would they sacrifice their own life for someone else? Or would they sacrifice another in order to live?
The choices we make on our best day as human beings is not usually the choice we offer our characters in a novel. Those choices are much more difficult. The things we know– or think we know about ourselves can all be called into question in our fiction. This is what we mean when we talk about writing what we know.
In fiction we build characters who help us tell our stories, of what we think we would do– or hope we could do, or even help us tell of the better person we would like to be, if we aren’t telling the cautionary tale of history which shows us the path others have chosen, much to their regret.
That is what fiction is all about, after all. Telling the story. Choosing the path for our characters, writing what we know and asking –” What if?”
So share with me, where do your good ideas come from?