Saturday, November 19, 2011

Idea generation.

One of the questions I hear a lot (and I'm sure other writers hear) is, "Where do you get your ideas?"

That's a tough question to answer, and yet it's also easy.


I went to a mystery writer's convention once and listened to Carl Hiaasen speak. His answer was since he worked for the Miami Herald, and he lives in Florida, he basically opened up the newspaper for his ideas.

That's not as simplistic an answer as it might seem.

For me, ideas can come from anywhere, whether it's a spontaneous thought popping into my brain (such as "Love and Brimstone," which came to me as a snippet of dialogue) or seeing something on TV that makes me ask the, "What if...?" question (such as how I got the idea for my "Good Will Ghost Hunting" series), or even reading something in the newspaper or seeing something on the news.

As a writer, the first thing you need to learn is how to ask, "What if...?" Because that is, literally, the basis of all your work. That's how you find your way. It won't give you the fine details, but it starts you on that journey.

Getting ideas is never an issue for me. I have way too many to ever write as it is, with more streaming into my brain on a daily basis. I keep a notepad or my phone (Droid X2) or iPad near me at all times so I can jot notes to myself. Sometimes those ideas become independent stories, and sometimes they are incorporated as plot points in existing works.

I love watching shows on the History Channel and Discovery Channel, because they air neat shows that, while the premise of the theories posed might not be something I'm interested in, there might be a nugget of an idea there I can run with simply by asking, "What if...?"

Keep an open mind, open eyes, and open ears. As a writer, those will be some of your most valuable tools.

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