Sunday, April 13, 2008

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

That's the question I'm asked most often by non-writers. It should be easy to answer, right? A writer sits down in front of his/her computer and the words simply flow. In only a few days--maybe even hours!--a perfect novel has been completed and is ready for the publisher. Bring on the seven-figure advance!


I'll start with where I get my ideas. Everywhere. Yeah, that's a broad statement, but it's true. For instance, I wrote a story called The Birthday Gift that I submitted to Ellora's Cave. I sent it to the submissions email, expecting to wait months to hear anything. I was pleasantly surprised to receive an acceptance in only two days. My editor then told me the story was too short to be its own book. Did I by any chance have any other birthday-themed stories I'd like to include to make a collection? "Well, of course!" I told her. "No problem!"

I had nothing.

So as I'm racking my brain to think of three other stories with a birthday theme, we had a birthday party for one of my co-workers. I bought her a card with a sexy man on the front. Another co-worker teased me by rubbing her finger over the guy's...privates. Bingo! An idea flashed into my mind about a guy on a card who comes to life. Another plot born.

A few days later, the birthday girl told a story about seeing a weird light whoosh by her car on her way home from work. Another bingo! An alien crash lands on Earth on the hero's birthday.

Those three stories, along with another one I thought of myself, became Happy Birthday, Baby.

Yes, ideas come from everywhere, and at any time...even in the bathroom. Getting those ideas on the computer into a plot that a publisher will like...well, that's a whole 'nuther topic.

So, where do you get your ideas?



Ciana Stone said...

Great post!! And you're so right, Lynn. Ideas come from (sometimes) the most unexpected sources. Sometimes I think there's just a ton of ideas floating through the cosmos and every now and then a writer's antenna is turned the right direction to pick up on a signal. Yeah, that makes no sense, but then I've never been able to really make sense of where ideas come from because it could be something as silly as hearing a friend call you "Fancy".

In truth, we do just sit down in front of our computers and let the words flow. We channel the characters and the stories they want us to tell and hope when we're finished that the stories are something others will enjoy.

I love where your inspiration came from for the Happy Birthday, Baby!!

Hope you have more yummy tales in the works!!


Lynn LaFleur said...

Thanks, Ciana! Yes, ideas do come from the weirdest places. I won't even tell you where I got the idea for Rent-A-Stud.


Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

Sometimes a snippet of fun from the news, sometimes from other stories...some of my favorite themes--reunion, memory loss, reincarnation. Playing with: What if....

N.J.Walters said...

Great post, Lynn.

Ideas come from just about everywhere--television, books, magazines, a snippet of overheard conversation. There's no end to where inspiration hides.

And what Ciana said...I think that sometimes you can snap ideas from out of thin air.

Diana said...

When I first started publishing my work a friend asked me how long I'd be able to keep it up (getcher mind outta da gutters...she meant keep coming up with stories!).

I looked at her like she was out of her mind. My head is always filled with characters pounding at the door, wanting their turn at the keyboard. Coming up with ideas for stories is the fun part!

Cool post, Lynn!

Kate Douglas said...

LOL...actually, I DO sit down at the computer and just start writing. Sometimes I'll write a dozen or more pages without any idea where I'm going, but in the background, my brain is playing the "what if?" game. As a character gains flesh and substance, I'm thinking, "Now, what if THIS happened?" and eventually it all comes together. I almost always end up tossing those first pages, but they're the framework my eventual story will be built on. So far, it works for me. The fear is the day I sit down and start writing and go nowhere!

Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said...

It's funny but most if not all of my ideas come as soon as I have a title in my head.

When I got The Rock of Realm stuck in my head I knew it would be about a discovery of a sort in a fantasy land.

Doorman's Creek would be a murder mystery involving some element of the paranormal.

And that's exactly how they turned out.

Lea Schizas

Lynn LaFleur said...

I love hearing all these ideas and comments! Like Kate, I'll sit down with a germ of an idea and start writing. I hate having to write a synopsis. How can I write one when I don't know what's going to happen?

I'm horrible with titles, so I'm jealous of Lea who has her title first. I'm usually halfway through the book before a title will hit me. There are exceptions, of course (had my Rent-A-Stud title before I ever started writing), but I usually have to have a huge part of the book done before I know what to call it.


linda_rettstatt said...

I've written a few of my books based on a title I liked. And, sometimes, the words just flow. If they don't, I rethink the story. I had recently blogged about this same thing because a friend asked, "How do think this stuff up?"

Story lines are everywhere if you pay attention and take good notes. I love to observe people (it helps that I have a background as a psychotherapist). A friend and I were waiting in a hotel lobby near a coffee shop for a third party. She pointed out that the cashier was talking on the phone, as was the customer in front of him. Across the lobby two others were on cell phones. My friend said, "It looks like a conference call." I sat down and pulled a notepad from my purse and, ten minutes later, had the outline for a new book.

Linda Rettstatt

Jane Bierce said...

My highest rated book on Fictionwise is TIME OF POSSESSION. (Sorry -- it's not occult, it's football.) The idea came to me when I was at a wedding and the mother of the bride told me how the couple had gotten together. I carried the idea around for years until I moved the characters from a hardware store to Pittsburgh, to a newspaper and a football stadium. If the ratings can ve trusted, it worked!

Jane Bierce

JoAnn Ross said...

I get all my ideas from Nordstrom because of their generous return policy for ideas that don't work out.

Seriously, I've always been bombarded with bunches of ideas every day. The difficulty is choosing the ones that can actually become a book.

K. Z. Snow said...

Interesting topic, Lynn!

Anything from a single image to an existing character to a title that happened to pop into my head can open the well for me.

Cemetery Dancer was spawned from a local burying ground that has a large, eerie rock formation similar to the one in my fictional Fog Cliff. Plagued was the hyrid offspring of my lifelong fascination with vampires, horror fiction, and medieval history. The Galdeshian fantasy cycle was piqued by a superb program I saw on satellite TV about dragons.

Usually, though, my most effective means of dowsing for ideas is to lie down in a dark, quiet room and simply let my thoughts drift.

Titania Ladley said...

Great question, Lynn! I often put the title before the book. I don't always use them, but I love thinking up titles. Once I have one I like (which sometimes ends up getting changed), that's when the ideas come. But if I'm in a title-thinking-up slump, most of my ideas just come to me when I'm doing menial tasks like housework or cooking. Driving is another thing where it seems my imagination starts kicking in. But mostly, anything where my mind's allowed to wander can tip off creativity for me. I'm such a daydreamer. :D


Irene said...

My ideas come from my family and my own bizarre life.
The hero of my first book was based on the name my uncle claimed to be known as "in every bar on the East Coast", Bourbon John.
While I don't know if that was exactly true, some of the stories he told about this character gave me the idea for my work of fiction.
From my POV, there's nothing "normal" about living in New Jersey, if your attitude is slightly skewed.

Amie Stuart said...

Lynn wonderful story! And Ciana...I think you've actually got something about that antennae.

The story I'm working on now is one I said a year ago I didn't have the chops to write. I filed it away with a basic plot/characters etc/then about three or four months ago I was talking to a friend about something completely unrelated (mantrouble LOL) and she said something that was just hysterical! I asked her if I could use it in the book and she said yes and the rest is history.

I"m also working on a woman's fiction project that I didn't even REALIZE was an idea. I got sick last fall and it was all I could do to work and take care of the kids--no reading, little writing, not even TV watching. All I wanted to do was lay in bed and you know I'm resting but hte mind, she's a busy girl LOL Anyway I started playing with these characters *coughi'mnotcrazycough* and then filed them away when I get better. But they woudln't shut up. So over spring break I vomited up nearly 50 pages and a rough plot and there you go LOL

Lynn LaFleur said...

Amie, I love what you said about using a comment your friend made. I'm always taking notes when I'm around friends. I tell them "be careful what you say, it could end up in a book." I've actually used phrases in my books from friends. They think it's cool.