Hawking Up Hairballs

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Getting Ideas

I've been telling myself that I wouldn't write so much about politics. It would probably be healthier if I didn't, but I can't stop. It's all just so outrageous. However, in this entry, I'm going to get back to the topic of writing.

People occasionally ask me how one gets ideas for writing. They seem to think that this is a difficult thing to do. I perused an article on just this topic by Dan Simmons, a successful scifi novelist. He says that he frequently has people come up to him at parties and such, telling him that they've got a great idea for a novel. They suggest things like, why don't you write the novel and we'll split the proceeds. They seem to think that coming up with the ideas is the hard part. Simmons, of course, politely declines. The fact is that ideas are easy to come by. It's the implementation that's a bitch.

So, how do you go about it? Well, there are certain exercises. Here's one. Take three unrelated words and turn them into a story. I'm looking at an example now. It's in the book Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course: albino, pistol and strawberry. An idea immediately comes to mind, admittedly not a very good one, but a viable idea nonetheless. You see, there's this hit man who has a passion for strawberries. He munches on them while waiting for his victims, and he always leaves one in their mouths. There's this police detective who is assigned to catch the hit man. He's an albino who is so without pigment that he is almost invisible by the light of the midday sun, and he catches the hit man when the hit man fails to see him at high noon. Like I said, not that good, but viable.

However, I generally get my ideas in the form of a character in a certain situation. Here's one that came to me recently. I was thinking of those guys who propose to their girl friends at baseball games and such. That's pretty mundane, but what if the girl turned him down? That's a little more interesting, but it's probably happened a number of times. However, think of this scenario. The proposal comes up on the message board between innings. The stadium camera is on the couple. When the proposal is made, the woman gets a shocked expression on her face. Once she gets over the initial shock, she jumps to her feet and says, “No! No! No! This is our first date!” She then flees the stadium. Now you're getting more interesting. However, that's not something I'm going to follow up on. The kind of character that would pull such a stunt isn't of much interest to me.

In the end, coming up with story ideas boils down to the same thing, no matter what the technique you use to get yourself going. It's directed daydreaming and, like anything else, it takes a certain amount of effort to learn, but it starts to come naturally soon enough. Unless you fight it, which some people do. They fear where the demons of the imagination will take them. You can't worry about that though. You've got to kiss your demons, then kick them in the ass, and tell them to get to work. You've got a story to write!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home