Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Where do you get your ideas?

If you have a book that’s been published, or if all you’ve done is mention that you’re writing a book, it’s very likely that you’ve been asked the question, "Where do you get your ideas?"
Most people in the world are content to hear stories. They like to listen or read and be drawn into a different time, place, or dimension. Once inside the world you, as a writer, create, the reader follows the paths you establish. They might think they know what’s going to happen and be surprised when it doesn’t. They might even talk or write to you after reading your story wanting more information on some point they consider underdeveloped. But, they were in YOUR world for a time.
Let’s get a couple of things clear. First, it’s your story—you control the characters, the action, and the setting. While you will learn valuable lessons about what people want from listening to this type of “feedback,” don’t assume you need to change your story to fit every comment. Try that, and you’ll never write a second, or next, book.
Second, you probably left certain details out of your book on purpose. Whether for length, continuity, or personal preference, your story is how you wanted it when you had it published. If that’s not the case every time after the first book, which, in fairness might not have been the perfect novel, why wasn’t it what you wanted to publish?
Sorry. In education, where I spent over 40 years, the two preceding paragraphs are what are know as “bird walking”—straying from the topic at hand and meandering down a path that, while it might lead somewhere, isn’t where you were supposed to be going.
I get my ideas from at least four sources.
1.    Family. My favorite example of this is when my oldest son, now in his late 30’s, was about ten years old. We had one of the first video games. It was a big plastic box. Aliens came in waves shooting at your laser cannon. Steve used to literally flop back and forth on the floor, dodging the imaginary enemy fire. That became the basis for a short story that is the 8th story in Traveler’s HOT L.
2.   Stuff you see/read. Television. Newspapers. Internet sources. Books. You can’t copyright an idea, but, be very careful not to plagiarize another’s work. For example, discussing DNA manipulation is fine, but stealing the methods used by Michael Crichton Jurassic Park is illegal.
3.   Life. I just had laparoscopic robotic hernia surgery. I guarantee some AI robot or android will go rouge and end up using surgery in an unapproved way in a future story.
4.   Weird brain connections. If you’ve never woken up in the middle of the night with an idea for a story or a plot twist, you probably haven’t been writing long. One day, in a meeting, the topic was reflective thinking by teachers. Somehow, during sleep, that morphed into a new dimension where everything is reversed—reflection.
You probably have stories, too. Feel free to pass on your best ideas.
Next week: We’re back in the series of “Things I learned about the process when I published through Amazon.com (and how you can streamline your experience!). Third blog on that topic: Tables, while legal aren't easy to set—and other tips to make your Amazon publishing life easier.
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