In my as-yet limited fame, I still have the luxury of walking down the street without having every passer-by stopping me to drill me about every single detail of my life. All right, that is a pipe dream I know will never happen. Unless my books become blockbuster movies starring yours truly. But I’m sure the people in Hollywood have enough sense to see early on I’m no actor.
I know very little about the luxuriant life of established authors, but I doubt they have throngs of fans bothering them every second of every day. I have seen videos clips of conventions, where a panel of peers spend their time bestowing their knowledge on the avid listeners.
I have had some readers come up to me and ask a few of the expected questions. The recurring inquiry I wish to discuss in this post is probably the most-asked of them all:
Where do you get your ideas?
This is a question I hate hearing, let alone answering. You might as well ask me why air is transparent. How do you decide what to eat for supper? How do you decide which item to buy as a birthday gift for a loved one? How do you choose a name for your pet fish?
Ideas come from the ether, not matter what they are for. Whether you’re in your office and you suddenly realize there’s a better way to perform a task, or you’re in your garage and you figure out how to squeeze more power out of your engine, you have just received inspiration from the same place we authors find the scene depicting the troll missing the knight and smashing his toe with the tree trunk he’s using as a club.
But I know this isn’t what you meant by the question. What you want to know is:
Where do you find your inspiration?
There are as many way to go about this as there are writers. I won’t go through the list, or this post will end up becoming my next novel. Feel free to visit author blogs or corner them at book signings and ask them. Just make sure to not use the word “idea.”
What I do is simple: I write and imagine. My mind is always working, whether I want it to or not. My brain likes to keep me awake at night. Every time I try to fall asleep, that’s when new ideas pop up to keep slumber away. I have forgotten more story plots than I have typed up or put on paper. But the good ones I replay in my mind so I don’t forget. Those will find their way in print or digital editions some day.
I don’t plot ahead, so my stories twist and curve and make u-turns as I write them. Another question I never answer is “what will happen next?”, because I honestly don’t know myself. As my characters dive into an argument, I get swept up in their emotions and before I know it, 500 words have somehow found their way onto my screen. And somewhere along the way, the story has told me where it needs go.
While I lay in my bed, staring out into the darkness, images of magic and dragons invade my thoughts. I envision different ways to portray these classic and stereotypical characters. This brings new plot ideas, which would don’t necessarily fit in the story I am writing, so they are shelves for future projects. I have enough basic ideas to sustain four distinct series of novels. The problem will be finding the time to write them.
What about outside influences?
Taking nature walks may help some centre themselves and open their minds, but as far as I’m concerned, a tree is a tree. People watching helps one see the effects emotions have on our expressions and how different personalities react to differing situations. Though that does help, there are not that many brutes out there who would bludgeon you to death to make you their next meal, so finding examples to flesh out the aforementioned troll would prove difficult.
I do read, a lot. This is my equivalent to sitting on a bench in a mall or strolling down wooded trails. I see how other authors form their stories and characters. This is the only way one learns of wyverns and dracolisks, or how gods would act if they interacted with the mortals who worship them. And this is how you learn what other novelists are putting in their stories, so you can avoid repeating the same plot.
So, to answer the question, I don’t know where my ideas come from. Having the knight in Knightfall treat the elf as he did just came to me. It fit in the story. And the story dictated Ohliaman’s fate. I had envisioned it quite differently when I started writing the book. I think of basic plot lines, then let my fingers do the rest. Sometimes I’m as surprised when I finish writing as the reader will be when they read it.
Below would be a good place to tell the world where you’re inspiration comes from. Maybe I’ll even try some of them.