I suspect one of the most asked questions of author is “how did you come up with the idea for your novel?”
It’s a perfect question if you have a cool anecdote to share like Stephanie Meyer who says the idea for Twilight came to her in a dream or Jk Rowling who saw Harry Potter on a train journey, but often there isn’t a big inspiring moment, just brainstorming of ideas, a flicker of a character who becomes the person you centre your story around, or a conversation with someone might spark a thought that leads you to a plot, sometimes it’s a combination of all these things that creates a story idea. Or you might start one story and use some of its elements to create a different one instead.
I find it really hard to tell people how I come up with my story ideas. I almost want to reply with “I wish I knew!” because if we could pinpoint the way our brain forms a good story idea, if we could turn our imagination on and off, then we’d never be stuck for ideas, we would know exactly where to find them.
I was watching the news last night and one of the items sparked an idea, which I’ve written down for future use. I thought ‘finally, a good story if I’m asked how I came up with the idea!’ I find myself shrugging when people ask me about my story ideas, saying I’m not sure how I did come up with it, I just did. Perhaps if you are a writer your mind does work a bit different to non-writers in that so many things can spark up an idea, we perhaps are more tuned into our imagination and as such find it easier to make up people and worlds. Although “easier” is a loose term because, let’s face it, writing is hard!
I did a Google search for how writers come up with their ideas and I found Neil Gaiman’s website and under the heading “where do you get ideas?” is his response:
‘I make them up,’ I tell them. ‘Out of my head.’
I love this. It’s the cold, hard truth. It may sound boring, it may be hard to understand if you’re not a writer yourself, but it is completely the case – we are in the business of make-believe. We make up ideas. We use our imagination. We tell ourselves stories so that we can tell them to others.
And I think part of the reason we can come up with ideas for stories is because we are actively looking for them. We want to write stories so we are always thinking of ideas, we are always on the look-out for something to inspire us. We never switch off our writer brain. It’s a scary brain to have but, hey, we wouldn’t be without it.
Where do you think your ideas come from?