Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Do you ever wonder, as you're reading incredibly creative books, where the authors got their ideas?

It's no secret I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. Some people can read that series and come away thinking they're books for children.

Um, no.

And yes. Harry and his fellow students grow as the series grows. But even in those early books, there's a depth to the storytelling you might miss if you only read the series once. Before the release of each book, I'd reread the books that had been released. With the new book's revelations, I would find the way I looked at the earlier books had changed--and I'd have to go back and read them again in the new light.

I would love to be able to write with the kind of depth Jo Rowling did there--stories that appeal to  children while providing adults with a rich adventure as well. And believe me there are millions of adult HP fans. On the Leaky Lounge, we had doctors, lawyers, geneticists, writers, professors, physicists, etc. arguing back and forth about whether or not Dumbledore was dead! The caliber of the debate was amazing.

So, where do ideas come from?

Author Dan Wells touched on this last October when he was the guest speaker at the UVU Book Academy. He said he's frequently asked this question, and he said ideas are everywhere. Don't just look at a news report as it is but let your imagination play with it. Do a lot of "what ifs". He said he was watching a science show on PBS one day, and one little tangent triggered by the story led him to his new series.

Let your imagination out of the box. Pull unusual combinations together, and see if you can make them work.

Like in Star Trek, you can let your imagination "boldly go where no one has gone before" (even if that is a grammatical no no).

So where do you get your ideas from? Do you have a process that you use? What kinds of things trigger your ideas?


JeffO said...

There is no real process for me. My initial ideas usually come from two or more different things that get spliced together by some mad scientist in my brain (ah, here's a post I did on this a while back...http://doubtingwriter.blogspot.com/2011/12/back-room.html), but I never know exactly what will make me say, "Ah ha!" Once I have that idea, though, my mind just won't let it go.

SA Larsenッ said...

I'm a very visual person. So I can find inspiration in most images. The key is to allow myself to 'go' with the thoughts the image(s) conjure in my head. Sometimes I find it easier than other times. :D

Cathy said...

Ideas are everywhere. Even little things can spark an idea. Seeing something that isn't in it's usual place, like a pretty scarf hanging from a tree branch, can spark your imagination.

Renae W. Mackley said...

One of my WIPs also came from a news story. I changed the character from female to male and gave him a new direction from the same starting point.
I also try not to have too many ideas going for different stories at once. It's hard enough to keep track of ideas within one story.
Nice post.

Alice said...

I get ideas from life and from classic tales.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My ideas spark from the movies and shows I watch.

Britney Gulbrandsen said...

Honestly, I get many of my ideas from looking at photographs and listening to music.

Tracy Jo said...

It's hard to keep up with you. :-) I always like reading posts like this because it reminds me to well, BOLDLY GO. I get a lot of my ideas from just looking at pictures I have taken but I would like to take those ideas further. Thank you and have a great night!

Jennifer Jensen said...

I think you're spot on with Harry Potter having layers of depth, and I'm definitely a re-reader. My non-writer husband has even been known to quote Dumbledore in church!

For my stories, I guess I start with a situation, add a character that would be interesting in that situation, and build a "what-if" from there. Character will add more plot ideas, plot will trigger more about the character, and it sort of spirals up.

I also use writing prompts for 15-minute freewrites occasionally, and sometimes those turn into workable ideas.

My writing blog (which hasn't been updated lately but will pick up again next week!) has some story-starter posts. There's also one about asking "what-if" from a news happening that fits here, too.


Now if I could only make sure that the story idea I start with develops into a must-read plot . . .

Sarah Pearson said...

Ideas come from everywhere. The original idea for the story I'm currently working on came from a news item, fleshed out with advances in science I'd read about elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Some of most interesting of my ideas are my take on somebody else's world. I love their world (book) so much, I start imagining how it would be if I lived in it. That will start it. It then evolves, or sometimes, devolves, into something completely strange. Sometimes something good.

Arthur Brill said...

I draw from mythology, folklore, and cheesy Hammer horror films of the 60s and 70s.

The thing that Hammer movies have in common with folklore is that there is very little plot... it is more like an outline for a story. It gives just enough to spark ideas, without laying it all out for you.

I can take the three little pigs, and turn it into a 20 minute long gripping tale.