To write a story, you must first have an idea—a kernel of imagination that blooms from something simple into a whole tale. The real work, of course, comes after the idea, because ideas are abundant in most writers’ minds.
But where do they come from?
I’ve always found it fascinating to hear how other writers form ideas for their stories. Like learning styles, ideas are unique to their bearer; they can come from a visual source, a written source, or even an auditory one. Some will find them in the natural scenes around them, whether it be during a leisurely stroll or standing in the grocery store checkout lane. Others will discover them in the speech of friends, family, or children. A few will lock themselves in a room, letting the quiet that surrounds them swarm their thoughts until nothing becomes something and they’re typing away on the computer. I’ve known some to do random associations, picking words off a page and stringing them together in a theme for their next work. Still others are veritable idea machines, as if a running scroll of them simply churns through their minds.
Sometimes, ideas are past experiences, tweaked just enough to add some creative flair. Others are tales of what could have been instead of what really was. No matter what, though, each writer has his or her own way to light that clever spark and create a story from it.
While my ideas come to me in a variety of ways, I’ve noticed two methods are the most prevalent. The first is through dreams. I’ve been blessed (and sometimes cursed) with extremely vivid dreams for the majority of my life; often they are fantastical in nature and come to me in full color, and fortunately I am able to remember them upon waking. If they aren’t nightmares (that would be the cursed part), they usually provide me with images of creatures or scenes that I am inclined to jot down and save for a later piece.
More common, however, is the method I refer to as the “one liner.” It sparks from something I see or hear around me, a line that forms in my head that will not, for the life of me, go away. Each time it is one single line, whether it be a reaction to what I see, a sentence that will later serve as dialogue, or a clause of imagery. I’ll carry this line with me wherever I’m at—even if it means repeating it to myself the entirety of a gym workout—until I can get in front of a piece of paper or computer. There, I’ll write that one line and run wild with it. This method is the one that’s been the most effective, for me, something that comes blindly out of the air and smacks me with a whole run of a tale.
We all have ideas that we like to use in our writing, and usually we’ve been carrying around a bounty of them over the years. I’m sure there’s some scientific explanation for how people form them, but I’m curious—where do your ideas come from? Please share!